Home / Brian Westbrook Made The NFL’s Play of the Decade

Brian Westbrook Made The NFL’s Play of the Decade

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The best play I have seen in the NFL this year, perhaps this decade, occurred in the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

This play, a 24-yard run by Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook that did not result in a touchdown, will be left on the cutting room floor in the sports news rooms of many cities around the country as they build their highlight reels. However, in all my years as a sports fan, I cannot recall another play that combined athleticism, intelligence and “team-first” selflessness as did Westbrook’s play on Sunday. As I watched this play unfold, I was at once astounded and reminded again why we love sports.

For those who did not see Westbrook’s play, the following is the context in which it transpired. The Eagles had a 10-6 lead and the ball on the Dallas 25-yard line with a little more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Moments earlier, Philadelphia had intercepted Dallas quarterback Tony Romo for the third time in the game. The Eagles’ offense was trying to ensure Romo would not get an opportunity to inspire another improbable victory, as he had several times in leading the Cowboys to a 12-1 record in 2007. Dallas had already called its final timeouts on defense in an attempt to save Romo some time to lead another such victory. From the Dallas 25, Westbrook took the handoff, broke into the clear and what followed was truly remarkable.

Westbrook ran to the offensive right and, in short order, had beaten the defense to the degree that there was not a single defender in the same camera shot with him. At this point, Westbrook slowed from a sprint to a walk as if to begin the “pre-end zone celebration” that has become popular among many of his NFL brethren. I was bracing for another silly NFL “look at me” moment. But before I could mentally chastise Westbrook for the arrogance I had wrongly expected him to show, he had lain down on the 1 yard line to allow himself to be touched down by a Dallas defender. The end of the play coincided with two-minute warning. With Dallas powerless to stop the clock, the Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb then took three snaps to run out the clock, keeping the Dallas offense on the sidelines and sealing the Eagles’ 10-6 victory.

Westbrook had not just made a 24-yard run, but he had played athletic chess in a manner that would make Gary Kasparov proud. Westbrook had determined that his team’s chances for victory actually increased by him not scoring a touchdown. More importantly, he valued increasing his team’s odds for victory more than his own personal achievement or self-aggrandizement. No one would have blamed Westbrook for scoring the touchdown. In fact, it would not have occurred to most that there was any other option that may have benefited his team more. Scoring the touchdown would have made the score 17-6, putting Dallas in the nearly impossible situation of having to score two touchdowns in less than two minutes to win the game. However, not scoring the touchdown made Dallas’ predicament for all practical purposes impossible: scoring a touchdown at all without the getting the ball.

In all walks of life, so many people say “team” but never really do “team.” We all know it is politically correct to say the good of the team comes before the good of the individual. However, so few appear willing to choose the team when its interests are in directly conflict with their own. Too few people live like they believe there are goals more important that our own. As a result, we cynically expect others, even public servants, to serve themselves first. Little did we know that we would get a lesson in humility from a professional athlete?

Plays like the one that Brian Westbrook made Sunday are the reason why I love sports. The great thing about sport is that you can sit down to watch a game and, if you are paying attention, leave with a life lesson. At the next opportunity, maybe you or I will be more likely to “Westbrook,” meaning put the group’s interests first even to the apparent detriment of our own. Maybe we will set aside making a better “me” and try to make a better world.

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About Brian McClellan

  • Druxxx

    Good Call

    A few weeks back the Packers were playing the Chiefs. The Pack was up by 6 with just over 2 minutes to play. if I remember right. The Chiefs great Damon Huared Thew a pick to Charles Woodson.

    I screamed at the TV for Woodson to go down at the one. The Chiefs were out of timeouts and would be helpless as the Pack kneeled down to end the game.

    But Woodson scored and the Pack had to give the Chiefs the ball back with a chance to win no matter how small.

    Its tough to blame the player considering how much money a TD is worth in future contracts. Especially a defensive player.

  • Shamus Goldensteinbergbaum

    Shamus Goldensteinbergbaum wrote:
    As a respected and world renowned artist and writer, I have to say that your website is visually comparable to diarrhea splattered on a tile floor. It is hard to believe that you would think that these would be smart artistic choices. I would not go as far to say that you’re completely hopeless, but I would definitely label you artistically retarded. Because of the very poor presentation, I have no other choice but to file a report with the internet. Your website will be reviewed to see if it contains any artistic merit. You’re just a little lost bird, that’s mildly retarded when it comes to artistic greatness, I hope these criticisms can be the leading light that allows you to travel to the kingdom of creative genius.

  • Paul

    Wow, harsh words written by Shamus. I hope he was only joking. Anyways, Westbrook’s play was masterful and I hope there are more people like him who value team before selfish interests. I hope T.O was watching.

  • msa

    Easy for you to say. Cost me 2k, fantasy This was a football owners worst nightmare.

  • Smart hardly!

    Yes he may look like the man of the hour but if 7 more points did not make the difference in the game he should have scored and made his Fantasy football owners proud for sticking with him.

    Thank you Mr. Westbrook you are my idle and I thank you for choking in the middle of fantasy football playoff week!

  • Great article. I was watching the game, and when I saw Westbrook make that play, I literally wanted to hug the man. (Of course, I imagine some fantasy owners wanted to strangle him…)

  • Steve Harris

    Watch the tape again and you’ll notice tackle Jon Runyan yelling and signalling for Westbrook to go down before he gets to the endzone. I think Runyan may have been the one who came up with the idea. Either way, it was brilliant.

  • BOB

    Westbrook is GAY! He’s paid to score TD’s. He showed that he has no confidence in his team by taking a knee. It’s just another display of the teamplay that get’s you nowhere in the NFL.

    If Maroney or Faulk did that at the end of the Jets vs. Patriots game I bet Belichick would not play him the next week.

    Here’s to Westbrook and another example of why the Eagles will never win, they got the lay down and take it attitude.

  • BOB

    McClellan, Westbrook probably needs his kneepads back….

  • alessandro

    Brian Westbrook is simply a man to be loved. Took Reid a while to give him the ball but all is forgiven.

  • Mike

    understanding taking the knee allowed the Eagles to run out the clock and give zero chance for the Boys to come back but play of the decade? please. plus isn’t this the same eagles “team” that told westbrook they wouldn’t pay him big money a few years ago because his “stats” didn’t warrant the asking price !!!! if i was him I would have danced my way into the endzone stomped on the Star !! then on the flight home while watching myself on sportscenter (sadly that’s what gets you in the highlights) I’d be asking my agent if that’s what the “team” had in mind for those “stats”

  • Paul

    It’s so funny that fantasy and gambling losers are hating on Westbrook, when all he did was take the sure win (with the help of Jon Runyan) for his team and fans. You losers should go and hate on your own teams, rather than crying about losing money and your sorry fantasy playoffs.

  • Good article here.

  • Sharon

    I was floored when I saw that play, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t see much of anyone comment on it in the press. It was one of the few football plays I’ve seen that ever built my respect for the game and the players. Sorry for the fantasy players, but glad to see reality worth more than fantasy to someone out there.

  • Wrecking Crew

    Like many others, Westbrook was on my fantasy team. In a game to get into the championship I had Tom Brady score 4 pts, T.O. score 3, and Westbrook take a knee, cost me 6 more points … I lost by 5!!! Westbrook may have made a ‘smart play’ but its speaks volumes for him in the future when it comes to fantasy football.

  • I’m glad to see your perspective. I hadn’t thought of it that way….When I first saw the play the only thing I could think was, “If the Patriots had pulled that, they’d have gotten bad press about poor sportsmanship.” Why? Because the score was 10-6 with Eagles in the lead. A TD (even missing the extra) would have put them 16-6. In the less than two minutes left, it would have been almost impossible for Dallas to score + extra point + what? fieldgoal to tie? If the score had been closer, say 10-9, I could see it more clearly and would respect the play. But to me it didn’t seem very sportsmanlike. That’s why I am glad to have read your article plus the link RJ sent. It gives them more humanity to me.

    RE: Shamus, Um, is a simile about diarrhea artistic genius? If so, I should put him in touch with the 2nd grade boys I know. And as a “respected and world renowned artist and writer” I’d think he’d have more of a social conscience than to use “retarded” twice in that manner. Also, I read the banner about “personal attacks” not being allowed, yet, I’ve read plenty of them….

  • Sandy

    Remember the Patriots Chargers playoff game last year, Brady intercepted in the final seconds, if the Chargers DB goes down, game is over, Chargers win. But he tried to make a fancy run and fumbled, Patriots get ball and scored. Dumb play by the DB. Smart play by Westbrook.

  • stiffy

    Attention all Brian Westbrook fans!!! I am truly sorry that i have to be the 1 to tell you all this but Brian is GAY, i know it for a FACT!, yes it’s TRUE! , i’m so disappointed in him!