Eagles to Play in NFC Title Game
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Donovan McNabb’s running put the Philadelphia Eagles into the playoffs last year. Now his passing has them in the NFC championship game for the first time since the 1980 season.
McNabb threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, adding 37 yards and one TD on the ground, to lead Philadelphia past the Chicago Bears 33-19 Saturday.
Next weekend, the Eagles will play the winner of Sunday’s Green Bay-St. Louis game for a spot in the Super Bowl.
``You are always going to have pressures in the pocket and you are always going to have to move and make plays,″ Eagles coach Andy Reid said Sunday. ``If you are going to survive as a quarterback in this league and try to get yourself to be a championship or All-Pro quarterback, you have to master that, and he’s getting better every game.″
McNabb, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and once played in a prep championship at Soldier Field, frustrated the Bears with scrambles. But he beat them with precision passes.
He used his quick feet to escape tacklers, elude sacks and buy time for his receivers to get open.
On a 13-yard TD pass to Cecil Martin that gave the Eagles a 13-7 lead just before halftime, McNabb stepped up to avoid a hit, ran to his left, drew in a defender, stopped and threw to Martin, who was all alone in the corner.
``We’re going to ride his coattails to the end of this thing,″ running back Duce Staley said. ``He’s definitely our leader. You know, coming in as a rookie you saw it in his eyes.″
When Staley went down with a season-ending foot injury in Week 5 last season, McNabb became Philadelphia’s main threat on offense. He led the team with 629 yards rushing, but wasn’t as effective when he passed.
McNabb concentrated more on his throwing this season, though he still uses his speed to his advantage.
Against the Bears _ unlike most games last year _ McNabb didn’t have to do it alone. Philadelphia’s defense was dominant.
The Eagles held Anthony ``A-Train″ Thomas to just 36 yards rushing, knocked out quarterback Jim Miller, forced four turnovers and limited Chicago to 10 first downs and 184 yards.
The Bears’ only touchdowns came on a trick play _ a 47-yard reverse by Ahmad Merritt _ and a 39-yard interception return by Jerry Azumah.
``Our defense put so much time and effort into stopping the run,″ Reid said. ``For them to shut them down, it was a big plus in the game. It was a team effort on the defensive side. Everybody stepped up. If it wasn’t one guy, it was another.″
Reid took over the Eagles in 1999 after two straight losing seasons. Following a 5-11 finish in his first year, the Eagles turned it around, winning 12 games last season, including a playoff victory before a loss in the second round of the postseason.
The goal was to go a step further this year. They’ve done that, reaching the conference title game after winning the NFC East with an 11-5 record.
And now they want more.
``Two more wins,″ defensive end High Douglas said.
The last time the Eagles played for the NFC championship, they beat Dallas 20-7 in January, 1981. The Eagles then lost to the Raiders in the Super Bowl.
``This is over a two-year process,″ Reid said. ``We’ve added a few guys here and there, but for the most part, it’s the same nucleus. Each game you play together, go to war with each other, you grow a little closer and you are seeing that.″