GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Defense carried the Philadelphia Eagles to the NFC Championship Game. It let them down once they got there.
» Points allowed: 32
» Yards allowed: 369
» Takeaways: 1
» Points allowed/game: 12.5
» Yards allowed/game: 304
» Takeaways/game: 2.5
"This one hurts," strong safety Quintin Mikell said in the Eagles' tomblike locker room. "You can't spot them 24 points."
Here's a summary of Arizona's five first-half possessions: touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown, field goal. The Cardinals settled for the field goal only because time ran out in the second quarter.
As the defense stiffened, the Eagles rallied for a 25-24 lead early in the fourth quarter behind three touchdown passes by Donovan McNabb.
But the once-reliable defense couldn't make it stand up.
On the final drive, the Eagles let Arizona convert on two short third downs and a fourth-and-1 at midfield.
"It's not like us to let teams drive down on us like that with the game on the line," cornerback Joselio Hanson said. "It makes the loss even tougher for the defense."
"This is a very sudden thing when you lose in the playoffs," Reid said. "The hard reality is there's one happy team at the end of the year. You're in the playoffs, you expect to move on."
"Kurt's a veteran quarterback and he's used to the big stage," defensive end Victor Abiamiri said. "He's been here before. He did a good job of protecting the football."
"We practiced those (trick plays), but they had a good one," Mikell said. "We had a guy there, but (Fitzgerald) just went up and made a play."
It was one of a record-tying three touchdown catches for Fitzgerald, whom the Eagles simply couldn't cover. He caught nine passes for 152 yards.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press