NFC Championship not nearly enough for Eagles

Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 12:55 a.m.
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Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb reacts after throwing a 2-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against Atlanta in the NFC Championship game Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA - The celebrations hardly were muted in Philadelphia. Fans stood atop snow banks on Broad Street, waving Eagles banners and hats. Cars honked their horns late into the evening. Toasts were raised to Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins, Andy Reid - even to Swoop the mascot.
For the first time in 24 years, the Eagles are NFC champions.
It's not nearly enough.
''There were some tears of joy, definitely,'' All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins said Monday, looking back at the locker room scene following Sunday's 27-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. After three straight title game flops, the Eagles were headed for the Super Bowl.
''It's something we worked for a long time and went through a lot of bad situations - 1-2-3 of losing - so that comes flowing out,'' Dawkins said. ''After the tears have ceased, we're ready for the next step. This wasn't our Super Bowl. We didn't approach it like it was our Super Bowl.''
And they won't approach the next two weeks as anything but business.
''We didn't do what we set out to do yet,'' Dawkins said. ''I have a lot of confidence we'll win.''
Beating the defending champion New England Patriots, winners of two of the last three NFL crowns, will take the very best the Eagles have to offer. But they won't bring their full complement offensively. Tight end Chad Lewis, who caught two touchdown passes against Atlanta, is out with a foot injury. And star receiver Terrell Owens, their offensive spark plug, is uncertain because of an ankle injury that has kept him sidelined since Game 14.
What they will bring, the players swear, is the right attitude. No way will they fall into the trap of premature satisfaction that hurt past Super Bowl teams such as the 1998 Falcons, 1994 Chargers and 1985 Patriots. Those clubs were happy to be there, and they got routed by superior opponents.
New England might be the superior team this time - it's favored by seven points - but the Eagles promise they will give it their all. No awe at the surroundings and no worshipping at the Patriots' shrine.
''The ultimate goal is obviously the Super Bowl,'' McNabb said. ''Then we can come back and celebrate in a parade on Broad Street.
''We're excited about this win and the city having that confident feeling back. It's a great feeling to have the opportunity to move to the Super Bowl. When it comes down to it, hey, it's one more game. Let's go win it.''
The only other team with such a long gap between Super Bowl appearances was Green Bay. The Packers won the first two Super Bowls, then didn't return until January 1997, when they beat the Patriots.
Reid was an assistant to Mike Holmgren with those Packers. He still has his notes from that postseason, but he hadn't looked at them again until Monday.
''It's a little different sitting there as head coach, but it still is a great feeling,'' said Reid, hired by the Eagles in 1999. ''Part of you is excited, another part of you understands you're not through. There's another game against a great football team and you want to get yourself right in preparation for that team.''
The Eagles lost 27-10 to the Raiders in their only Super Bowl trip. The Raiders broke a 19-year Super Bowl drought two seasons back, but they were routed by Tampa Bay in the big game.
McNabb was there. He's been to the last five Super Bowls, and he hasn't exactly enjoyed them.
''It's frustrating, because every conversation is: 'I expected you guys to be here,''' McNabb said. ''Well I did, too.
''Now we can go down there and have all our people smiling and you're happy you're there. But playing the game is something different. It's keeping that business mind-set of going out and winning the game.''

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