Eagles 33, Bears 19

Saturday, January 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Donovan McNabb was too elusive, too shifty, too good for the Chicago Bears to contain.

Scrambling and dancing away from rushers left and right, McNabb made his homecoming a memorable one Saturday.

McNabb maneuvered the Philadelphia Eagles into the NFC championship game, throwing for two touchdowns and running for a third to spark a 33-19 victory.

``It was very exciting to have my family and friends here,'' said McNabb, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs.

Now he's one win away from the Super Bowl.

``I'm trying not to even focus on that,'' he said.

David Akers kicked four field goals and Philadelphia's rugged defense bottled up a Chicago offense crippled when quarterback Jim Miller was knocked out of the game in the second quarter because of a separated shoulder.

The Eagles will face the winner of Sunday's Green Bay-St. Louis game in the conference championship. The Bears head home, disappointed after winning the NFC Central and making their first playoff appearance since 1994.

McNabb, who once played in a prep championship at Soldier Field, completed 26 of 40 passes for 262 yards and rushed for 37 more in the last game at the venerable lakefront stadium before it undergoes a major renovation.

McNabb was resilient the entire game against the team he rooted for as a child.

After the Bears sacked him for the first time in the third quarter, McNabb scrambled and hit Jeff Thomason with a 30-yard pass to the Chicago 10.

On second down, Duce Staley lined up on the far end and when the Bears went to sleep and forgot to cover him, he easily took a pass from McNabb for a go-ahead 6-yard TD the made it 20-14 late in the quarter.

``He buys a lot of time,'' Bears coach Dick Jauron said of McNabb. ``If his receivers are not open initially, he can buy time with his legs and his athleticism.''

Akers kicked a 40-yarder field goal to put the Eagles up 23-17 in the final quarter, and when Chicago's Autry Denson fumbled the ensuing kickoff after a hit by Tim Hauck, Quinton Caver recovered.

McNabb again responded after being sacked. He eluded the Bears and found Staley on a 14-yarder to get Akers in position for a 46-yarder with 6:28 left that made it 26-17.

McNabb had a 5-yard TD run with 3:21 to go.

The Bears, with Shane Matthews filling in for Miller, managed only one offensive touchdown. Their defense got them a third-quarter lead when Jerry Azumah grabbed a deflected pass and raced for a 39-yard TD to put the Bears up 14-13.

McNabb led the Eagles on an 11-play, 69-yard drive in the final minute of the first half, scrambling out of a Bears rush and hitting Cecil Martin for a 13-yard TD with 14 seconds to go.

That put Philly up 13-7, just over five minutes after Chicago's Ahmad Merritt took a handoff from Matthews and ran 47 yards for a TD.

It didn't last. McNabb hit a 9-yard pass on fourth down to Thomason and connected on a 14-yarder to Chad Lewis. After spiking the ball to stop to the clock, McNabb was at his elusive best.

He kept his feet moving, sidestepping the rush and then finally throwing a 13-yard TD to a wide open Martin with 14 seconds remaining.

Trailing 6-0, the Bears moved to the Eagles 25, but when Miller tried to loft a third-down pass to Dez White, Damon Moore intercepted at the 2.

During the return, Philly's Hugh Douglas threw Miller to the ground, separating the quarterback's throwing shoulder and changing the Bears' outlook.

``I don't think anyone would go out there and hurt someone maliciously,'' Miller said.

Matthews, who led overtime wins over San Francisco and Cleveland this season, hadn't played since Nov. 4.

The Eagles suffered a loss when defensive back Troy Vincent was forced out of the game with a groin pull. His status for next week was not immediately known.