NFC: Eagles 23, Giants 11
By Ben Walker
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. ó Donovan McNabb will get another chance to chase that elusive Super Bowl title. Eli Manning threw away his opportunity to defend it.
McNabb made all the big plays that Manning did not, and the Eagles eliminated the New York Giants 23-11 Sunday to reach the NFC title game for the fifth time in eight seasons.
“He is the best quarterback in the NFL,” Eagles coach Andy Reid praised his guy. “I don’t think I have to say anything more than that.”
Manning, meanwhile, never resembled the poised quarterback who won last year’s Super Bowl MVP award with that one perfect spiral to Plaxico Burress.
Five times New York got inside the Eagles 20. The result? A mere three field goals.
“When we needed to get something done, get a spark to make a big play, that’s when we didn’t do our best,” Manning said.
Credit Philadelphia’s hard-hitting, ball-hawking defense, and maybe blame the wind gusts a bit. Either way, these NFL playoffs are now for the Birds ó the underdog Eagles, Cardinals and Ravens all won on the road this weekend.
McNabb lunged for one touchdown, threw for another and converted several key third downs to move the sixth-seeded Eagles (11-6-1) into next Sunday’s title game at Arizona (11-7). Philadelphia beat the Cardinals 48-20 on Thanksgiving night.
David Akers added three field goals ó extending his NFL record to 18 straight in the postseason ó to fend off the top-seeded Giants (12-5).
“I am very, very disappointed,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I am sorry to see the season come to an end. There is remorse for opportunities lost.”
The swirling winds played havoc with any ball in the air, and also helped skew the score: This was the first game in NFL history to finish 23-11, the Elias Sports Bureau said.
A year after road success fueled the Giants’ route, the Eagles are taking the same path. They opened the postseason by winning at Minnesota and, after their sixth victory in seven tries, look nothing like a team that needed several breaks on the final day simply to make the playoffs.
Benched by Reid in late November for half a game, McNabb never has acknowledged that the slight hurt him. He has, however, seemed to play with a huge chip on his shoulder, to the Eagles’ benefit.
McNabb converted a third-and-20 set up Akers’ 34-yard kick for a 13-11 lead in the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, he made a perfect play-action fake for a 1-yard TD toss to Brent Celek.
“The players executed like crazy,” Reid said. “They never wavered one bit. That’s tough to find in this league.”
Manning was in trouble from the start. His first pass wobbled out of his hand, got caught in the wind and missed a wide-open receiver.
Manning ended up 15-for-29 with two interceptions, often overthrowing his targets. The Giants did not score a touchdown and lost for the fourth time in five games.