Philadelphia finds a way, tops Packers
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Donovan McNabb turned around the Philadelphia Eagles' tough afternoon with one perfect pass.
The Eagles quarterback saved the team's season with a 28-yard pass to Freddie Mitchell on fourth-and-26 that led to David Akers' field goal that tied it with five seconds remaining in regulation Sunday.
Akers eventually won it with a 31-yard kick less than five minutes into overtime, giving the Eagles a 20-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers. That sent Philadelphia (13-4) into its third straight NFC title game next Sunday against Carolina.
"Donovan has been our leader. We have stuck behind him in thick and thin and that shows his character," Mitchell said. "This all stems from Donovan McNabb."
McNabb was sacked eight times and completed just one of his first seven pass attempts, but ended up rushing for 107 yards -- a playoff record for quarterbacks. He was 21-of-39 for 248 yards passing and credited everyone but himself.
"Looking at the huddle, looking in the guys' eyes, the guys stay hungry and stay on top of things," he said. "This really shows the determination, the heart, the drive we have."
Back and forth
The Packers (11-7) led 14-0 after the first quarter on TD passes of 40 and 17 yards from Brett Favre to Robert Ferguson.
The Eagles tied it on TD passes by McNabb of 7 yards to Duce Staley in the second quarter and 12 yards to Todd Pinkston in the fourth.
Ryan Longwell's 31-yard field goal with just over 10 minutes remaining gave the Packers a 17-14 lead, which they still held with 2:30 to go in regulation.
Then the Eagles got the ball for a last attempt at a tie or win. Staley ran for 22 yards to the 42, but a 16-yard sack by Bhawoh Jue, and two incomplete passes left the Eagles facing that long fourth down.
It wasn't a big problem, as it turned out. McNabb threaded the ball between Jue and Darren Sharper for a first down and the Eagles (13-4) had life.
"You would think you would win a fourth-and-26. We didn't get that done," Green Bay coach Mike Sherman said.
In the overtime, Brian Dawkins picked off a high heave from Brett Favre on what turned out to be Green Bay's only offensive play and returned it 35 yards to the Packers 34 and Akers eventually made the winning kick.
Bring on the Panthers in another game that will keep the entire Philadelphia area nervous for the next week.
That's because nothing less than a Super Bowl trip will satisfy the Eagles and their fans after losses in the last two conference title games -- at St. Louis two seasons ago and at home last season to Tampa Bay.
"We're not even worried about the Carolina Panthers right now. We're excited about this win," McNabb said. "Even though we were down, we still prevailed and showed some heart."
Favre, 15-of-28 for 180 yards, did not talk after the game. Neither did Ahman Green, who ran for 156 yards as the Packers (11-7) go home after winning seven of eight, including three straight since Favre's father died just before Christmas.
Dawkins, who missed more than two months with a foot injury, said he was prepared for a wild throw by Favre.
"They were telling me he was going to give me a chance to make a play," Dawkins said. "When you look at the film, that's what he does."
Sherman pointed no fingers after his team's second straight playoff overtime game. Green Bay beat Seattle at home last week on Al Harris' interception return.
"I'm very disappointed for them rather than at them," Sherman said of his players.
This game was similar to the first between the teams, a 17-14 win in the rain by the Eagles at Lambeau Field on Nov. 10. McNabb won that one with a 6-yard pass to Pinkston with 27 seconds remaining in regulation.
Favre did very little -- 111 of his 180 yards passing came on three plays.
"We had a chance to win on offense, defense and special teams and we needed a play to go our way," Longwell said. "We didn't and now we'll go home for the year."
The Eagles looked at it from another angle.
"Fourth-and-26 and Freddie comes up with a humongous play," tight end Chad Lewis said. "We've got a team full of warriors who just want to battle."