McNabb's homecoming a winner for Eagles

Sunday, January 20, 2002

CHICAGO -- Donovan McNabb scrambled, ducked and used his quick feet to elude the Chicago Bears, turning his homecoming into a celebration for the Philadelphia Eagles.

"This is a feeling right now I somewhat can't explain," McNabb said Saturday after maneuvering the Eagles past the Bears 33-19, earning Philadelphia a trip to the NFC championship game.

"Coming back home and seeing family and friends yesterday, I knew today I just had to be focused on my job and that was going out, playing well and leading this team," said McNabb, who threw for two TDS and ran for another score.

"We've taken it one step farther than we did last year."

David Akers kicked four field goals and Philadelphia's rugged defense bottled up a Chicago offense crippled when quarterback Jim Miller was knocked out of the game in the second quarter because of a separated shoulder.

The Eagles, in the NFC championship game for the first time since January 1981, will face the winner of Sunday's Green Bay-St. Louis game. The Bears, who gave up the fewest points in the league this season, head home, disappointed after winning the NFC Central and making their first playoff appearance since 1994.

The Bears' loss dampened a big day of pro sports in Chicago, which also saw another homecoming -- the return of Michael Jordan to the United Center. Jordan's Wizards beat the Bulls 77-69.

McNabb, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and once played in a prep championship at Soldier Field, completed 26 of 40 passes for 262 yards and rushed for 37 more in the last game at the venerable lakefront stadium before it undergoes a major renovation.

McNabb was resilient the entire game against the team he rooted for as a child.

"I think Donovan showed that in the biggest games what he's all about. That's all part of his journey," said Philadelphia coach Andy Reid, whose team lost in the divisional playoffs a year ago.

"We just weren't on the field that much," Bears offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer said.

"McNabb just killed us. We had him wrapped up many different times and the guy just made plays."

After the Bears sacked him for the first time in the third quarter, McNabb scrambled and hit Jeff Thomason with a 30-yard pass to the Chicago 10.

On second down, Duce Staley lined up on the far end and when the Bears went to sleep and forgot to cover him, he easily took a pass from McNabb for a go-ahead 6-yard TD the made it 20-14 late in the quarter.

"He buys a lot of time," Bears coach Dick Jauron said of McNabb. "If his receivers are not open initially, he can buy time with his legs and his athleticism."

Akers kicked a 40-yarder field goal to put the Eagles up 23-17 in the final quarter, and when Chicago's Autry Denson fumbled the ensuing kickoff after a hit by Tim Hauck, Quinton Caver recovered.

McNabb again responded after being sacked. He eluded the Bears and found Staley on a 14-yarder to get Akers in position for a 46-yarder with 6:28 left that made it 26-17.

McNabb had a 5-yard TD run with 3:21 to go.

The Bears, with Shane Matthews filling in for Miller, managed only one offensive touchdown. Their defense got them a third-quarter lead when Jerry Azumah grabbed a deflected pass and raced for a 39-yard TD to put the Bears up 14-13.

McNabb led the Eagles on an 11-play, 69-yard drive in the final minute of the first half, scrambling out of a Bears rush and hitting Cecil Martin for a 13-yard TD with 14 seconds to go.

That put Philly up 13-7, just over five minutes after Chicago's Ahmad Merritt took a handoff from Matthews and ran 47 yards for a TD.

It didn't last. McNabb hit a 9-yard pass on fourth down to Thomason and connected on a 14-yarder to Chad Lewis. After spiking the ball to stop to the clock, McNabb was at his elusive best.

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