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EAGLES 27, VIKINGS 14

Philadelphia goes fourth

Vulnerable Vikings powerless to derail Eagles' title quest

PHILADELPHIA -- Freddie Mitchell showed 'em why he's called "Hollywood."

In the Eagles' first meaningful game in nearly a month, the backups played like regulars and the supporting cast picked up the slack. Philadelphia wasn't rusty at all in reaching its fourth straight NFC Championship game with a 27-14 romp yesterday over the self-destructing Minnesota Vikings.

Mitchell was the headliner. He more than filled in for All-Pro wide receiver and glamour guy Terrell Owens, who watched from a luxury box while nursing an injured ankle. He scored two touchdowns, and wasn't a bit shy about congratulating himself for playing the part of team celebrity.

"I'm a special player," he said, wearing an Indiana Jones hat and bow tie. "I've just got to thank my hands for being so great. I've just been chillin' being patient, being humble. I knew my time was going to come."

The bigger question: Has the Eagles' Super Bowl time finally come?

Philadelphia, which has lost three consecutive conference title games, the last two at home, hosts Atlanta next Sunday. The angst level this week in Philly will be off the scale as the Eagles attempt to get to their first Super Bowl in 24 years.

It's the first time a team has hosted three straight conference championships.

"We know what's at stake, we're a better team now," linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "This is our year."

The Eagles (14-3) were in synch even though most starters barely played for nearly a month, and they didn't lack for big-play offense or defense.

"I guess we weren't too rusty," Donovan McNabb said after going 21 for 33 for 286 yards.

The Eagles got plenty of help from the Vikings (9-9), who showed exactly how they lost seven of their last 10 regular-season games to back into the playoffs.

"Mistakes, penalties at the wrong time, taking some points off the board, stopping a drive, having a nice play called back," said Vikings coach Mike Tice, rattling off Minnesota's miscues. "We made some mistakes when we had a little bit of rhythm going. We didn't finish anything."

Mitchell got lucky on his second TD, catching a fumble by tight end L.J. Smith in the end zone. Mitchell finished with five catches for 65 yards. "That just goes to show you things are going our way," McNabb said.

Under coach Andy Reid, the Eagles never have lost after a bye, and the regulars basically had three weeks of nonaction. It didn't hurt, and Philly led, 14-0, 44 seconds into the second quarter.

Mitchell caught a 2-yard pass from McNabb midway in the opening period. Greg Lewis's graceful catch of a 52-yard throw set up Brian Westbrook's 7-yard TD reception.

Moss was held to three catches for 51 yards. Culpepper was sacked three times and befuddled nearly the entire game.

"You try to play mistake-free football," Culpepper said. "But when you do make mistakes, you got to do something to compensate for it."

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