Eagles backup running back Mike Bell could be in line for a start Sunday due to LeSean McCoy's fractured rib.

Eagles Trip to San Francisco Could Be a Turning Point

This might not be quite what NBC had in mind when they scheduled Philadelphia and San Francisco for a Sunday Night showdown in Brian Westbrook’s first game against his former team.  Westbrook has just 3 touches for a grand total of 6 yards through four games and his 49ers are 0-4, desperate for a win.

“When [Brian Westbrook] comes on the field we have to be aware of it from a defensive standpoint,” said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. “That said, he’s only been on the field a handful of times this year for them.”

On the other hand, the 2-2 Eagles are looking increasingly likely to be without the injured LeSean McCoy, whose fractured rib may leave the aging Mike Bell trying to prove he can still play. Bell has just 20 yards on 12 carries so far this year.

Then there’s the matter of the Eagles quarterback situation.  Instead of Kevin Kolb launching the Eagles into a new era, it’s been a tumultuous back-and-forth between he and Michael Vick due to injuries and performance.  So while NBC gets a slew of storylines, none are quite what they likely had in mind.

Despite the reputation the Eagles have for struggling on the West Coast, they’re 8-6 in the Pacific time zone under Reid.  Then again, the Eagles have a few memorable losses to bad teams when traveling to the left coast, including last year’s debacle in Oakland.  The difficulty of the trip isn’t lost on offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

“This next game’s quite a challenge, going to the West coast against a San Francisco team whose back’s against the wall,” Mornhinweg said. “Everybody’s backs are against the wall, really, about this time.”

That could apply to the Eagles, as they look to avoid falling to 2-3 with a tough schedule remaining.  While Andy Reid’s teams have made the playoffs two of the three times he’s started a season 2-3, the rest of this year’s schedule makes it unlikely.  If the Eagles fall in San Francisco, where they are underdogs, they may not be favored to win another game until late November at the earliest.

If Philadelphia wants to grab a win Sunday, offensive execution will be a key.  With Kolb and Bell likely starting, there is little room for error, especially if the Eagles see more of the soft Cover 2 defense that gave them fits against the Redskins.

“You’ve got to be efficient against a defense like that,” said Mornhinweg. “When people play you soft, they’ll do it different ways. We’ve been very successful in some and then in a couple of others, we haven’t had quite the success we’ve wanted to.”

Defensively, it all comes back to intensity.  McDermott didn’t mince his words this morning in that regard. The defensive coordinator expressed that his defense hasn’t played physical enough this season.

“You’d like to think that you have a tough group coming into training camp, and I think we have a tough group,” McDermott said. “But you’ve got to bring that toughness every week.”

This week in particular it will be important against a desperate 49ers team, and it could be the type of game that is looked back on as a turning point.  With a win, the Eagles would head home with at least a share of the top spot in the NFC East and a handful of key injured players potentially returning to the field.  But a loss would leave the Birds at 2-3 with a schedule that doesn’t feature a team currently below .500 until mid-December.

So is the glass half-full or half-empty?  The Eagles have until Sunday night to figure that out.


Quarterback Mike Vick (rib), running back LeSean McCoy (rib), corner back Asante Samuel (concussion) and wide receiver Riley Cooper (concussion) did not participate in practice yesterday.

Guard Nick Cole (knee) was limited.

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Tags: Brian Westbrook Marty Mornhinweg Mike Bell Philadelphia Eagles San Francisco 49ers Sean McDermott West Coast

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