Giants' defense pressures McNabb into mistakes
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Donovan McNabb isn't dwelling on a season-ending loss, even though he probably won't forget it anytime soon.
McNabb, the runner-up to Marshall Faulk for NFL MVP, couldn't generate anything against a swarming defense, and the New York Giants advanced to the NFC championship game with a 20-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
"Our goal was to make it to the championship, and obviously win it, but we didn't make it that far," McNabb said. "The first thing we all need to talk about is the fact that no one expected us to go 12-6 from a 5-11 team.
"Bouncing back to 12-6 shows a lot of heart and a lot of character. The things that we had to overcome to get this point are definitely something special. We are all excited about where we are at right now and we have something to feed off going into next year."
McNabb was most responsible for getting the Eagles into the playoffs after going 8-24 during the previous two seasons. But McNabb and Philadelphia were never able to solve the Giants.
The Eagles were not in the lead or within range in the final minutes of just three games this season -- all losses to New York.
McNabb had his worst two games of the season against the Giants. On Sunday, he was 20-of-41 for 181 yards and one touchdown, lost a fumble, was sacked six times and had one interception that was returned for a touchdown.
"They blitzed on first, second as well as third downs," McNabb said. "Whenever you get caught up in that situation, the defense can do whatever they want to do."
Philadelphia failed to register a first down on six of its nine possessions in the first half and eight of its first 11. When the Eagles finally got a first down, receiver Torrance Small fumbled, setting up a 37-yard field goal by Brad Daluiso that gave the Giants a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.
"The supporting cast needed to make plays when they had the opportunity," Eagles head coach Andy Reid said. "hey did it throughout the season. The opportunities were there and guys needed to catch the ball."
McNabb was 29-of-64 for 343 yards, two TDs, and one interception against the Giants in the regular season. His worst game came when he was 10-of-31 for 129 yards, one TD and one interception in a 24-7 loss to New York at the Meadowlands on Oct. 29.
It was much of the same in the playoffs.
McNabb, who led NFL quarterbacks with 629 yards rushing, had nowhere to scramble Sunday. The Giants took away McNabb's running lanes, forced him to stay in the pocket or run up the middle and made the tackles when he tried to escape.
"They have marquee guys all over the place and they made plays,"said Chad Lewis, a Pro Bowl tight end who had just three catches for 27 yards. "Once [McNabb]started to run, they were effective popping in there, stopping him and making tackles."
McNabb didn't get much help from his receivers. Na Brown dropped what would have been a first-down reception on third-and-15 midway through the first quarter. Brown dropped another potential first-down pass on third-and-11 on the first series of the third quarter.
By the time McNabb hit Small for a 10-yard TD pass late in the game, the Giants had built a 17-point lead.
"It wasn't them. We just didn't do anything offensively," Small said. "We have to look at ourselves."
It wasn't any consolation that the Eagles' offense outscored New York's 10-6 -- the Giants scored touchdowns on special teams and defense.