JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 6 -- Quarterback Donovan McNabb spoke to reporters with his bottom lip cut and slightly bloodied following the New England Patriots' 24-21 victory in Super Bowl XXXIX. It was a sign of the beating McNabb took in the most significant game of his NFL career. McNabb completed 30 of 51 passes for 357 yards, tied for third-most in Super Bowl history.
However, McNabb -- a dynamic quarterback because of his ability to scramble -- mustered zero yards on one carry. More importantly, he looked confounded against New England's complicated defenses, which added some wrinkles with the two weeks off, throwing three interceptions and suffering four sacks.
Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb celebrates after throwing a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end L.J. Smith in the second quarter.
(Rusty Kennedy - AP)
"Three interceptions. I don't look at the touchdowns," said McNabb, who had three touchdown passes. "I look at the three interceptions. As the quarterback you want to make sure you take care of the ball. Turnovers kill you, and they hurt us today."
Coach Andy Reid said, "He played a heck of a game, battled his heart out and did some nice things."
Last week, McNabb seemed very loose, cracking jokes with reporters, saying he felt no pressure and explaining how much he has developed this season. McNabb was the second-highest rated passer in the NFC at 104.7. And he became the first player in NFL history to finish a season with at least 31 touchdowns (31) and less than 10 interceptions (eight).
But McNabb struggled early with several wobbly passes or overthrown balls. McNabb made critical interceptions in the first quarter and fourth quarter. (In his six NFL seasons, McNabb has had the fewest turnovers of any NFL quarterback during that span.) Philadelphia had poor clock management late, and when the Eagles got the ball back with 46 seconds left down three, Philadelphia's offense looked confused.
"We just had to keep guys coming at him at all times," said Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest. "The key was confusing him. Anytime you let a guy sit back there and throw passes, he'll pick you apart."
Midway through the first quarter, on third and seven, McNabb completed a 30-yard pass to wide receiver Terrell Owens to the New England 17-yard line, drawing cheers from a heavy contingent of Eagles fans at Alltel Stadium. But on the next play, McNabb was sacked for a 16-yard loss when he could not get rid of the ball quickly enough.
On the next play, McNabb was intercepted trying to connect again with Owens. The play was nullified by a Patriots penalty. But McNabb was intercepted on the ensuing play by safety Rodney Harrison on a pass intended for tailback Brian Westbrook.
"I don't look at the three touchdowns. I look at the three interceptions. Those will kill you," McNabb said.
McNabb's best play came in the second quarter when he looked more comfortable. His strong play was highlighted by a six-yard pass to tight end L.J. Smith to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead. But McNabb ended the game the same way he started it.
"This game could've been a blowout," McNabb said. "You take away those interceptions and we could've been up two touchdowns early. . . .
"We've had a special year. This is a year where no one expected us to do this. . . . We actually really felt that way. And when we got here, no one ever gave us a chance."