Eagles kick through the pain to boot the Raiders

Pain makes cowards out of some people.Other people swallow pain like candy. Fortunately for the Eagles, they limped and gimped past the Raiders 23-20 this afternoon at the Linc because Donovan McNabb and David Akers turned off their nerve endings, cursed at their agony, gulped through the hurt, and clutched it up.So hobbled by the throbbing right hamstring he apparently re-mangled like a popped guitar string on the opening kickoff, Akers kicked a 23-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining to win it.He earlier had gritted through his intense pain to kick two extra points.Granted, the game would have had a lot less melodrama had Andy Reid activated kicker Todd France from the practice squad to caddy for Akers, a non-move that Reid admitted in hindsight was a gaffe.Yep, it was a grit-and-gristle game, raw as an open wound, all bloody noses and scabbed knuckles.McNabb, crippled by an abdominal strain and/or strained groin that could be a sports hernia according to some reports, threw a whopping 52 times, completing 30 of them for 365 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter.It made you cringe watching McNabb try to throw, run or even walk back to the huddle. But he had a bloody-mindedness to his game and his zeal couldn’t be diminished by the various fireballs of pain coursing and pinballing through his body.So it sounds cruel to point out that his accuracy was awful at times — his balls sailing frequently because he couldn’t get his legs into his throws.His face hardly a blank canvas, McNabb completed just 11 of 24 passes for 99 yards in the first half, including a godawful pick to lumbering DT Warren Sapp that squelched a scoring opportunity. I don’t know if McNabb visited Lourdes at halftime, but he was more stoic and effective in the second half.McNabb tossed a 4-yard TD pass Terrell Owens, who had 9 catches for 80 yards, with 10:20 left in the third quarter to give the Eagles their first lead.McNabb followed that with a clever 5-yard shovel TD pass to Brian Westbrook right before the third quarter ended. That scoring drive was fueled by McNabb’s 62-yard streak to Westbrook on a key third-and-1 play.Westbrook truly had a mercurial game, catching six balls for 140 yards and running 13 times for 68 yards.Another crucial element in the Eagles’ game was their defense, which was able to put a cork in the genie bottle that contains the captivatingly talented Randy Moss. The Raiders’ flamboyant wideout had just five catches for 86 yards.The defense was marvelous because the Eagles, in Akers’ absence, kicked off like kids playing under-8 soccer. The Raiders had excellent field position frequently, but often couldn’t capitalize on such promising embryonic positioning.Still, Kerry Collins, the former Wilson and Penn State star who still throws a beautiful ball, did his best to try to lead the debased and demoralized Oakland fiefdom.Collins completed 24 of 42 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns. He found Doug Gabriel with a 27-yard touchdown pass with 2:23 left in the fourth quarter to draw the Raiders even at 20-20.In the end, it wasn’t a game for romantic fatalism. And it wasn’t a game that required much interior thought.It simply was gut check time for the Birds.Still, Reid almost doinked the whole game by not activating another kicker.And while McNabb loves to project the aura of an iron man, one wonders how effective he can be next week -– if he plays — when the Eagles go to Kansas City.Proudly wearing the red badge of courage is an inspiring mantra. But ultimately, injury can be the final arbiter of who measures up and who doesn’t.Akers, for one, likely will be MIA for a few weeks.Should McNabb wind up on the shelf, the Eagles will face some treacherous times. Then it will be even more the province of the Eagles’ stellar defense to fend off the undesirables and play with an inflamed rage.