Akers’ field goal leads Eagles past Denver, 30-27
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
PHILADELPHIA – Brian Dawkins hugged Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, prayed with his former teammates and blew kisses to the adoring crowd as he ran off the field.
All that was missing from Dawkins’ emotional return to Philadelphia was a victory.
David Akers kicked a 28-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining, lifting the playoff-bound Eagles to a 30-27 win over the Denver Broncos and spoiling Dawkins’ first game back in a city that loves him.
“Dawk has been an inspiration, mentor, role model for so many of us, but for me in particular,” said Westbrook, who returned from two concussions. “To play against him and be able to talk a little trash to him from time to time, it means a lot to me. He’s done so much for this team and this league and this city.”
Kyle Orton rallied the Broncos from a 27-10 deficit in the third quarter, but McNabb led the Eagles on a winning drive in the final minutes.
“When you play your big brother, you want to do whatever it takes to win,” McNabb said of facing Dawkins, one of the greatest defensive players in team history.
Rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin set up Akers’ kick with an outstanding, 27-yard catch along the sideline to the Broncos 13. The catch initially was ruled incomplete, but it was overturned after replays showed Maclin kept both feet inbound.
Three plays later, Akers nailed the gimme.
“I just want to be reliable in the key moment,” Maclin said.
The Eagles (11-4) can clinch their sixth NFC East title this decade with a victory at Dallas (10-5) next Sunday. The winner of that game takes the division crown. Also, a victory over the Cowboys coupled with one loss by Minnesota would give Philadelphia a first-round playoff bye.
The Broncos (8-7) are trying to avoid a major collapse after starting 6-0. They no longer control their playoff destiny and are tied with four other teams for the final two wild-card spots in the AFC.
McNabb threw for 322 yards and three TDs, tight end Brent Celek had 121 yards receiving and one TD and Philadelphia won its sixth straight game.
The Eagles have set a franchise record for most points in a season, surpassing the 416 they scored last year. They have 429 points, an average of 28.6 per game.
A seven-time Pro Bowl safety in 13 seasons in Philadelphia, Dawkins returned in a Broncos uniform after leaving in free agency.
Dawkins, who didn’t come out for pregame warmups, received a rousing ovation when he was introduced. He went through his familiar routine, gyrating and contorting his way onto the field. Dawkins turned a backward, rolling somersault into a reverse handstand before sprinting down the line and nearly taking out a camera man.
“It’s just real, real nerve wracking,” Dawkins said. “I’ve been in a lot of big games before. I was just trying to control my emotions. It was real tough for this game, mainly because we needed this game so bad.”
Orton began Denver’s comeback bid with a 7-yard TD pass to Jabar Gaffney, completing a drive that started at the Philadelphia 25 after a short punt, 11-yard return and a penalty.
Macho Harris fumbled the ensuing kickoff following a hard hit by Darrell Reid and Robert Ayers recovered at the Eagles 16. Orton then hit Knowshon Moreno over the middle for a 16-yard TD that cut it to 27-24.
The teams traded three-and-outs on the next five possessions until the Broncos converted on third-and-2. Orton found Gaffney for an 18-yard gain to the Eagles 30, and Matt Prater kicked a 46-yard field goal to tie it at 27 with 6:05 left.
Facing third-and-25 from their 15, the Eagles finally got a first down when McNabb scrambled 27 yards up the middle. The offense stalled again, Sav Rocca pinned the Broncos back to their 9 with a 40-yard punt, and the field position helped set up Philadelphia’s winning drive.
Westbrook returned after missing seven of the past eight games with concussions. He hadn’t played since sustaining his second concussion in a three-week span on Nov. 15 at San Diego. The former All-Pro running back had 32 yards rushing on nine carries.
McNabb connected with DeSean Jackson on a 2-yard TD pass to put the Eagles ahead 7-0 in the first quarter. Dawkins missed a tackle on LeSean McCoy’s 39-yard catch-and-run on the first play of the drive.
McNabb tossed a 47-yard TD pass to a wide-open Celek, giving the Eagles a 17-7 lead in the second quarter. McNabb’s 15-yard TD pass to Jason Avant gave the Eagles a 27-10 lead.
Notes: Eagles C Jamaal Jackson left with a knee injury. He’s scheduled for an MRI on Monday. … Denver’s Elvis Dumervil tied Simon Fletcher’s franchise record with his 16th sack. … Michael Vick was the third QB for the Eagles. He missed practice all week with a quad contusion.
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