Eagles snap three-game NFC title game skid

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Fireworks soared above the roof of "The
Linc." A blizzard of glitter swirled in the bitterly cold breeze.
Fans toasted their team and each other with beers and hugs.

It was a Super-sized celebration four years in the making. And
quite a relief, too.

Yo, Philly, how's this sound?

Your Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.

Donovan McNabb & Co. overcame the burden of three straight
losses in the NFC championship game and warmed a frozen city's
heart, stuffing Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons 27-10 on

McNabb isn't satisfied yet.

"There's no relief for me," he said. "We'll have relief after
the Super Bowl. We set a goal of winning the Super Bowl, not just
the NFC. So that's where I'm going. We're excited, but we're not

The Eagles already have soothed a city's fragile psyche, burying
the disappointment of the last three years and pulling within one
victory of Philly's first major pro championship since the 76ers
won the NBA title in 1983.

Twenty-four years ago, the Eagles made it to their first -- and,
until Sunday, only -- Super Bowl with a team coached by Dick Vermeil
and led by Ron Jaworski. They fell flat in the title game, losing
to the Raiders 27-10.

That score went the Eagles' way this time. They will meet
defending champion New England in
Jacksonville, Fla., on Feb. 6 for the NFL championship.

"We want to go to Jacksonville and get some closure and finish
this up," receiver Freddie Mitchell said.

The fourth consecutive appearance in the NFC title game proved
to be the charm for the Eagles, even though they didn't have top
receiver Terrell Owens -- reduced to the role of MVC (Most Valuable
Cheerleader) on the sideline.

Nothing was going to stand in the way of this team, which
entered the season with a Super Bowl or Bust mentality and met
those enormous expectations.

McNabb threw a pair of touchdown passes to Chad Lewis, including
the clinching score with 3:21 remaining. That turned the final
minutes into a delirious coronation, the 67,717 fans saluting a
team that fulfilled its destiny.

"Super Bowl! Super Bowl!" they chanted when play was halted
for the two-minute warning.

The only warm-weather team left in the playoffs went cold in its
biggest game of the year. Vick was sacked four times by the
fearsome Philly defense, which also came up with a crucial
interception that set up David Akers' second field goal.

The significance of the day was evident on the field -- the
Eagles pranced and posed after every big play -- and in the stands,
where most of the fans never bothered to sit down on a 17-degree

"This team has great personality," coach Andy Reid said.
"Everybody here in Philadelphia loves 'em."

The Eagles will be going for their first NFL title since 1960,
which predates the Super Bowl by six seasons.

McNabb completed 17-of-26 passes for 180 yards, a workmanlike
performance that solidified his position as one of the game's best
quarterbacks. He also ran 10 times for 32 yards.

Vick's debut on the Super Bowl stage will have to wait. He
completed just 11-of-24 for 136 yards, while the Eagles stifling
defense kept him from pulling off one of his signature runs.

He ran it just four times for 26 yards, but gave up even more
yards on the sacks. Derrick Burgess dropped the elusive quarterback
twice, and Jevon Kearse kept Vick hemmed up on the other side. The
Eagles didn't blitz much -- a change in philosophy -- but they made
sure Vick didn't get a chance to warm up.

"I didn't get outside the pocket," Vick said. "I think that
was their first priority."

Philadelphia led only 14-10 at halftime, a bit too close for a
team that had lost to St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Carolina in the last
three NFC title games. Even more galling -- the two more recent
defeats were at home.

But, as the sun gave way to a nearly full moon over Lincoln
Financial Field, the Eagles dominated the final two quarters. Akers
connected from 31 and 34 yards, then McNabb and Lewis teamed up to
finish off the Falcons with their 2-yard touchdown.

Owens, who didn't play because of a severe ankle injury, had a
prominent role nonetheless. He drew plenty of attention with his
sideline antics, flapping his arms and waving a towel to urge on a
crowd that didn't need any encouragement.

And he may just recover in time for the Super Bowl.

"I have a feeling he will," Reid said.

Owens' teammates filled in admirably. McNabb worked his passes
around to eight players, led by Brian Westbrook with five catches
for 39 yards. Westbrook also handled the bulk of the running load,
carrying 16 times for 96 yards.

Then, it was time for the party -- Philly-style.

"For those about to rock, we salute you," AC-DC screamed over
the sound system. Fireworks went off above the stadium. And tons of
glitter fluttered over the field, recreating the blizzard that
swept through the city a day earlier.

"This is their fourth trip in a row to the championship game,"
said Jim Mora, the Falcons' rookie coach. "They've been in this
position before, and they played like they've been in this position

It was a great season for the Falcons, who came within one win
of their second Super Bowl after going 5-11 last season. With Vick
at quarterback, the future looks bright.

Philadelphia scored on its second possession after Chris Mohr
managed just an 8-yard punt into a stiff wind. The Eagles appeared
to go three-and-out, but a holding penalty on rookie cornerback
DeAngelo Hall kept the drive alive.

Westbrook broke off a 36-yard run, scooting through a huge hole
on the right side and breaking through Brian Scott's attempted
tackle. Dorsey Levens finished it off with a 4-yard touchdown run,
appearing to be stopped at the 2 but getting a shove into the end
zone from offensive guard Jermane Mayberry.

The Falcons responded by holding the ball for almost nine
minutes, also benefiting from a defensive holding penalty on third
down that kept the drive alive. But Philadelphia stiffened on
first-and-goal from 2, throwing T.J. Duckett for a loss -- only the
second negative run of the season for the 254-pound back. Atlanta
was forced to settle for Jay Feely's 23-yard field goal.

Back came the Eagles for another touchdown, set up by another
big play. McNabb lofted a pass to Greg Lewis, who was covered by
undrafted free agent Christian Morton. Lewis slowed up to catch the
ball while Morton stumbled out of position, the result being a
45-yard completion to the Atlanta 4.

Two plays later, it was another Lewis, tight end Chad, making a
spectacular catch in the corner of the end zone. He somehow managed
to drag both feet inbounds after leaping to pull down the high
throw. Atlanta challenged, but the replay clearly backed up the
refs' call.

The Falcons followed with their most impressive offensive
display. In only five plays, they shredded the Eagles for 70 yards,
capped off by Warrick Dunn's 10-yard touchdown with 2:02 left in
the first half.

But Atlanta's offense never warmed up over the final two

While the temperature at kickoff was 17, it felt more like zero.
A steady 26 mph wind -- gusting as high as 35 mph -- swept in through
the openings on the north end of the stadium.

But the sun and a brilliant blue sky were a striking change from
conditions a day earlier. Snow was piled up around the edge of the
field, remnants of a blizzard that dumped about a foot of snow and
paralyzed much of the East Coast.

The bitter conditions didn't diminish the mood of the fans,
nearly all of whom bundled up in something green. They began
gathering in the parking lots -- where snow had been plowed into
piles higher than their vehicles -- just after sunrise to get an
early start on the expected celebration.

Leading up to the kickoff, there was another Philly moment.

The "Rocky" theme blared from the speakers, sending the crowd
into a towel-waving frenzy. The video board showed clips from the
movie interspersed with highlights from the Eagles' season.

Now, they've got a chance to show the biggest highlight of all --
a Super Bowl championship.

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