The Carolina Panthers, two seasons removed from a 1-15 record, played on the Lincoln Financial Field turf as if they owned it on Sunday night and defeated the Eagles 14-3 in the NFC Championship game to secure a spot in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Carolina will play the New England Patriots in the National Football League's title game on Feb. 1 in Houston.
As for the Eagles, their quest to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since January of 1981 will last at least one more year.
As if trying to score points against the difficult Carolina defense wasn't enough, the Eagles played the fourth quarter with backup quarterback Koy Detmer running the offense. That was because starter Donovan McNabb had been sacked four times, beaten up during the course of the game, and generally was unable to bring his regular scrambling offensive talents to the field. He suffered a rib injury in the second quarter and although he stayed in the game through the third period, he wasn't the dynamic offensive force the Eagles were hoping for and expecting.
The Panthers intercepted four passes (including a title-game tying three by Ricky Manning) and allowed only a second-quarter 41-yard field goal by the Eagles' David Akers.
Meanwhile, Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme did what he needed to do to lead his team to its first Super Bowl. His 24-yard pass to Muhsin Muhammad in the second quarter put the Panthers ahead to stay. The other touchdown came in the third quarter -- a one-yard run by DeShaun Foster.
Before the Eagles take a run at next year's Super Bowl, many things on the team are likely to change, including the departure of a number of free agents. But one day after their final game of the season, the disappointment and dejection will likely stay with the team and its fans for many months to come.
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