PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Maybe Terrell Owens wasn’t such a bad teammate after all.

If Owens weren’t getting so much criticism for the turmoil he caused with his off-the-field antics, the focus in Philadelphia no doubt would be on how poorly the Eagles have played this season.

Instead, the T.O. saga overshadowed the rapid descent of the reigning NFC champions. Owens isn’t completely free from blame for the decline. But a weak defense, which has allowed more points (23.2) and yards (333.9) a game than it has in six years, has been Philadelphia’s biggest problem.

And it didn’t help that quarterback Donovan McNabb was bothered by injuries and struggled after a strong start.

Now that it’s clear Owens won’t be playing again this season – an arbitrator upheld Philadelphia’s four-game suspension of Owens and its decision to deactivate him with pay for the remaining five games – the Eagles finally can move on without the All-Pro wide receiver.

But that means all the attention goes back on a team that has lost four straight games for the first time since 1999 and is 4-6, last in the NFC East.

“We got the personnel, we got the coaching and we got everything we need to turn that thing around,” safety Brian Dawkins said. “It starts with one game; we have to win the first game.

“Winning does something to you. It releases something in you, it’s confidence and you get that nasty taste of losing out of your mouth. You get that losing mentality out of your system. That first game is going to be critical. Once we get that first game, hopefully it will be this week, we can start doing what we need to do for the rest of the season.”

The Eagles host the woeful Green Bay Packers (2-8) on Sunday. It’ll be their first game since McNabb was shut down for the season. McNabb, who didn’t play in a loss to the New York Giants last week, soon will have surgery for a sports hernia.

It’s the fourth straight game without Owens. All-Pro cornerback Lito Sheppard also is out for the season after severely injuring his ankle against the Giants.

“All we can do is try to win with the guys we have in the locker room. That’s the bottom line,” defensive tackle Darwin Walker said.

The atmosphere surrounding the Eagles is more upbeat without the constant questions about Owens. Several players said they wanted him back, but that doesn’t matter now.

Greg Lewis, Reggie Brown and Billy McMullen are the top three wideouts, and Mike McMahon is the quarterback.

“These guys are focused on one thing right now and that is just trying to win football games,” McMahon said. “We have to get this one this week and get something started.”

It certainly would be easier on McMahon and the rest of the offense if Owens were in the lineup. He had 47 catches for 763 yards and six TDs in seven games, and the Eagles were 17-5 with him over two seasons, including a loss to New England in the Super Bowl.

Management, however, decided it had enough of Owens and his criticism of McNabb and the organization.

“The only good thing about it is now we can focus on the rest of the season,” defensive end N.D. Kalu said. “We know you all aren’t going to ask us about T.O. anymore.”


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