In the frenzy over the guy with the initials, the other guy got lost.

The other guy, of course, is Donovan McNabb. And on the day the nation was watching everything that happened to Terrell Owens in Philadelphia, all McNabb did was throw for 354 yards, including touchdown passes of 87 and 40 yards, leading the Eagles to a 38-24 win over T.O. and Dallas.

So please, give McNabb credit for being one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, and let T.O. go his own me-first way.

Let him go back to Drew Bledsoe, who threw three interceptions in Sunday’s showcase. One was an underthrown ball to Owens, who seemed to have beaten Lito Sheppard for a sure touchdown; another was returned 102 yards by Sheppard with 31 seconds left just as it appeared Dallas would tie the game.

Yes, McNabb is doing just fine with Hank Baskett and Reggie Brown instead of T.O.

Owens isn’t doing as well without McNabb. The immobile Bledsoe is very good when protected, but when he’s not, he’ll cost his team, one reason New England and Buffalo decided they’d be just as well off without him.

“People think we have no receivers,” McNabb said after Sunday’s game. “They just say that because they’ve never heard of them – because they don’t have a high profile.”

Until the very high-profile Owens started yapping at him last year, McNabb was a perennial MVP contender. And his subpar 2005 season was due largely to playing with a painful sports hernia for which he eventually underwent surgery.

In 2004, he had 31 touchdowns and just eight interceptions to lead Philadelphia to the Super Bowl.

That was with T.O. – at least for part of the season until Owens got hurt.

McNabb’s performance this season is even better: 11 TDs to one interception. And that’s with Brown, Baskett and Greg Lewis as his primary receivers; Donte’ Stallworth, obtained from New Orleans to be the deep threat, has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.

McNabb also has learned to become a proficient pocket passer rather than the scrambler he was in his early years.

He ran for 629 yards in 2000, his first season as a full-time starter, and his numbers have decreased annually since, in part because he’s determined to erase the stereotype of the black quarterback as a runner first and passer second. Still he remains a threat and has scrambled for 87 yards this season. Opponents often decline to come at him at full speed because he might take off.

His mobility also works for him within the pocket.

On the 87-yarder Sunday, he avoided a heavy rush, slid to his left and launched the ball deep downfield for Baskett to run under. The 40-yarder to Brown was off a flea-flicker and was thrown perfectly to the back line of the end zone between two defenders.

That’s another major improvement. Coming out of Syracuse, where he ran the option, the one rap on McNabb was his accuracy.

As a rookie, he completed just 49 percent of his passes. But he’s been close to 60 percent since, completing 64 percent in ’04, the first season with T.O. And his percentage might be higher if the Eagles ran better. Although they’re averaging 4.6 yards per rushing attempt, they still pass nearly 60 percent of the time, which actually is down from close to 70 percent in past years.

Another factor in McNabb’s success this season has to be the absence of Owens.

He is obviously more relaxed without the circus atmosphere at the Eagles’ complex, where last season reporters kept seeking his response to the latest remark by T.O., and their teammates were being asked daily to take sides between the two.

That’s over and so is T.O.’s return. That may allow McNabb to relax even more, although Philadelphia’s schedule gets noticeably harder. No more Houston, San Francisco and Green Bay, the cupcakes that helped the Eagles build a 4-1 record. Next week they go to New Orleans, and the season’s final six games are killers: at Indianapolis; a home game with Carolina; on the road against all three NFC East opponents; and a finale at home with Atlanta.

Still, McNabb can carry a team even with a very average receiving corps that depends a lot on drop-prone tight end L.J. Smith and running back Brian Westbrook.

He’s also got the right attitude.

“This is a total team game,” McNabb said after Sunday’s game. “It’s not about two guys. It’s about a team.”

Owens never learned that. McNabb has always known it.


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