McNabb steals spotlight

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 3, 1999

The Associated Press

McNabb outplayed the only quarterback picked ahead of him in the draft, then directed two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter as the Eagles beat the Cleveland Browns 30-17 Thursday night.

Friday, September 03, 1999

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McNabb outplayed the only quarterback picked ahead of him in the draft, then directed two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter as the Eagles beat the Cleveland Browns 30-17 Thursday night.

”I’m going to continue to visualize myself as the starter,” McNabb said.

After this performance, Eagles fans are sure to do the same.

McNabb was 14-for-24 for 93 yards and three touchdowns, coolly leading the Eagles’ third-team offense to 20 points in the fourth. He showed the poise, arm strength and athletic ability that caused the Eagles to make him the No. 2 pick in the draft, right behind Tim Couch.

”That’s not my decision,” McNabb said when asked repeatedly if he thinks he deserves to start the season opener Sept. 12 against Arizona. ”I won’t pay any attention to that. I’ll leave that to you guys. I’m pretty sure you guys will do your jobs.”

Couch was 5-for-9 for 41 yards and an interception, playing the second quarter and two drives in the third. The Browns, back in the NFL after three years of limbo, finished the exhibition season 2-3.

”I though we did some good things,” Browns coach Chris Palmer said. ”There were times when our offense looked good.”

McNabb outperformed Pederson, who was 9-for-16 for 45 yards. The Eagles had turnovers on their first two possessions – actually, two in their first three plays – and the first-team offense prompted a scathing indictment from coach Andy Reid.

”When I say it wasn’t pretty, I mean that wasn’t even close to being pretty,” Reid said. ”… It’s ridiculous to have the first two series like we did.”

McNabb had much more time than Couch to show what he can do, entering the game early in the second quarter and playing the rest. With a crowd of 64,978 on hand, McNabb kept the Eagles (1-3) from having their first winless preseason since they were 0-6 in 1976. The Browns dropped to 2-3.

”We won,” Reid said with a huge sigh and a smile. ”We didn’t do it in a pretty fashion.”

Sparked by a relentless defense that produced four of Cleveland’s seven turnovers in the fourth, the Eagles chased the normally resonant boos out of Veterans Stadium.

Of course, the damage was done with mostly third-stringers on the field after the Eagles’ first-team offense looked awful.

Pederson’s longest completion was his last, for 13 yards, and he had five completions for less than five yards. Nonetheless, Reid continued to stand by his decision to open the season with Pederson as the starter.

”I’m not going to change on that,” Reid said flatly.

After Phil Dawson’s 27-yard field goal gave Cleveland a 17-10 lead late in the third, the Eagles recovered fumbles on successive possessions and turned them into points with the calm McNabb at the helm.

Ike Reese recovered Madre Hill’s fumble at the Cleveland 43. Third-string running back James Bostic promptly ripped off the Eagles’ longest play of the year, a 50-yard run to the Cleveland 7. McNabb hit fullback Cecil Martin with a 5-yard TD pass, and Norm Johnson’s kick tied it at 17.

On the Browns’ next possession, Jamie Martin was sacked by Dana Howard and fumbled. Antonio London recovered, setting up McNabb’s 10-yard TD pass to Bostic for a 24-17 lead. Johnson kicked two more field goals for a 30-17 lead.

Pederson’s first pass attempt on the first play of the game was batted into the air by Jamir Miller, intercepted by Marquez Pope and run back 35 yards for a touchdown.

Before the boos had died down, Duce Staley fumbled on the second play of the very next drive. The ball was stripped by John Jurkovic and recovered by Pope. Browns starter Ty Detmer was 2-for-5 for 28 yards, capped a six-play drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Johnson.