When the Eagles used their third-round pick in the 2002 draft to select a smallish I-AA running back with two significant knee surgeries, you could understand why many fans, draft experts, and front office personnel around the league were left scratching their heads. And the skeptics had valid concerns. What could a 5-8 running back with a repaired ACL out of Villanova really do for an offense? The answer, of course, was everything. Westbrook compiled 5,995 yards and 37 rushing touchdowns which are admirable numbers for sure, but what made Westbrook an elite back was his ability to line up anywhere on the field and create mismatches in the passing game. Whether it was in the flat as he left linebackers’ Nikes left twisted in the turf, or terrific cuts and vision in the screen game, Westbrook was a menace for opposing defensive coordinators. His 426 catches, 3,790 receiving yards, and 29 receiving touchdowns are a testament to that. While the recently departed Steve Van Buren and Wilbert Montgomery are oft considered to be the Eagles’ best running backs in team history, Westbrook’s 9,785 yards from scrimmage—in addition to his reliable blocking skills, return explosiveness, and flare for the dramatic—each suggest otherwise. His stats speak for themselves, but it’s moments, not numbers, that define the truly beloved players who are forever embraced by a city. So let’s take a look back at some of the moments that made Brian Westbrook one the Eagles’ all-time greats.
5. Westbrook Goes Down On Dallas
It’s Week 15. Fantasy leagues around the country are in the midst of the playoffs. Thousands of teams across the country with Brian Westbrook on their rosters are deadlocked in tight battles. The 5-8 Eagles hold a 10-6 lead over the 12-1 Cowboys. Now, I wrote extensively above about Westbrook’s extensive statistics, but he could have easily added another rushing yard and touchdown to those totals. With 2:19 left in the fourth quarter and the ball on the Dallas 25-yard line, Westbrook took a handoff, found day light and appeared headed for the end zone when…he stopped on the one-yard line. No doubt that play probably got Westbrook some death threats, and at the very least, disgruntled fantasy owners were enraged. Still, it was the ultimate act of unselfishness as the cerebral Westbrook made it mathematically impossible for Dallas to win the game, and mathematically impossible for thousands of fantasy teams to win their games, too.
4. We’re Going To Win…I think
For some reason, I was a McNabb fan. But I was an even bigger Westbrook fan. So it’s really no surprise that Brian Westbrook’s 10-yard touchdown reception that tied the game at 14-14 late in third quarter is one of my fondest memories. It was vintage Westbrook. McNabb threw a rare picture-perfect pass between the arms of linebacker Mike Vrabel and safety Dexter Reid. The Eagles were in survival mode, but I remember at that moment thinking for sure that they would somehow find a way. As you know…
3. Minnesota Gets Screened
The ability to turn a short pass into a home run was what really made Westbrook special. There was that apparent 2006 game winner against Tampa Bay that was spoiled by a ridiculous 62-yard Matt Bryant Field goal. So let’s skip ahead to happier times during the 2008 playoffs. With 6:53 left in the fourth quarter at their own 29-yard-line against a raucous Minnesota fan base and potent defense, Donovan McNabb drifted back and flicked a screen to Westbrook. 16 seconds and 71 yards later, the Eagles would secure their first of two impressive road postseason victories that season. You can see that play here at the 4:13 mark.
2. Westbrook Ruins Giants’ Season(2006 Playoffs)
Don’t loathe the Giants, so when the Eagles met up with them in the Wild Card Round of the 2006 playoffs, this was a game I badly wanted them to win. Trailing 7-0 after a Plaxico Burress touchdown grab, Westbrook ignited a stagnant offense with a 49-yard touchdown run to tie the game. He finished the game with 141 yards rushing and David Akers would have never hit a 38-yard game-winning field goal as time expired without the running back’s monster game. Check that out that highlight at the 1:48 mark.
1. Miracle at the Meadowlands Part II
Many recall the 2003 regular season as wildly successful as the Eagles sprinted a 12-4 final record. But things weren’t always so easy, particularly early in the season. Donovan McNabb was suffering through one of his worst games as an Eagle and the offense couldn’t move the football against a suffocating Giants defense. Trailing 10-7 with 1:34 to go in the game, Brian Westbrook wiped away nearly four full quarters of frustrations when he took a Jeff Feagles punt on a bounce at the 16-yard line and raced down the sideline towards the end zone. A mere 18 seconds later not only did Westbrook save the Eagles season, he also emerged on the scene as one of the league’s premier playmakers after making one of the most memorable plays in team history. Today, during his press conference in his typical team-first fashion, Westbrook thanked his teammates for setting up that play. “I made a couple guys miss here and there, but it was 10 guys blocking,” he said.