Sunday, December 16, 2007

Westbrook's smart move


Brian Westbrook is now — officially — my favorite NFL player.

I’ve never pretended that my 6-foot, 161-pound frame could last a second in the NFL. But I’ve always believed that I could assist a team as a game manager. There are so many situations where I look at the TV and wonder, What was he thinking?

Coaches not using their timeouts. Players running out of bounds when they need to keep the clock running. Players staying in bounds when they need to stop the clock. You get the point.

I’ve seen it all, and although I don’t pretend that — in the heat of battle — I would make the right decision, coaches and players sometimes appear, no offense, so dumb. (And, no, it’s not because many players didn’t graduate from college; it’s common-sense dumb.)

But not Westbrook, the Eagles’ durable running back. He made possibly the smartest play I’ve ever seen on a football field in Philadelphia’s 10-6 upset of Dallas Sunday afternoon. A win that keeps the Eagles, at 6-8, on the fringe of the NFC playoff picture.

Leading 10-6 with just over two minutes remaining, Westbrook broke through the Dallas defense and was in the clear. He was racing toward the end zone. He could have pranced into pay dirt, maybe done a little prancing, maybe taunted the Dallas crowd. You know, the usual for NFL players celebrating touchdowns.

And the Eagles would have been up 17-6 with just 2 minutes remaining. They would have been in great shape to finish off the road victory. But it wouldn’t have been over. Not with Dallas’ offense back on the field.

So what did Westbrook do? The unthinkable. He angered fantasy owners across the country by abruptly falling at the 1-yard line. The voluble Cowboys fans in the bar I was in were incredulous. They called Westbrook all kinds of vulgar names.

But they knew. Everyone knew that Dallas, devoid of timeouts, was officially done when Westbrook hit the Texas Stadium turf. After the 2-minute warning, all it took were three kneel-downs by Donovan McNabb, and the clock hit 0:00.

The chance of Tony Romo, even with a bum thumb, leading Dallas to two scores in 2 minutes is much greater than the chance of McNabb fumbling one of three snaps. I feel very, very safe saying this.

Which is why Westbrook’s decision was so brilliant. It, ultimately, ended the game. Kept T.O. — and his popcorn — on the sideline.

I’m not a big “favorites” guy. Too many guys make silly, sometimes game-costing errors at a point during a 16-game season. Placing the “favorite” tag is downright dangerous.

But I feel comfortable calling Westbrook my favorite NFL player. All it took was one acute, selfless play at the end of a long afternoon in Big D.

More than likely, nobody will talk about Westbrook’s decision after the next day or two. That’s fine.

But the Eagles should be comforted that they have a heady player in their backfield.


Sportsattitude said...

Westbrook admitted to the press after the game tackle Jon Runyan basically threatened him to take a knee. He told Brian in the huddle they could run out the clock if they got a first down but failed to score and that Dallas might even be willing to let him score to get the ball back on offense, even though they'd be two scores down. Then, when he broke free, Brian said Jon was actually yelling at him as he was running, reminding him to "get down." As far as fantasy footballers are concerned, my league's semifinal game was decided by his failure to score. An owner lost solely because Westbrook stopped himself going in. If that had happened to my fantasy team, I would have driven to Jon Runyan's house and at the very least demanded a refund of my league fees!

Jake Lloyd said...

Yeah, I heard about Runyan. He's now officially my favorite player. And Westbrook's still up there for actually doing what Runyan said.

Sportsattitude said...

Runyan started out his career in Philly as a guy who seemed to speak as if he might not be not as bright as most football players (sarcasm)...but he went to "school" and now Jon co-hosts a talk show, makes numerous speaking engagements...and is proving to everyone just how smart he always is...and was. A well-earned reputation as a hard-nosed (i.e. sometimes dirty) player on the field but an honorable gentleman off the field. And yes, Brian gets his props for hitting the deck when he did.

Tyler Hampton said...

I didn't see that play, but I wish I did. That's really smart and selfless. Great play.