Staley's wide-open TD proves to be game-winnerPosted: Saturday January 19, 2002 10:15 PM
CHICAGO (AP) -- When Duce Staley looked across the line of scrimmage and didn't see anyone there, he almost jumped offside he was so excited.
But the Philadelphia Eagles running back kept his composure, and came away with a touchdown.
"I didn't know what to do," Staley said after Philadelphia's 33-19 playoff victory against the Chicago Bears on Saturday.
The Eagles advance to the NFC championship next week, playing the winner of Sunday's Green Bay-St. Louis game. It's Philadelphia's first appearance in the NFC Championship Game since January 1981.
Though it might not look like it from the final score, Staley's third-quarter TD was a big one. Bears cornerback Jerry Azumah had just returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown, giving Chicago a 14-13 lead -- and the momentum.
Donovan McNabb was sacked, but came back to hit Jeff Thomason with a 30-yard pass that brought the Eagles to the Chicago 10. On second down, Staley lined up on the far end and the Bears simply forgot to cover him.
"You're just hoping he turns his head around," McNabb said. "We've been in that situation before, when we've had the quick count, and sometime guys can get confused. I was able to get the ball out to him quick, and he made an excellent grab."
Seeing the mismatch, McNabb rifled the ball to Staley. Bears linebacker Warrick Holdman raced out to cover him, but it was too late as Staley hauled in the go-ahead 6-yard TD that made it 20-14 with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
"It' just eye-to-eye contact," Staley said. "Donovan stepped up to the line and looked over. It's an empty back set we have with no backs in the backfield. They left me open. They were kind of confused all day on that, to be honest with you.
"Donovan threw a bullet. I saw the ball coming and I was like, 'Don't do me like that.' But I was able to make the play."
And the Bears were never able to get the lead or their momentum back.