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Homecoming turns sweet for McNabb

By Times wire and staff report
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 20, 2002

CHICAGO -- In a competition of headlines, Donovan McNabb beat Michael Jordan.

McNabb and Jordan made highly anticipated returns to the city Saturday, McNabb coming back to his hometown and Jordan coming back to the place where he won six NBA championships.

Jordan had 16 points as his Wizards beat the Bulls early Saturday afternoon, but McNabb won the day, having a huge game in leading the Eagles to an upset of the Bears in the last game at Soldier Field before renovations begin.

It was McNabb's third time playing at Soldier Field and his first meaningful game there as a pro.

"I enjoyed myself (Friday night). My mom cooked and had some good food for us and the guys had a great time," McNabb said. "And (Saturday) was just a good ending to the trip."

TOUGH GAME: The game was especially physical and filled with trash-talking. Several times players had to be restrained by officials after a play. At one point, on consecutive plays in the third quarter, the Bears saw receivers Marty Booker and Dez White and safety Mike Brown get knocked out of the game for various periods of time by hard hits from the Eagles.

"We knew they were going to be physical," said Bears backup quarterback Shane Matthews, who played in place of starter Jim Miller, who was knocked out with a separated throwing shoulder. "They are a physical team."

Added Eagles running back Duce Staley: "Yeah, it was a lot of trash-talking. You know, in the playoffs, you've got to take it to that next level."

BRING THEM ON: The Eagles will face either the Rams or the Packers in next weekend's NFC Championship. They probably would be an underdog against the Rams and would be cast as the villain against fan-favorite Brett Favre if the Packers advance.

The Eagles, though, couldn't care less.

"They put their helmets and shoulder pads on just like we do," Staley said. "You've got to line up and play. That's what we've been saying all year."

TOUGH BUT NOT ENOUGH: The Bears won games this season with the help of their defense and got a defensive touchdown against the Eagles when cornerback Jerry Azumah returned a McNabb interception 39 yards.

It was the Bears' sixth turnover returned for a score and extended their streak from the regular season to 19 games with at least one forced turnover.

But it wasn't enough. The Bears defense gave up 33 points, marking the first time Chicago lost this season when scoring at least 13 points. In its three previous losses, Chicago surrendered an average of 8.3 points a game.

NO EXCUSES: Though Matthews played most of the game, the Bears did not point to the loss of Miller as an reason for the loss.

After all, it was Matthews who guided the Bears during dramatic come-from-bhind wins during the regular season against the Browns and 49ers.

"Losing Jimmy was disappointing, but I have great confidence in Shane," Bears coach Dick Jauron said.


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