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Chronicling A Hearbreaker Of A Loss

GLENDALE, Ariz. --It feels so hollow. The Eagles had everything going for them in the fourth quarter, dug out of a huge hole and then ... Final: Arizona 32, Eagles 25. Another loss one step away from the Super Bowl.

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Game on. Here is my blow-by-blow account of the NFC Championship Game between the Eagles and the Cardinals. Settle in. Enjoy. Horrific first half for the Eagles as they try to come back ...

  • The Eagles called "heads" and lost the coin toss. One side of the coin was the helmets of the two teams and the other side was the depiction of the George S .Halas Trophy. David Akers kicks off. Here we go.
  • Good play by Brodrick Bunkley on a first-down Arizona run. The Eagles came out loading the box. I sense a lot of blitzing here.
  • Big third-down completion from Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald on a crossing route. Warner is getting the football out of his hands very quickly on this first drive.
  • Very surprised and disappointed that the Cardinals are having so much success on the first drive running against this defense, particularly to the left side.
  • The Eagles answered with their first drive, scoring on a David Akers field goal. Not a bad drive at all, which featured a Donovan McNabb run for 21 yards on the first snap from scrimmage. The Eagles got some help on a Neil Rackers kickoff out of bounds, and they gained a couple of first downs, but they didn't score a touchdowns. The Cardinals are really mixing it up, showing a three-man pass rush and blitzing as well. This is a game McNabb is going to have to win. Arizona gets off the ball so fast and they have that advantage on the Eagles.
  • Good second series, a three-and-out sequence for the Cardinals. Arizona looks like it is interested in running a lot of crossing routes and testing the Eagles' coverage that way. I don't like the way the Eagles are tackling. Too many shoulders and not enough wrapping up.
  • Ben Graham kicked away from DeSean Jackson on his first punt and the ball traveled just 34 yards and went out at the Eagles 33-yard line. Is that groin OK for Graham?
  • McNabb can't force throws like the one to Kevin Curtis that was intercepted. Arizona lives off of turnovers. Great hustle play from Jackson to force a fumble that Jon Runyan recovered to give the Eagles life.
  • I really like the design of the offense early on. A lot of inside handoffs, a lot of space created. Just stay away from turnovers and throw the ball accurately.
  • First-quarter run/pass ratio: 6 called runs and 9 passes. McNabb's scramble is included in that. The Eagles have run 6 times for 31 yards, minus McNabb's 21-yard scramble.
  • Cardinals linebacker/defensive end Travis LaBoy is out with a biceps injury.
  • Poor job to start the second quarter. First down on the Cardinals 35-yard line and the Eagles failed to gain a first down and then David Akers misses from 47 yards out. Oh, boy ...
  • The Eagles are in trouble here after that trickery by the Cardinals. They are being killed by Fitzgerald. The Eagles are dropping passes and blowing scoring opportunities and the Cardinals are making big plays. There is your difference. This is the first time the Eagles have been in a deep hole in the playoffs.
  • Another false-start penalty. Geez ...
  • A field goal instead of a touchdown in the red zone. Yeah, I know that Jason Avant got mugged, but the Eagles are scoring field goals and the Cardinals are scoring touchdowns. You probably didn't like the throw to Greg Lewis on second and 4 inside the 20, but if McNabb throws it accurately, Lewis has a chance for a catch and run to get a first down.
  • I am stunned at the way the Cardinals are shredding the Eagles defense. Stunned. Great game plan by the Cardinals and they deserve credit. But the Eagles are playing terribly on defense.
  • When the Eagles blitz, Warner is smart enough throw directly toward where the blitz is coming from. Arizona's offense is unstoppable right now.
  • Down 21-6 with 3:06 to go in the first half. Amazing disappointment.
  • This is a tough spot for the Eagles. They have absolutely no margin for error on defense. And they haven't come close to figuring out Warner or Fitzgerald or the scheme the Cardinals are using.
  • What is Quintin Demps doing? Taking a shot like that on Warner is inexcusable. Terrible penalty, and as the half winds down the Cardinals are on the move once again. Awful. Five penalties for 64 yards already.
  • What in the world was the defense doing on third and 15? Nobody covered Jerheme Urban, who caught a Warner pass and gained 18 yards. Now the Cardinals are on the move again with 1:03 to go in the half.
  • Cardinals 24, Eagles 6 at halftime. The defense didn't show up all half. Arizona drove 53 yards in 9 plays in 1:31 to set up a field goal to close the half. The defense is playing its worst game of the season at precisely the wrong time. Arizona scored on four of its five drives in the first half. The Cardinals have 260 yards of offense through two quarters.
  • Why are so many of McNabb's passes being tipped?
  • Everywhere Jackson goes, rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is going with him. Everywhere. Happened when the teams played in Philly and it's happening here, too.
  • Arizona is outplaying the Eagles in every single aspect, from the coaching to the execution to everything in between. The Cardinals are dialing the right blitzes ... it is a painful thing to watch.
  • Very tough game for the offensive line and tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, in particular. The Cardinals are beating them off the ball and pressuring McNabb all game.
  • A drop by Hank Baskett, who never drops passes. Why?
  • Great throw and great catch on a McNabb to Kevin Curtis for 50 yards. Well done. Need a lot more of that.
  • Nice call on the McNabb draw. I saw it in practice this week and hoped they would use it.
  • Excellent throw and catch from McNabb to Celek for a touchdown. Celek was matched up against Rod Hood and made a good move inside and then used his body to shield off Hood. Cardinals lead, 24-13 with 4:08 to go in the quarter. Eagles defense needs to be perfect.
  • Ugh ... Akers kicks off out of bounds and the Cardinals start on their 40-yard line. I was thinking about an onsides kick right there.
  • Great defensive sequence with a lot of pressure from the blitz. Needed it. Now the offense has to score a touchdown.
  • Second and 7 with 56 seconds to go in the third quarter and the Eagles called a timeout. Will that come back to cost them?
  • McNabb touchdown pass to Celek, who now 9 catches, 78 yards and 2 touchdown. Akers misses the extra point, as holder Sav Rocca had the laced pointed in! Oh my goodness! Still, it's 24-19. Eagles are alive.
  • Good defensive stand, and more good blitzing. Great play on a blitz by Brian Dawkins to stop Edgerrin James on a run. Pressure from Victor Abiamiri -- who was held and the refs didn't call it -- on third down. Eagles ball at their 12-yard line, 13:00 to go in the game. Talk about pressure!
  • Amazing game. Amazing nerves of steel for McNabb and a great throw from him to Jackson for a touchdown. I watched Jackson line up on the right side of the formation against Rodgers-Cromartie, who was in press coverage. He tried to jam Jackson, who had a good release and then who got down the field and bobbled McNabb's pass once, twice and finally brought it in. Eagles lead, 25-24, with 10:45 to go in the game. Eagles need to ride this momentum. Eagles get a defensive stop here ...
  • Too much Fitzgerald. The Eagles need to get back up in Warner's face and force bad throws. Cards at midfield.
  • Big fourth-down conversion from Cardinals. Clock inside seven minutes. Cardinals close to field goal range. And another completion to Fitzgerald and now Arizona is definitely in field goal range.
  • Interesting that the Eagles now have Samuel following Fitzgerald to both sides of the formation. Doesn't seem to matter much, though, as the Cardinals are at the 9-yard line with the clock ticking inside of 3 minutes.
  • Good call by the Cardinals on the screen pass to Tim Hightower, but again the Eagles missed too many tackles to allow him to score. Cardinals lead 32-25 after the two-point conversion. Two minutes, 53 seconds to go.
  • So it comes down to this. One minute, 57 seconds remaining. Fourth and 10. Three straight McNabb passes failed. The Eagles have the ball at the Arizona 47-yard line. This is a terrible feeling. I think back to the missed field goal, the blown extra point, the defensive lapses in the first half. I think that the Eagles scored 19 straight points and owned momentum and then the Cardinals drove 72 yards in 14 plays to take the go-ahead touchdown.
  • It's all over. Curtis fell down and the fourth-down pass fell incomplete and the clock ticks away. Season over. Fun ride. Awful, hollow, horrible feeling right now.
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