Philadelphia 35, Houston 17

Sept. 29, 2002 at 8:33 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Brian Dawkins became the first player in NFL history to have a touchdown reception, an interception, recover a fumble and register a sack in the same game Sunday as the Philadelphia Eagles posted a methodical 35-17 victory over the expansion Houston Texans.

Built around quarterback Donovan McNabb, the Eagles watched their franchise quarterback endure an inconsistent afternoon just two days after he became the highest-paid player ever in pro football.

McNabb signed a 12-year, $115 million contract with a $20 million signing bonus on Friday. On Sunday, he completed 24 of 42 passes for 259 yards with a touchdown and interception while getting sacked three times.

A Pro Bowl safety and one of the NFL's hardest hitters, Dawkins made plenty of big defensive plays but may have made his biggest play on special teams in this one.

On the first possession of the second half, return specialist Brian Mitchell shoveled a pass to Dawkins on a fake punt and he ran 57 yards for a touchdown, giving Philadelphia a 28-7 lead.

"You think of getting two picks or causing two fumbles, but you don't think about scoring off a punt," Dawkins said.

"Donovan does a lot for that offense and if my teammates are saying I do that much for the defense, then that puts a lot of pressure on me to do it every game. I don't want it to be a one-game thing. I want to do it today, every game. If I can do that then who knows what I'll be able to do to help this team. It's not just about me. I don't want this to be about me."

"Dawkins has some good hands," McNabb said. "I think this is a great, great thing for him. Good things happen to good people. He's a guy who works extremely hard in the offseason and during the season. Good things will happen to him."

Duce Staley scored on two one-yard runs for the Eagles (3-1), who won their third straight game despite committing three turnovers. Philadelphia has won its last three games by a combined 79 points.

Rookie David Carr, the first overall pick in April's draft, passed for a pair of touchdowns for Houston (1-3), which also committed three turnovers but still was competitive for much of the contest against one of the NFL's top teams.

"We came in 21-point underdogs and we came here and you take away a couple of plays and the game could have finished another way," Texans defensive tackle Gary Walker said.

Unable to move on their intial possession of the second half, the Eagles lined up to punt at their own 43 when they caught Houston by surprise.

Mitchell took a direct snap and shoveled the ball to Dawkins, who raced untouched to the end zone to seemingly break open the game.

"The special teams fake was a huge play in the game," Texans running back James Allen said. "If they do not score we're in the game at 20-7."

But the Texans answered as they moved five plays in 60 yards with Carr finding Corey Bradford with a 29-yard touchdown.

The Eagles gave the Texans plenty of chances to get even closer in the third quarter, losing a pair of fumbles in their own territory.

Carr was intercepted by cornerback Bobby Taylor in the end zone following the first fumble and Kris Brown kicked a 48-yard field goal following the second miscue, pulling the Texans within 28-17 with 2:33 left in the third.

Carr was sacked seven times and completed 16 of 29 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

McNabb, who also was under heavy pressure for much of the afternoon, put the game away with his 38-yard touchdown pass to James Thrash with 4:52 remaining.

Nearly a three-touchdown underdog, the Texans broke on top less than five minutes into the contest on Carr's 23-yard touchdown pass to Bradford.

"We were excited to get the first seven points, but we knew it was going to take more than that," Carr said. "They're a good offense, a good defense, just a good football team, so we knew it was going to take more than just a touchdown."

The Eagles got on the board with under five minutes left in the first quarter on David Akers' 25-yard field goal.

Carr made his first miscue of the afternoon late in the first quarter when he was stripped by tackle Darwin Walker and Dawkins recovered at the Houston 42.

Houston appeared to stop the ensuing drive when McNabb was sacked on third down. But a 15-yard facemask penalty on linebacker Jay Foreman kept the drive alive that Staley capped with his one-yard touchdown, giving the Eagles a 10-7 lead with 13:28 left in the first half.

Staley scored on another one-yard run on the Eagles' next possession and Akers kicked a 41-yard field goal with 2:42 left in the half for a 20-7 lead.

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