McNabb, Eagles throw away destiny

By Phil Sheridan KRT
February 10, 2005

Destiny was there, within his grasp. Donovan McNabb couldn’t reach it.

The Eagles had every chance to win their first Super Bowl, to deliver Philadelphia from its championship drought. They were good enough to derail the New England Patriots’ dynasty train on Sunday night.

All they needed was a great game from their quarterback. They didn’t get it.

McNabb is surely more disappointed by that than any fan could ever be. McNabb, who has played this game a million times in his mind, must live for somewhere between a year and forever with the knowledge that he couldn’t get his team to the pinnacle.

“I’m never going to put my head down,” said McNabb, his lower lip bloodied. “I’m always going to keep my head up. Maybe we’ll be back in Detroit next year.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

Nobody knows better than these Eagles how tough it is to get this far. They finally did, and they squandered their chance. The Eagles can’t afford to get the hang of this Super Bowl thing on their fourth try, as they did with the conference championship game. There’s no guarantee they’ll ever get here again.

The hardest thing, for McNabb and for the Eagles and their fans, is knowing how close they really were to winning.

“You get so close, you can feel it and taste it,” McNabb said.

He was hard on himself when asked how he played in the biggest game of his career. That’s admirable, but it didn’t change the facts of the matter.

“I threw three interceptions,” McNabb said. “That’s what I look at. I don’t look at the three touchdowns. You take away those three interceptions and this could have been a blowout. We could have been up by two, three touchdowns.”

McNabb completed 30 of 51 passes for 357 yards. He had exactly one rushing attempt, for no gain.

He wasn’t alone in this, of course.

Coach Andy Reid was outmaneuvered by Bill Belichick as the game opened. The Patriots lined up in a 4-3 defensive alignment instead of their customary 3-4. The switch confused the Eagles’ offensive linemen and led to that horrific first series of the game.

At the other end of the game, there was that final scoring drive. The one you spent leaning forward in your seat, screaming at McNabb and the offense.

“Hurry up! What are you waiting for?

“Well,” Reid said, “we were trying to hurry up.”

“We got in our hurry-up offense and we scored,” McNabb said.

Is it worse if the Eagles didn’t hurry with the Super Bowl on the line? Or is it worse if that’s what their hurry-up offense looks like?

Down 10, the Eagles got the ball with 8 minutes, 40 seconds to play. A great catch-and-run by Terrell Owens got the ball to the New England 36-yard line. Next play, McNabb threw the kind of interception he almost never throws, right in the arms of Tedy Bruschi.

Another chance, three minutes later. McNabb directed a terrific drive, but he did so in slow motion. The Eagles walked up to the line of scrimmage. They huddled after each play. They made almost no effort to score quickly. So when McNabb threw a gorgeous 30-yard touchdown to Greg Lewis, there was 1:48 left on the clock.

Reid chose an onside kick, which failed. If the Eagles had kicked away and gotten the defensive stop, they might have had decent field position. Then again, the Patriots would have had more incentive to get a first down.

As it was, the Eagles got the ball back inside their own 5-yard line.

“I’m confident if we’re starting from inside our own end zone,” McNabb said. “I’m sure everybody was on the edge of their seat when we went out there with 50 seconds left.”

That was the moment McNabb surely dreamed about from the first time he picked up a football. That’s John Elway starting from his own 2-yard line against the Cleveland Browns. That’s how the tales of football legends begin.

But not this tale. First down, McNabb threw a pointless, clock-killing 1-yard gain. Second down was an uncatchable pass to Owens. Third down was a dynasty-clinching interception by Rodney Harrison.

It was McNabb’s third. The first two snuffed scoring chances, precisely the kind of mistake you can’t make if you’re going to beat the defending champions.

The kind of mistake that Tom Brady, just to take a random example, doesn’t make.

“Right now, Tom has what every quarterback wants,” McNabb said.

Brady is a darling of destiny, three times a champion.

McNabb had his destiny wide open, and he threw it away three times.

Posted to the web by Chayne Roland

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Phil Sheridan KRT

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