ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Marshall Faulk was determined to play in his hometown of New Orleans for Super Bowl XXXVI.
The Rams (16-2), who won the Super Bowl two years ago, will meet the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI February 3 at New Orleans, where Faulk was born and starred in high school.
"This couldn't be written any better," Faulk said. "To play in New Orleans in front of friends and family, what more is there to say."
New Orleans is also the hometown of Rams cornerback Aeneas Williams, who had a key interception at the St. Louis 35 to snuff out the Eagles' final scoring threat with under two minutes left.
A seven-time Pro Bowler, Williams became the first player to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a playoff game in St. Louis' 45-17 rout of Green Bay last Sunday. He had played in just two postseason games in 10 years with the Arizona Cardinals before he was acquired by the Rams in April.
"I couldn't have written a better script," Williams said. "When the game was over and the confetti started streaming on the field, that's when it hit me. I feel such tremendous joy and my entire family has enjoyed this journey along with me."
"Everybody wanted to get this opportunity for Aeneas," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "It's a special thing that Aeneas gets the chance to play in a Super Bowl."
Martz was the offensive coordinator under Dick Vermeil when the Rams beat Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Most of the pregame hype centered on Philadelphia's relentless blitz packages, especially with Rams quarterback Kurt Warner playing with a flak jacket to protect bruised ribs. But Martz balanced off the offense, giving Faulk a season-high 31 carries and Warner completed 22-of-33 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown and was sacked just once.
"We just felt to win this game we had to get the ball to Marshall," Martz said. "It worked out fairly well. He took over the game. He's the best of the best."
"They really ran the ball well," Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas said. "Marshall carried them. That's not what they do but you have to hand it to them."
Isaac Bruce was Warner's chief target with eight catches for 84 yards, including a five-yard touchdown.
Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb threw for a touchdown and ran for another score, but threw for just 171 yards with an interception and fumble and was sacked three times.
"Every week we play the story always seems to be about somebody's else defense and we just use that as motivation," said Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom, one of only three defensive starters remaining from the last Super Bowl team.
Philadelphia (13-6) held a 17-13 halftime lead, but the Rams took control with a dominant third quarter performance, controlling the ball for more than 12 1/2 minutes by running 22 plays to just five for the Eagles.
The second half nearly started with a turnover for the Rams when Yo Murphy fumbled the kickoff return after being hit by Rashard Cook, but the ball bounced up to Rams rookie Nick Sorensen at the St. Louis 29 and he took it four yards before being pushed out of bounds by Jeff Thomason.
The Rams started the half by handing off seven times to Faulk for 27 yards before Warner connected with Torry Holt on a 21-yard pass to the Philadelphia 19. But after Faulk was tackled for a four-yard loss by defensive tackle Paul Grasmanis, and Warner threw an incompletion and a pass to Faulk which resulted in no gain, the Rams had to settle for a 41-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins in a drive that lasted nearly seven minutes.
St. Louis' defense forced a three-and-out as McNabb threw two incompletions and an eight-yard pass to running back Duce Staley.
The Rams then drove 71 yards in 10 plays as Bruce caught three passes for 44 yards. On a 3rd-and-8 play, Holt made a sliding catch for a 16-yard gain to the Philadelphia 9.
Faulk took over from there, gaining three yards off right tackle and five yards on a run up the middle before running left for a one-yard touchdown to give St. Louis the lead for good at 22-17 with 1:18 left in the quarter. The Rams went for the two-point conversion but tight end Ernie Conwell dropped a perfect pass from Warner in the left corner of the end zone.
Philadelphia went three-and-out again on its next two possessions, and Faulk took advantage of an Eagles' defense that was on the field for most of the second half.
Faulk broke off a 25-yard run on a 3rd-and-1 play and caught a 10-yard pass to the Philadelphia 9. He also scooted around right end for eight yards before scoring on a one-yard run to give the Rams a 29-17 lead with 6:55 left in the fourth quarter.
"We were three and out on three series and you can't do that against a good football team," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "That's my responsibility. I'm the one calling the plays."
But the Eagles fought back with the help of a 41-yard kickoff return by Brian Mitchell to the St. Louis 48. McNabb kept the drive alive with an 11-yard pass to tight end Chad Lewis on a 4th-and-7 to the St. Louis 34. McNabb also connected with Staley on an eight-yard pass and threw a 17-yarder to James Thrash before scrambling right for a three-yard touchdown run, pulling the Eagles within 29-24 with 2:56 left.
After the defense held with a three and out, the Eagles took over at their 45 with 2:20 remaining. But on a 4th-and-7 play, Williams cut in front of rookie Freddie Mitchell and intercepted a pass by McNabb at the St. Louis 34.
"I looked at Chad (Lewis), but a linebacker was plastered on him and Aeneas was plastered on Freddie and he came down with the ball," McNabb said.
"We were in man to man and I was able to stay close to him and make a play," Williams said.
The game did not start well for the Eagles. McNabb fumbled after he was sacked by defensive end Leonard Little and Brian Youn recovered for the Rams at the Philadelphia 20.
Five plays later, Warner threw a five-yard touchdown to Bruce 2:43 into the game.
The Eagles responded with an 11-play, 50-yard drive which featured a 20-yard run by Staley. But the Eagles had to settle for a 46-yard field goal by David Akers with 5:44 left in the quarter.
Murphy returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards to the St. Louis 42. Warner threw a 20-yard pass to Az-Zahir Hakim and Faulk broke off a 15-yard run before Jeff Wilkins kicked a 27-yard field goal with 1:06 remaining, giving the Rams a 10-3 lead.
Wilkins hit the left crossbar on a 53-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter, giving the Eagles possession at the 43.
Correll Buckhalter broke off a 31-yard run to the St. Louis 26. After McNabb hit Lewis with a 14-yard pass, Staley scored on a one-yard run to tie the game at 10-10 with 6:56 left in the half.
Faulk had a 31-yard run of his own on St. Louis' next possession, setting up a 39-yard field goal by Wilkins with 3:52 left in the half.
That was enough time for McNabb to take the Eagles 59 yards on nine plays, capping it with a 12-yard touchdown to Todd Pinkston with 46 seconds remaining in the half.
McNabb hit Thrash with two passes for 27 yards and drilled a 12-yard pass to Lewis before lofting a throw to Pinkston to the right side of the end zone.