McNabb, Akers help Eagles boot Bears 33-19Posted: Saturday January 19, 2002 8:01 PM
"This is a feeling right now I somewhat can't explain," McNabb said Saturday after maneuvering the Eagles past the Bears 33-19, earning Philadelphia a trip to the NFC Championship Game.
"Coming back home and seeing family and friends [Friday], I knew today I just had to be focused on my job and that was going out, playing well and leading this team,' said McNabb, who threw for two TDS and ran for another score.
"We've taken it one step farther than we did last year."
David Akers kicked four field goals and Philadelphia's rugged defense bottled up a Chicago offense crippled when quarterback Jim Miller was knocked out of the game in the second quarter because of a separated shoulder.
The Eagles, in the NFC Championship Game for the first time since January 1981, will face the winner of Sunday's Green Bay-St. Louis game. The Bears, who gave up the fewest points in the league this season, head home, disappointed after winning the NFC Central and making their first playoff appearance since 1994.
The Bears' loss dampened a big day of pro sports in Chicago, which also saw another homecoming -- the return of Michael Jordan to the United Center. Jordan's Wizards beat the Bulls 77-69.
McNabb, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and once played in a prep championship at Soldier Field, completed 26 of 40 passes for 262 yards and rushed for 37 more in the last game at the venerable lakefront stadium before it undergoes a major renovation.
McNabb was resilient the entire game against the team he rooted for as a child.
"I think Donovan showed that in the biggest games what he's all about. That's all part of his journey," said Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid, whose team lost in the divisional playoffs a year ago.
"We just weren't on the field that much," Bears offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer said.
"McNabb just killed us. We had him wrapped up many different times and the guy just made plays."
After the Bears sacked him for the first time in the third quarter, McNabb scrambled and hit Jeff Thomason with a 30-yard pass to the Chicago 10.
On second down, Duce Staley lined up on the far end and when the Bears went to sleep and forgot to cover him, he easily took a pass from McNabb for a go-ahead 6-yard TD the made it 20-14 late in the quarter.
"He buys a lot of time," Bears head coach Dick Jauron said of McNabb. "If his receivers are not open initially, he can buy time with his legs and his athleticism."
McNabb again responded after being sacked. He eluded the Bears and found Staley on a 14-yarder to get Akers in position for a 46-yarder with 6:28 left that made it 26-17.
McNabb had a 5-yard TD run with 3:21 to go.
The Bears, with Shane Matthews filling in for Miller, managed only one offensive touchdown. Their defense got them a third-quarter lead when Jerry Azumah grabbed a deflected pass and raced for a 39-yard TD to put the Bears up 14-13.
McNabb led the Eagles on an 11-play, 69-yard drive in the final minute of the first half, scrambling out of a Bears rush and hitting Cecil Martin for a 13-yard TD with 14 seconds to go.
That put Philly up 13-7, just over five minutes after Chicago's Ahmad Merritt took a handoff from Matthews and ran 47 yards for a TD.
It didn't last. McNabb hit a 9-yard pass on fourth down to Thomason and connected on a 14-yarder to Chad Lewis. After spiking the ball to stop to the clock, McNabb was at his elusive best.
He kept his feet moving, sidestepping the rush and then finally throwing a 13-yard TD to a wide open Martin with 14 seconds remaining.
During the return, Philly's Hugh Douglas threw Miller to the ground, separating the quarterback's throwing shoulder and changing the Bears' outlook.
"It's disappointing to work so hard for something like that to happen," Miller said. "It's hard to win without your starting quarterback. You work so hard to get here."
Miller said he could wait to see the tape to see if Douglas' play was a cheap shot. Douglas said it wasn't. Matthews said it was.
"I was just going to get a block and I just stood there for a while and he went like he was going to tackle and I just blocked him," said Douglas. "It was part of the game, I was just doing my job."
Matthews, who led overtime wins against San Francisco and Cleveland this season, hadn't played since Nov. 4.
The Eagles suffered a loss when defensive back Troy Vincent was forced out of the game with a groin pull. His status for next week was not immediately known.
Notes: As a rookie, McNabb was in for one play two years ago when the Eagles and Bears met at Soldier Field in a regular-season game. ... Staley, the Eagles' leading receiver during the regular season, had seven catches for 54 yards. Marty Booker, the Bears' leading receiver who hurt his shoulder in the second half, had only two receptions. He made 100 during the season. ... The Eagles had a huge advantage in time of possession, holding the ball for 36:07 to 23:53 for the Bears. ... Game-time temperature was 31 degrees. The last time the teams met in the playoffs in December 1988, the field was shrouded in fog. The Bears won that game, dubbed the "Fog Bowl," 20-12.