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Eagles' McNabb explains post-loss comments, points finger at self

PHILADELPHIA -- Calling out teammates isn't Donovan McNabb's style, so he isn't starting now.

Two days after saying "we showed our youth" in a costly 24-0 loss at Dallas, the Philadelphia Eagles' five-time Pro Bowl quarterback blamed himself Tuesday and clarified his comments.

"It all starts with me. I have to raise my level of play, and everyone else has to as well," McNabb said. "What I meant is, we have a young team, and a lot of things we were doing just were very uncharacteristic of what we did all throughout the year. I wasn't blaming it on anyone, by any means."

The Eagles (11-5) would have clinched their sixth NFC East title in the last nine years and secured the conference's No. 2 playoff seed and a first-round bye with a victory over the division rival Cowboys. Instead, Philadelphia was thoroughly dominated by Dallas and dropped to the sixth spot. The lone bright side for the Eagles is they receive a rematch with the Cowboys (11-5) in a wild-card playoff game Saturday night.

McNabb has struggled, along with the rest of the Eagles' offense, in two losses to the Cowboys this season. Against the rest of the NFL, Philadelphia has been nearly unstoppable, scoring a franchise-record 429 points this season.

Only 16 of those points came against Dallas.

McNabb finished 20 of 36 for 223 yards last Sunday and didn't throw a touchdown pass for just the second time this season. He overthrew DeSean Jackson on a deep, first-quarter pass that would have tied the game. Later, McNabb dropped a low snap from new center Nick Cole and lost the fumble inside the red zone.

But there also were several dropped passes, including two by Jackson and one by rookie Jeremy Maclin on a slightly off-target pass that should have been caught for a big gain and possibly a score.

Despite having one of his finest seasons, McNabb received criticism for his subpar performance against the Cowboys and was hammered for his statements afterward. Given an opportunity to explain, McNabb made it clear that he wasn't pointing the finger at his young receivers or a reshuffled offensive line.

"I said it was my fault on the snap, and I said that I need to elevate my game," McNabb said. "I think at times, too many people focus on just little things and not focus on what the whole question and the whole answer is. I've never attempted or even tried or will ever throw anyone under the bus. That's just not me. I don't do that.

"For these young guys, these young guys are part of the reason why we're in the position we are. They've made a lot of plays for us, all throughout the year, and they will continue to make plays for us."

Jackson, a Pro Bowl pick in just his second NFL season, said he spoke to McNabb and has no issues with him.

"We talked, and you know, it's nothing big," Jackson said. "We just have to keep it in-house and stick together as a team and don't let things like that break us up. We talked about it, cleared it up, and it's all right."

Maclin doesn't have a problem with McNabb, either.

"I don't think he meant it that way," Maclin said. "We got rattled. We got off our game plan. That wasn't just youth."

Criticism is nothing new for McNabb. He has heard it from fans and media since entering the league as the No. 2 overall draft pick in 1999. Although he has led the Eagles to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl in his 10 seasons, McNabb has been labeled as someone who can't win the big one.

If the Eagles lose to the Cowboys on Saturday, McNabb will hear it again throughout the offseason. Many will call for Kevin Kolb to replace him as Philadelphia's quarterback. Since McNabb has only one year left on his contract, it's not an impossible scenario.

"I'll be here for a lot of years," McNabb said. "Do I have to answer this every year?"

McNabb has plenty of support in the locker room.

"Donovan does a great job handling the press, the media and the negative criticism," said quarterback Michael Vick, who came to Philadelphia this season. "John Elway was in his 15th year when he won a Super Bowl. Fans are impatient, but that's normal. This is a tough game, a tough league. It looks easy unless you're out there playing. People need to learn to be patient."

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