Wed, Jan 19, 2005 - Page 20 News List

McNabb puts Philadelphia into 4th straight semifinal


Donovan McNabb passed for 285 yards and two touchdowns to lead Philadelphia to a 27-14 victory over Minnesota and their fourth straight trip to the National Football League semifinals.

Philadelphia (14-3) became the first team to reach four straight conference championship games since the 1992-1995 Dallas Cowboys.

"We have a lot of confidence in the players we have and we showed today that we were ready," McNabb said.

"Coach had us prepared. We spread the ball around effectively and our defense played real well," he said.

The Eagles lost in their previous three appearances and acquired all-star receiver Terrell Owens in the offseason to help get them into the Super Bowl.

However, Owens tore ligaments in his right ankle in a Dec. 19 win over Dallas and will be sidelined for at least two more weeks.

Not having Owens did not prevent McNabb from taking the Eagles back to the National Football Conference championship game.

The all-star quarterback nearly was flawless in the first half of Sunday's game, completing 16-of-22 passes for 209 yards and two scores when the Eagles built a 21-7 lead.

Freddie Mitchell, who moved into a starting role after Owens was injured, caught a two-yard scoring pass from McNabb in the first quarter and recovered a fumble by tight end L.J. Smith in the end zone for another score in the second quarter.

Best known for catching a 28-yard pass on a fourth-and-26 play in last year's divisional playoff win over Green Bay, Mitchell finished with five catches for 64 yards.

Brian Westbrook also figured prominently for the Eagles, rushing for 70 yards on just 12 carries and catching five passes for 47 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the Eagles' secondary, which features three Pro Bowlers -- cornerback Lito Sheppard and safeties Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis -- put the clamps on Moss, who finished with three catches for 51 yards.

The Vikings' controversial receiver created small stir last week when he pretended to pull down his pants and motioned as if to moon the Green Bay fans after catching a 34-yard touchdown pass. Moss was fined US$10,000 by the NFL for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Mitchell celebrated his first touchdown by poking fun at Moss. After catching a two-yard scoring pass with 6:18 left in the first quarter, Mitchell pretended to pull up his pants.

Daunte Culpepper threw for 316 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score for Minnesota (9-9), but also was intercepted twice.

In the other Sunday quarterfinal, Peyton Manning's record-setting season ended in despair against a familiar foe.

Corey Dillon rushed for 144 yards in the first playoff game of his eight-year career and the New England Patriots prevented Manning from throwing even one touchdown pass and rolled to a 20-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC quarterfinal.

Seeking their third Super Bowl title in four years, the Patriots (15-2) will visit the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday in the AFC championship game.

This divisional playoff was a rematch of last year's AFC championship game here that the Patriots won, 24-14, as Manning was intercepted four times.

With Dillon in the backfield, the Patriots were able to consume a total of 24 minutes and 47 seconds on three scoring drives and keep Manning off the field.

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