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Eagles convert 4th-and-26 on tying drive

1/11/2004

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- As the clock ticked down in regulation,
Donovan McNabb saved Philadelphia's season -- and a city's psyche.

And with one desperation heave, Brett Favre threw away Green
Bay's chance at another Super Bowl.

In a battle of two of the NFL's elite quarterbacks, McNabb and
the Eagles prevailed 20-17 in overtime, as Brian Dawkins'
interception of a high Favre heave set up David Akers' winning
field goal.

The pick was pivotal, but this was really about McNabb.

With the Eagles trailing 17-14 and 1:12 left in regulation, he
breathed life into his team with a 28-yard completion to Freddie
Mitchell on a fourth-and-26. That, in turn, led to a 37-yard field
goal by Akers that sent the game into overtime.

"I just tried to get into a position where Freddie could
compete for it," McNabb said. Mitchell weaved his way through a
zone defense and caught the ball with Bhawoh Jue and Darren Sharper
on each side.

"It was just a great play by Freddie," McNabb said.

Added Mitchell: "I just tried to beat my man and go deep.
Donovan read the play perfectly."

Despite being sacked eight times, McNabb set a playoff record
for quarterbacks by rushing for 107 yards. He also threw for 248
yards and two touchdowns -- 355 total yards.

The win puts the Eagles in their third straight NFC title game
next Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Philadelphia lost the
last two -- at home to Tampa Bay and in St. Louis.

Nothing less than a Super Bowl trip will satisfy many of the
region's fans; a loss would have been devastating.

"There were plenty of chances to tank and these guys didn't do
it," coach Andy Reid said. "Everybody gets a little credit today
for that type of win."

Duce Staley had two big runs -- one for 22 yards on the Eagles'
first play of their final drive in regulation and another of 11
yards in overtime to help set up the tying field goal. Staley's
contribution was especially needed with the Eagles missing
all-purpose running back Brian Westbrook, who scored 13 touchdowns
in the regular season but is out with a torn triceps muscle.

"We're not even worried about the Carolina Panthers right now.
We're excited about this win," McNabb said. "Even though we were
down we still prevailed and showed some heart."

Favre, who was 15-of-28 for 180 yards, did not speak with
reporters after the game. Neither did Ahman Green, who ran for 156
yards. The Packers (11-7) head back to Green Bay after winning
seven of eight, including three straight since Favre's father died
just before Christmas.

But Dawkins said he was ready for Favre.

"They were telling me he was going to give me a chance to make
a play," Dawkins said. "When you look at the film, that's what he
does.

"We've come too far to let this thing slip away," he said. "I
was making sure everybody kept their head into the game regardless
of the score."

Green Bay coach Mike Sherman pointed no fingers of blame.

"I'm very disappointed for them rather than at them," he said.

This was the Packers' second straight playoff overtime game;
last week they beat Seattle at home on Al Harris' interception
return.

Referring to the McNabb-Mitchell completion, Sherman said:
"That was a pretty good situation to be in. You would think you
would win a fourth-and-26. We didn't get that done."

The Packers led 14-7 at halftime, but the Eagles had the
momentum after stopping Green on fourth down from the 1-yard line
late in the second quarter. The Eagles' Corey Simon was responsible
for the stop, pushing guard Mike Whale into Green and slowing him
down for Jerome McDougle and Mark Simoneau.

Green Bay scored twice in the first quarter on passes of 40 and
17 yards from Favre to Robert Ferguson, the first set up by
McNabb's fumble.

The Eagles countered midway through the second quarter on
McNabb's 7-yard TD pass to Staley. It came one play after a 45-yard
completion from McNabb to Todd Pinkston.

Philadelphia tied it early in the fourth quarter when McNabb
scrambled out of trouble and found Pinkston just inside the pylon
from 12 yards out.

Favre's 44-yard pass to Javon Walker set up Ryan Longwell's
21-yard field goal that gave the Packers a 17-14 lead with 10:21
left in the fourth.

"We had a chance to win on offense, defense and special teams
and we needed a play to go our way," Longwell said. "We didn't
and now we'll go home for the year."

The Eagles looked at it from the other angle.

"Fourth-and-26 and Freddie comes up with a humongous play,"
tight end Chad Lewis said. "We've got a team full of warriors who
just want to battle."

Game notes
The late Otto Graham held the old playoff rushing record
for quarterbacks with 99 yards in 1950. ... McNabb's best rushing
total is 125 yards against Washington in 2000. ... Favre's 180
yards passing moved him ahead of Dan Marino into second place on
the career playoff list. Last week, Favre passed Terry Bradshaw.