Freeney Made First NFL Start Against Then-Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb
INDIANAPOLIS – Dwight Freeney remembers the moment well.
Freeney, now in his ninth season with the Colts, said while eight years have passed since he first played against Donovan McNabb, time hasn't dimmed the memory.
At least not for him.
For McNabb? Well, for McNabb it's a different story.
Because while McNabb is now the quarterback for the Colts' opponent this week, the Washington Redskins, in 2002, he was playing for the Philadelphia Eagles the day Freeney made his first NFL start. McNabb told reers this week he didn't much remember the game in November 2002.
Freeney smiled upon hearing this.
"That's good – I hit him a few times," Freeney said this week as the Colts (3-2) prepared to play the Washington Redskins (3-2) at FedExField in Landover, Md. Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
Freeney, the Colts' five-time Pro Bowl defensive end, addressed several issues while speaking with the media this week, and some his most memorable comments were remembering the game midway through the 2002 season when he made his first major NFL impact.
Freeney, the No. 11 overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft, had played as a reserve in the first eight games that season, and had registered five sacks. But he had yet to start.
At Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, he got his chance.
Freeney had played one season while he was a freshman and McNabb was a senior at Syracuse. Playing against McNabb, Freeney didn't just make an impact.
Along with quarterback Peyton Manning, he dominated.
"It didn't work out well in our favor," McNabb said this week. "I do remember that part of it."
The Colts, who entered the game 4-4 in the middle of a three-game losing streak, were not only .500 after eight games, they had lost what had been a three-game lead in the AFC South. In consecutive weeks, they had lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington and Tennessee.
Many observers considered the Eagles as tough a test.
The Eagles, in the middle of a streak of four consecutive NFC East titles, were 6-2, and had a blitzing attacking defense and an offense that featured McNabb – as is the case now, one of the league's best and most mobile quarterbacks.
In the first half, Freeney forced a fumble on a reverse, and with the Colts leading 21-6 early in the second half, Freeney chased down McNabb after a 14-yard run and forced another fumble.
Later in the third quarter, Freeney sacked McNabb, forcing another fumble.
For the day, Freeney led the team in tackles, forced three fumbles and registered a sack, helping the Colts to a victory that started a four-game winning streak that was critical to the team's 10-6 wild-card season. That was the first of the Colts' eight consecutive playoff appearances. They haven't had a three-game losing streak since.
"Dwight's an outstanding player," McNabb said. "He was a good player coming into college as a freshman, had success all throughout his college career, and he's continued to have success on the field."
But if the game marked the beginning of Freeney's status as a pass-rushing, playmaking force, Freeney said it was just as true that he did and still does admire McNabb very much.
Asked this week who was the better Syracuse alumni, him or McNabb, Freeney quickly replied, "Him."
And without question, Freeney said whatever the uniform and however many years have passed, it's still special playing against McNabb.
"I think so," Freeney said. "I grew up watching him at Syracuse, then played with him at Syracuse. Obviously, Syracuse – we all kind of stick together somewhat, so definitely I'd say there's a little added. Whenever you're playing against a guy like that – and especially at the quarterback position – it brings a little bit more to the game.
"He definitely was the guy. It was definitely an honor to be able to play on the same squad as him back then. He has had a tremendous career and he's continued to do some great things.'
Freeney this week also addressed:
*Playing the Redskins with former Denver Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan as Redskins Head Coach. "We played him for years when he was in Denver, so he knows us extremely well," Freeney said. "It's going to be a tough match-up."
*The need to follow a solid defensive performance in a 19-9 victory over Kansas City with another solid overall and defensive effort this week. "We have to be able to funnel what we had last week and hope it carries on," Freeney said. "The whole thing is about consistency. In the National Football League, you have to have consistency. We've been able to do that over the years. We have to be able to not go through 'good game, bad game, good game, bad game.' We have to build some kind of consistency. Last game was definitely a good game from that standpoint. We definitely want to continue that."
Also on Friday, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said Pat Angerer will start at middle linebacker if Gary Brackett can't play. Brackett is listed as questionable on the Friday injury report with a groin injury.
Caldwell said Angerer will make the defensive calls if he plays.
"He makes them all," Caldwell said. "He's a smart guy. He's got great leadership qualities for a young guy and he works extremely hard."