Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles found a way to pull out a close win. They also hurt the Chicago Bears in the process.
McNabb threw for 244 yards against his hometown team, LeSean McCoy scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 10-yard run following Antonio Dixon's block of a field goal attempt, and Philadelphia came away with a 24-20 victory over struggling Chicago on Sunday night after back-to-back close losses.
"It wouldn't have mattered if we had won 3-2, this was a game we needed to come out and win by any means necessary," McNabb said.
The Bears were leading 20-17 when Dixon blocked a 48-yard field goal by Robbie Gould with 11 minutes left. McNabb then led the Eagles (6-4) on a 62-yard touchdown drive that McCoy capped with a neat 10-yard run, sending Chicago to its fifth loss in six games and delivering another big hit to its playoff hopes.
Barring a big run, the Bears (4-6) will miss the postseason for the third straight season _ certainly not what they expected when they made that big offseason trade with Denver for Jay Cutler.
The Bears had high hopes after that deal, but after a 3-1 start, all the optimism is gone.
"We're running out of time," Cutler said. "The window is getting smaller and smaller. Anything can happen, you get strange things happening in November and December, but for us it's smaller and smaller."
Or, as Bears coach Lovie Smith put it: "This wasn't part of the master plan."
Cutler, who came into the game with a league-leading 17 interceptions, did not get picked off until the final minute. Tracy White tipped a pass, Sean Jones came away with the ball near midfield, and that sealed the win.
"The last couple years we haven't had a lot of luck in close ones," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "The guys battled, and they didn't worry about that. They just kept banging."
The Eagles also exhaled after losing 31-23 to San Diego and 20-16 to Dallas the previous two weeks, putting them in what McNabb said was a must-win situation.
The veteran quarterback was 23 of 32, and DeSean Jackson caught eight of those passes for 107 yards to lead Philadelphia to the win even though star running back Brian Westbrook missed the game with a concussion. The Eagles also lost cornerback Asante Samuel to a neck stinger, yet still pulled this one out.
McNabb's effort included a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jackson over the middle to give Philadelphia a 17-12 lead with just under six minutes left in the third.
Cutler responded by leading the Bears to their first TD in more than six quarters, lofting a 15-yard pass to Kellen Davis to cap a 55-yard drive, and then firing to Matt Forte for the 2-point conversion and a 20-17 lead with 2:52 left in the third, but the Bears couldn't hold it.
"We felt like it was a playoff game for us, that we needed to win every game we had left," Smith said. "We didn't. We're still not out of anything. We'll go on from here."
Cutler, who had 12 interceptions in the previous five games, completed 24 of 43 passes for 171 yards. The Bears also got three forced fumbles from Charles Tillman and a 72-yard run from Khalil Bell, who moved up from the practice squad after Garrett Wolfe went on injured reserve with a kidney injury.
The Eagles' Michael Vick took a direct snap and broke through the middle for a 34-yard run _ his longest since returning to the league _ on the game's first possession, leading to a 25-yard field goal by David Akers.
McNabb then made it 10-0 on their next possession when he threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to fellow Chicagoan Jason Avant. That capped a 76-yard drive in which the Bears committed two penalties _ a 15-yarder for a facemask against McNabb and also an offside _ and heard more boos from their restless fans.
Cutler did little to win them over in the early going, forcing passes into double coverage and overthrowing Greg Olsen and Devin Hester on possible touchdown passes. He nearly got intercepted on the first possession, but Philadelphia's Quintin Mikell couldn't hang onto the ball.
And after McNabb connected with Avant, the Bears had to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Gould in the opening seconds of the second quarter when Cutler missed Olsen and Hester on back-to-back deep passes along the right sideline.
The Bears again failed to reach the end zone after Bell's 72-yard run put the ball on the 10. Instead, they settled for a 28-yarder by Gould about five minutes into the quarter, and he kicked another 28-yarder with 13 seconds left in the half to make it a one-point game.
NOTES: Samuel is scheduled for an MRI on Monday. ... Starting weakside LB Akeem Jordan missed his second straight game with a knee injury. ... The Bears were without TE Desmond Clark (neck) and S Kevin Payne (back).