Eagles, Steelers Advance to Championship Games
Courtesy of the Associated Press | 1/12/2009, 12:59 p.m.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers have advanced to next weekend's NFL conference championship games. The Eagles eliminated the defending champion New York Giants 23-11, earning the right to play the Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium next Sunday. And the Steelers broke the road teams' weekend domination by shaking off an early 7-0 deficit to beat the San Diego Chargers 35-24 in an AFC divisional game.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb led the way with one touchdown passing and another running. He finished 22 of 40 for 217 yards. It's the fifth time in the last eight seasons that McNabb has led the Eagles to the NFC title game. David Akers helped the cause with three field goals. He has connected on 18 straight in playoff competition.
The Eagles defense also stepped up by stopping the Giants on two fourth-down plays in the final quarter. Giants quarterback Eli Manning had a long day. He was picked off twice and finished 15 for 29 for 168 yards. Willie Parker ran 27 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers erupted for three straight touchdowns. Ben Roethlisberger shook off his late-season concussion to throw for a score and lead an efficient offense. Big Ben was 17-for-26 for 181 yards and one TD. Santonio Holmes contributed a 67-yard punt return in the first half to start the Steelers scoring.
Pittsburgh's defense was stout, holding the Chargers to 15 yards rushing. Philip Rivers was forced to abandon the run and completed 21 of 35 passes for 308 yards and three TD€s.
Now, the Steelers get to stay home and will host Baltimore in the AFC title game next Sunday evening. The Steelers beat the Ravens twice this season, but both games were close. Pittsburgh won 23-20 in overtime in Week 4 and the Steelers won at Baltimore 13-9 in Week 15.
Las Vegas oddsmakers make Pittsburgh an early 5-point favorite.
Next Sunday's NFC title game features two clubs that met on Thanksgiving night. In that contest in Philadelphia, the Eagles prevailed 48-20. In that game, the Eagles' Brian Westbrook scored four touchdowns, two rushing and two on passes from McNabb, who had been benched for poor play in the previous game. Arizona's Kurt Warner was intercepted three times. Despite going on the road, Philadelphia is rated a 3-point favorite against Arizona.