GLENDALE, AZ – The Eagles have weathered their fair share of violent storms during the course of this long season, but perhaps none was as vicious as the one Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and the Cardinals put on them in the first half on Sunday.
But just when it seemed the Eagles had their faith tested one too many times, their belief in each other helped them overcome yet another daunting obstacle.
Trailing Arizona by 18 points at halftime of Sunday's NFC Championship Game, the Eagles, behind the strength of their offense and defense, rallied from that deficit to take a one-point lead.
The defense, though, couldn't put together one last stop as Arizona drove 72 yards in 14 plays to take a seven-point lead with 2 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the game.
The Cardinals held on for a 32-25 win that propelled them to their first Super Bowl in franchise history. The Eagles were left pondering what could have been.
"The offense did their job," free safety Brian Dawkins said. "We didn't do ours." Photo Gallery : PHI vs. ARZ 1-18-09
Just when it seemed the defense had no answer for Warner, who dissected Dawkins and Co. for 203 yards and three touchdown passes in the first half, the defense rose to the occasion and held the Cardinals without a first down in the third quarter.
It gave the offense enough time to get into a rhythm as the Eagles clawed their way back into the game.
"They did a tremendous job getting us back into the football game," cornerback Sheldon Brown said. "At the end, we just couldn't get off the field."
The pressure that wasn't there in the first half emerged in the second as the Eagles hurried and harassed Warner into three incompletions in the third quarter, compared to just three incompletions in the first half alone.
In fact, Warner's only completion of the third quarter was to himself.
"What I think they started doing was throwing the ball down the football field more after the half," Brown said. "Before the half they were throwing some quick things and once they were trying to throw the ball down the field more, I think we got more pressure on him. I guess they felt comfortable with the lead."
After wide receiver DeSean Jackson hauled in a 62-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Donovan McNabb with 10:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles had their first lead of the game at 25-24.
The defense, however, couldn't stop Arizona from driving down the field for the game-winning score.
The Eagles, who sacked Warner twice, got limited pressure on the Cardinals' signal caller as Warner guided the Cardinals to points on four of their first five possessions, including a late field goal as time expired in the first half to give Arizona a commanding 24-6 advantage.
And what a first half it was for Warner, who finished the stanza completing 14-of-17 passing for 203 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles intercepted Warner three times in their first meeting of the year back on Thanksgiving night in Philadelphia.
"It falls on the defense," linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "We didn't get it done when we had to. I think you win and lose as a team. As a defense, regardless of the situation, you want to win the game. Obviously, that wasn't the case.