JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nothing sticks in a loser's craw quite like a game given away. When the Eagles look back on their first Super Bowl in a quarter-century, they won't remember the late touchdown that made it so close, or the early lead they took, or the inspired play of Terrell Owens.
No, they'll look at the other side. At the four sacks. At the fumble lost, and the blown defensive assignments. And, of course, they'll remember the interceptions. All those completely uncharacteristic, seemingly out-of-nowhere interceptions.
When the Eagles look back someday on the 24-21 loss in Sunday's Super Bowl, they won't be proud that they hung close with the defending Super Bowl champs, and they certainly won't be happy about it. Heck, they weren't happy when they looked back Sunday night.
"You can't throw it to them," Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress said simply. "It's kind of a fundamental thing."
The Eagles had been so good on fundamentals all season long. That's how they won 13 regular-season games. That's how they waltzed through the NFC, how they rode over the two teams they met in the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl.
During the regular season, few teams took better care of the ball than the Eagles. They were ranked seventh in the NFL, with 11 interceptions thrown and 11 fumbles lost. And three of those interceptions came in a giveaway finale when their starters didn't play.
Their starter, Donovan McNabb, threw only eight interceptions in 2004, the first player ever to throw more than 30 touchdown passes (he had 31) with fewer than 10 picks. He didn't throw any interceptions in either of the team's two playoff games that got them this far.
And then, Sunday, everything blew up. McNabb played badly, almost from the start. He was sacked on the team's first possession. He threw one interception that was nullified by a penalty, and then, amazingly, came back on the next play and floated a horrible pass toward the end zone that was officially intercepted. He overshot tight end L.J. Smith in the fourth quarter and linebacker Tedy Bruschi intercepted.
Even some late-game heroics -- a beautifully thrown 30-yard touchdown strike to Greg Lewis that brought the Eagles within a field goal of tying the score -- didn't help McNabb's night much. He ended the game with a pass to Smith that went off his hands and into the arms of Patriots safety Rodney Harrison.
Three interceptions, after throwing only eight all season long.
Yeah, that memory will be hard to shake.
"They're a good team that forces turnovers. That's what they do," wide receiver Freddie Mitchell said of the Patriots after the game. "We expect that, and we try to limit that. But, tonight, we didn't do it."