Eagles put Miami near elimination

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 16, 2003

MIAMI - The Philadelphia Eagles took advantage of a fast start, and now the Miami Dolphins are just about finished.

The Eagles gained 59 yards on the first play. They scored on the third. They kept a proud defense in retreat all night Monday to win 34-27, leaving Miami on the brink of elimination from the playoff race.

The victory extended the Eagles' winning streak to nine games, equaling the franchise record set in 1960, when they won the NFL title. Philadelphia (11-3) matched the St. Louis Rams for the NFC's best record.

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''We're not near where we want to be,'' said Brian Westbrook, who gained 104 yards rushing and receiving. ''We're a work in progress.''

Donovan McNabb threw for 236 yards, including a long pass on the first play, and receiver Freddie Mitchell's first career completion went for a 25-yard touchdown to Westbrook.

''We're opening up some eyes,'' McNabb said. ''We've gotten better and better each week. Guys are out here having fun.''

The Dolphins (8-6) slipped into their traditional December swoon with a second consecutive loss. They could miss the playoffs for the second year in a row even if they win their final two games against Buffalo and the New York Jets.

''Do we need a little bit of help? Sure,'' coach Dave Wannstedt said. ''Anything can happen.''

Wannstedt fell to 7-9 with Miami in December. When asked if he's concerned about his job security, he said, ''I'm just concerned about Buffalo, to be honest with you.''

Philadelphia has averaged 32 points in the past five games, and McNabb and the Eagles continued to roll against a Miami defense that ranked third in the NFL in points allowed.

The 34 points and 401 yards given up by the Dolphins were season highs. The Eagles scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions.

''They just whupped us all around,'' Miami linebacker Zach Thomas said. ''I'd like to play them again, but they'd probably whup us again. They've got a great team. We're not a good team.''

Three times, the Dolphins came from behind, but they couldn't rally after Correll Buckhalter scored on a 2-yard run with 14:53 left to break a 24-all tie.

Buckhalter reached over the goal line with the ball extended as he leaped across the corner pylon. A replay review determined the play was a touchdown after the officials originally ruled Buckhalter out of bounds short of the end zone.

David Akers' second field goal gave Philadelphia a 10-point lead. Olindo Mare kicked a 50-yard for Miami with 14 seconds left, but Miami's bid to recover the ensuing onside kick failed.

Ricky Williams ran for 107 yards and a touchdown for the Dolphins. But he carried only 18 times, while Jay Fiedler threw 40 passes - a ratio sure to be questioned by Wannstedt's critics.

The Eagles needed just three plays to take the lead. Todd Pinkston beat Sam Madison deep for the Eagles' longest pass of the season, a 59-yard gain. After an incompletion, Westbrook ran up the middle 21 yards for the score.

''They hit us for a score early,'' Thomas said. ''That rattled us a little bit. We're not used to that.''