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SUPER BOWL XXXIX Patriots prepare for a productive Owens



Published: Fri, February 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Eagles wide receiver not going out there to be used as a decoy.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- To win the Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles need lots of T.O. and no TOs.

Of course, with All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens coming off six weeks on the sidelines with a leg injury and the Patriots' penchant for forcing turnovers, that's not such a simple formula.

At least Owens will be available for the first time since Dec. 19 and was listed as a starter for Sunday's game. He even caught several long passes in practice Thursday.

Now he has to be a contributor, because T.O. as a decoy isn't likely to work against the Pats for more than, say, one play.

"That is just like putting Shaq on the court and not giving him the ball," Owens said.

"First of all, T.O. IS going to be a decoy," Donovan McNabb added, smiling broadly. "We are not going to throw him the ball, so that makes me Allen Iverson."

Prime target

Not quite. McNabb, who also played basketball at Syracuse, won't be ignoring his prime target anymore than the Patriots will. While Freddie Mitchell, Todd Pinkston and Greg Lewis have performed relatively well in Owens' absence, they could be overmatched by the Patriots' defensive alignments that tend to hide any weaknesses.

So T.O. will need to be a strong semblance of, well, T.O.

"I am excited to see that he still has that drive, that determination to get back out there on the field," McNabb said. "I am not saying he is going to be fully at 100 percent, but when you get so close to this ultimate dream and know that you are at 85-90 percent, the first thing that comes to mind when you get out there is calming yourself down. I am sure his adrenaline is going to be at a high. He will probably be bouncing around the locker room. But if he can control that and have the full confidence in the ankle, as well as the mind-set, T.O. will be back to the old T.O."

Which means a playmaker. Owens, acquired from San Francisco to be the game-breaker the Philadelphia offense lacked, was just that for almost 14 games. He had 77 receptions for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. He required double and even triple coverage.

If that is the Owens who shows up in Alltel Stadium, it significantly multiplies Philly's chances to win its first NFL crown since 1960. And even if he isn't fully healthy, he could still be a factor.

Indeed, T.O.'s mere presence on the field should give the Eagles a lift.

"When I'm in there, I am going to play 100 percent. Anytime I am on the field, I expect to have an impact," he said.

Preparing for T.O.

Not surprisingly, the Patriots are preparing for a fully fit, ultradangerous Owens. They certainly won't be intimidated by him, not after the way they shut down MVP Peyton Manning and the Colts in the playoffs.

New England, despite being without its top two cornerbacks (Ty Law and Tyrone Poole) for months, tends to get the best of any matchups because of coach Bill Belichick's schemes.

So don't be surprised to see linebacker Tedy Bruschi or safety Rodney Harrison or perhaps a lineman dropping into coverage during a zone blitz to help cornerbacks Asante Samuel or Randall Gay -- or even wideout Troy Brown, who had three interceptions as a fill-in nickel back.

"Players make plays," Harrison said. "If you don't make plays, what is a scheme? You can engineer a great car, but if you don't have the people putting it together, the car won't turn out to be anything. I think the main thing that our coaches have is a great awareness of our strengths and weaknesses and they play to that."

Whether Owens has a major role Sunday or is a minor player, the Eagles can't afford to hand the ball to the Patriots.

Philly's 22 giveaways during the season were five fewer than New England's, which is encouraging for the Eagles.

But the Patriots had 36 takeaways to their 28.

In the playoffs, New England already has seven takeaways. In winning two of the last three Super Bowls, the Pats committed only one turnover and forced four.




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