McNabb's Mastery Must Be Solved

You have to go back to his second season in 2000 and his ninth NFL start to find the last, and only, time Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb lost to the Green Bay Packers. Since then, Philadelphia has beaten Green Bay five straight times, and McNabb was the quarterback in four of those games, with remarkable statistics. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Eagles Gameday

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DE Aaron Kampman chases Eagles QB Donovan McNabb during last season's Monday night game in Philadelphia.

You have to go back to his second season in 2000 and his ninth NFL start to find the last, and only, time Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb lost to the Green Bay Packers.

Since then, Philadelphia has beaten Green Bay five straight times, and McNabb was the quarterback in four of those games (he was injured and didn't play when the teams met in 2005).

While McNabb has been far from a one-man show against Green Bay on a successful Eagles team that has qualified for the NFC playoffs six times in the past seven years, McNabb's play in those four victories has nonetheless been borderline remarkable.

He has averaged 299 yards per game through the air, completing 58.7 percent of his passes (84-of-143). He's thrown for 10 touchdowns, without an interception, and when on the run has added 21 rushes for 180 yards (8.6 avg) and three more TDs.

To say he's been a nemesis to Green Bay would be an understatement, and that's why the Packers are taking nothing for granted on Sunday, even though McNabb is coming off a knee injury that ended his 2006 season in November.

"If he's 100 (percent) or not 100, I'm sure his 80 percent is a lot of quarterbacks' 110," said middle linebacker Nick Barnett, who has been on the field for all four of McNabb's wins in this series dating back to 2003.

Whether or not McNabb will be slowed any by the recovery from his injury won't affect how the Packers prepare to face him.

"I guess for him it will just be trying to gain that confidence back in his leg, but other than that, we all know he's a good quarterback," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "And we all know we're going to get his best."

One thing Green Bay has done well against McNabb in the past is pressure him. The Packers have recorded 16 sacks in the last three games against McNabb, but it has come at a price - McNabb's scrambling.

For example, in the Eagles' playoff victory over the Packers four seasons ago, McNabb was sacked eight times, but rushed 11 times for 107 yards. Last year, the Packers sacked him four times, but he scrambled five times for 47 yards, and two touchdowns, both in the second half.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he felt last season's game changed when McNabb started making plays with his feet in the third quarter, but in the same breath McCarthy mentioned how polished a drop-back passer McNabb has become.

Clearly, there's a fine line between containing him and still pressuring him effectively, and walking that line is perhaps the most important task for the Packers defense on Sunday.

"The main thing about us up front is we have to stay in our rush lanes," defensive lineman Corey Williams said. "We can't rush upfield too much. We have to keep him in the well, not give him enough time to run around and scramble."

Other than McNabb's 9 1/2-month-old injury, there are two other appreciable differences in this season's matchup compared to the past.

{sportsad300}First, the Packers are finally getting to play the Eagles at Lambeau Field. McNabb won the first of his four straight wins over the Packers here, a rainy Monday night in November 2003, but has won the last three in Philadelphia.

Second, this is perhaps a stronger overall Green Bay defense than any McNabb has faced. The 2007 unit has yet to play a regular-season game, but coming off a dominant final month in 2006 and entering 2007 fully healthy, the defense is expected to make the difference for this team, particularly when it faces Pro Bowl quarterbacks like McNabb.

"Their defense now I think is something," Eagles head coach Andy Reid said. "They've done a great job there. (GM) Ted (Thompson) has done a heck of a job bringing quality players in there."

Those quality players know they have a lot to prove, particularly to those who say their impressive finish to 2006 was a product of handling sub-par offensive clubs.

"We still feel unrespected," defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. "We still feel like people are kind of putting us on the backburner, saying that we're not going to be that good and everybody else is going to be better than us. It's still a challenge. We're still trying to go out there and earn respect."

A strong showing against McNabb would be a pretty good start.

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