Don't count Eagles out

When the Philadelphia Eagles visit the San Francisco 49ers, the Eagles will be without their Pro Bowl quarterback, DONOVAN MC NABB (broken ankle, out six-to-eight weeks). Replacing him will be a six-year QB who has started six games in his career – KOY DETMER. Season's in trouble for the 7-3 NFC East-leading Eagles? Not so fast.

Detmer comes from good football stock (his father SONNY is a legendary Texas high school football coach, and brother TY is a quarterback for the Detroit Lions); he has been with the Eagles since 1997, so he knows the system; and, most of all, he enjoys the confidence of head coach ANDY REID, who takes a 7-0 prime time record as Eagles coach into the game.

"I feel very confident about what Koy can do in this offense," says Reid.  "He's a good football player and a good quarterback.  He's stepped in before and done a nice job for this team."

Of course, running back DUCE STALEY may have to make up some of the yardage lost with McNabb's absence (he is the top rushing QB in the NFL with 460 yards).  Staley – the NFC's No. 8 rusher (697 yards) -- had himself a 136-yard day last week and added 82 more yards on receptions.  Plus he had perhaps the second-effort play of the week when he bulldozed into the end zone with three defenders on his back after catching a McNabb pass in the second quarter.

The quarterback across the field from Detmer knows how he feels.  The 49ers' JEFF GARCIA was not drafted and had to go to Canada for five years before he got a chance in the NFL.  Now his career passer rating (91.4) ranks only behind KURT WARNER (99.9), STEVE YOUNG (96.8) and JOE MONTANA (92.3) in NFL annals.

"I think people still think I'm going to have a fall-off, that I'm going to have a setback, and I'm not," says Garcia.  "I'm just going to keep plugging away.  I'm just going to keep getting better."

Helping Garcia, and himself, get better is his prime partner, wide receiver TERRELL OWENS.  The two (Owens is tied for the NFC reception lead with RANDY MOSS with 62), have hooked up for eight touchdowns, the most for an NFC combo.

But…JIM JOHNSON is waiting in the bushes.  The Eagles' defensive coordinator has molded a red-zone package that has surrendered only 10 TDs inside the 20, tied with Dallas for second-fewest in the league behind Tampa Bay (4).

"It's certain coverages we play and the players believe in it and they have a lot of confidence in it," says Johnson.  "I think if I ever tried to change the coverages, I'd have a rebellion on my hands."               


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