Secondary Could Be Lost Without Sheppard

The Eagles, who went into the playoffs relatively healthy, suffered a significant injury in Sunday's 23-20 first-round win over the New York Giants.

The Eagles' Pro Bowl cornerback, Lito Sheppard dislocated his elbow in the fourth quarter of the Giants game and will miss this week's divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints.

"Lito Sheppard has a dislocated elbow, will not play this weekend," head coach Andy Reid said of Sheppard.

Even with Sheppard, the Eagles didn't have much luck shutting down Drew Brees and the Saints' passing game in their 27-24 Week 6 loss to them in the SuperDome. That day, Brees completed 27 of 38 passes for three touchdowns.

The Eagles struggled without Sheppard in the fourth quarter Sunday. Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw for just 161 yards, but 75 of those yards came on a 13-play scoring drive that tied the game before the Eagles finally pulled it out with a David Akers field goal with no time left.

Manning completed three straight passes to Plaxico Burress at the tail-end of the drive, including an easy 11-yard touchdown against Sheppard's replacement, Rod Hood.

"We're going to have our hands full," the Eagles' other starting corner, Sheldon Brown, said of the Saints. "We went down there earlier this year. They have something special going on there. They have a 12th man with their fans and it's going to be a very difficult football game. We'll have to be mentally focused and prepared and it's important that we rest."

The Eagles' loss to the Saints in Week 6 ignited a mid-season slide that saw the Birds drop five of six games and fall to 5-6 before finishing the regular-season with five straight wins to win capture their fifth NFC East title in six years.

Saints wide receiver Joe Horn had six catches for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Eagles, including a 48-yarder early in the fourth quarter that led to the demotion of Pro Bowl strong safety Mike Lewis. He was replaced by Sean Considine, who has started the last 11 games.

Hood is expected to replace Sheppard in the starting lineup this week. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is hoping that William James, who has missed the last four games with a calf injury, might be able to play against the Saints. If he can, he likely would be the Eagles' third corner. If he can't, that role will be filled for NFL Europe vet Joselio Hanson.

The Eagles will have a different quarterback Saturday than they had the last time they faced the Saints. Jeff Garcia has replaced Donovan McNabb, who is out with knee injury. They'll also have a different offensive philosophy.

With Garcia at quarterback, the Eagles have leaned more heavily on their running game. They had just 19 rushing attempts in their first game against the Saints. They've also become pretty good at it. They rushed for 185 yards against the Giants, including a career-high 141 by running back Brian Westbrook.

Notes From The 'Nest

  • RB Brian Westbrook played Sunday with an stomach virus, but it didn't seem to bother him. He rushed for a career-high 141 yards.
  • PK David Akers seemed to benefit from the return of holder Koy Detmer. He booted three field goals, including a 48-yarder and a game-winning 38-yarder.

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