Following Sunday's 23-11 win over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles are heading to Arizona to take on the surprising Cardinals in what will be the Birds' fifth NFC Championship Game appearance in eight seasons.
The Eagles, playing their third straight road game in the playoffs, will most likely be favorites in what could be McNabb's last opportunity to bring a Super Bowl title to Philly.
Despite facing constant pressure from the Giants defense, McNabb was able to get the job done today when it counted the most. His numbers weren't spectacular—22 of 40 for 217 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions, plus a rushing touchdown—but considering that the Giants were able to shut down Brian Westbrook, McNabb played very well.
He made the plays he needed to make for the Eagles to win. His one-yard quarterback sneak up the middle on second and goal early in the game gave the Eagles an early lead. The Giants eventually pressured McNabb into throwing the ball away, forcing a safety, and a later field goal gave New York the lead back. McNabb never panicked, hitting his receivers for key throws when it mattered.
McNabb led a nice two-minute drill right before halftime, setting up David Akers for an easy field goal and a halftime lead. For the game, McNabb and the Eagles converted seven of 14 third downs. That 50 percent success rate would lead the NFL if projected over a full season.
Perhaps the biggest play of today was a 3rd-and-20 deep in his own territory. Facing a strong pass rush from the Giants, McNabb managed to elude the defense and hit a wide-open Jason Avant for a key 21-yard gain to keep the chains moving. It's impossible to measure momentum, but that play was huge for the Eagles.
McNabb then hit a sprinting Kevin Curtis in stride for what would have been a big 30 or 40-yard play, but Curtis couldn't hold on.
It didn't matter, as McNabb hit Curtis for a 15-yard first down two plays later and Buckhalter on a 19-yarder on a third down to keep the drive alive. Akers eventually kicked a 34-yard field goal, giving the Eagles a 13-11 lead they would never relinquish.
In the fourth quarter, McNabb hit tight end Brent Celek with a perfectly thrown touchdown pass to extend the Eagles' lead to nine points. Late in the game, McNabb hit DeSean Jackson for a 48-yarder down to the Giants' one, and another Akers field goal put the game away.
For the second straight week, the opponent's strong run defense was able to shut down the Eagles' ground game (a combined 43 yards on 23 carries for Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter), putting the ball in McNabb's hands. And for the second straight week, McNabb responded in a big way.
The weather conditions made it difficult for both offenses, but McNabb clearly outplayed last year's Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
Next for McNabb is the Arizona Cardinals, a team whose secondary is flooded with former Philadelphia Eagles (cornerbacks Rod Hood and Matt Ware). McNabb torched these Cardinals on a Thanksgiving prime time game, throwing for 260 yards and four touchdowns against no interceptions as the Eagles rolled, 48-20.
It will be another tough matchup—these Cardinals aren't the same team that lost four out of six to close out the regular season—but I see no reason for the Eagles not to emerge from Arizona victorious on their way to a Super Bowl.
With a healthy and motivated McNabb anxiously awaiting his first Super Bowl title, I don't think any team wants to play these Philadelphia Eagles when it matters.
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