Thanks to the best clutch performance of Freddie Mitchell's four-year career, the Philadelphia Eagles advanced to their fourth straight NFC championship game, routing the Minnesota Vikings 27-14 Sunday.
Donovan McNabb and the Eagles (14-3) got plenty of help from the self-destructing Vikings (9-9), who showed exactly how they lost seven of their last 10 regular-season games to back into the playoffs. Minnesota's high-powered offense couldn't handle defensive end Jevon Kearse and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter -- neither of whom was with the Eagles last season.
Philadelphia, which has lost three consecutive conference title games, the last two at home, hosts Atlanta next Sunday. The angst level this week in Philly will be off the scale as the Eagles attempt to get to their first Super Bowl in 24 years.
The Vikings didn't exactly provide a test, but Michael Vick and the Falcons should be a more formidable hurdle.
While Philadelphia was getting two touchdowns from Mitchell -- and one takeoff of Moss' simulated mooning as Mitchell pretended to pull up his pants after his first score -- it also benefited greatly from Vikings' errors:
-- An offensive lineman remaining on the field instead of Moss for a fake field goal, leaving no receivers to catch Gus Frerotte's pass.
-- Several costly defensive penalties, including three pass interference calls totaling 78 yards.
-- Two damaging interceptions thrown by Culpepper, who had 39 TD passes and only 11 picks during the season.
Mitchell finished with five catches for 65 yards, and each one was a key play. He also got lucky on his second TD, catching a fumble by tight end L.J. Smith in the end zone.
Patriots 20, Colts 3
In Foxboro, Massachusetts, the New England Patriots are a game away from their third Super Bowl trip in four years, thanks to a stifling defense that shut down Peyton Manning and his receivers.
Corey Dillon and New England's ball-control offense rushed for more than 200 yards and kept the NFL's MVP on the sidelines as the Patriots rolled over the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots will be in Pittsburgh for next week's AFC title game.
Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest and coach Bill Belichick's defense frustrated Manning on all but a couple of drives. Manning is now 0-7 in Foxboro, where he lost his second straight playoff game in the snow.
In the Patriots 24-14 win in last year's AFC championship game, Manning threw four interceptions in a slow, steady snow that fell throughout. On Sunday, a light snow began less than an hour before the game and fell with few interruptions.
The cold temperatures couldn't have helped the Colts, who play their home games in the warmth of the RCA Dome. But the conditions were just right for the Patriots' strategy: run the ball, throw short passes and watch the clock tick down. They put together their three most time-consuming drives of the season.
Corey Dillon rushed for 144 yards in his first NFL playoff game in his eight seasons.
Tom Brady threw for one touchdown, ran for another and completed 18 passes in 27 attempts for 144 yards as he improved to 7-0 in playoff games. Manning was 27 for 42 for 238 yards.
New England (15-2) led 6-0 on Adam Vinatieri's field goals of 24 and 31 yards in the second quarter with the first one capping a 16-play, 78-yard march that lasted 9 minutes, 7 seconds.