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4th and 26
1 2 3 4 OT Total
GB 14 0 0 3 0 17
PHI 0 7 0 10 3 20
Date January 11, 2004
Stadium Lincoln Financial Field
Location South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Network Fox
Announcers Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth

4th and 26 (for fourth down and 26 yards to go) is the nickname given to a famous play that occurred during the 2003-04 playoffs of the National Football League. It is sometimes also referred to as "The Miracle at 4th and 26" or "4th and forever." The play occurred on January 11, 2004 at Lincoln Financial Field during the fourth quarter of a divisional playoff game between the visiting Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles.

The NFC East champion and top-seeded Eagles were coming off an opening round bye while the fourth-seeded, NFC North champion Packers were the visiting team, coming off an overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Contents

The Game

Midway through the first quarter, Packers linebacker Nick Barnett recovered a fumble from quarterback Donovan McNabb on the Eagles 40-yard line, and Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Robert Ferguson on the next play. James Thrash returned the ensuing kickoff 36 yards to the 44-yard line. Then McNabb made up for his mistake with a 41-yard run to the Packers 15. But the drive stalled at the 14-yard line and ended with no points when Akers missed a 30-yard field goal attempt. After the missed field goal, Ahman Green rushed three times for 31 yards before Favre threw his second touchdown pass to Ferguson, giving the Packers a 14–0 lead with 1:16 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, McNabb led the Eagles on a scoring drive, completing five consecutive passes for 77 yards, including a 45-yard pass to Todd Pinkston. On the last play, his 7-yard touchdown pass to Duce Staley cut the deficit to 14–7. Green Bay took the kickoff and drove 67 yards to the Eagles 1-yard line, featuring a 33-yard run by Green, but on fourth down, Green was stuffed by DE Jerome McDougle and LB Mark Simoneau for no gain. The Packers turned the ball over on downs.

Late in the third quarter, the Eagles drove 88 yards in 8 plays to tie the game, despite two 10-yard penalties against them on the drive. McNabb was responsible for all of the yards on the drive, rushing for 37 yards and completing four passes for 72, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Pinkston that tied the game at 14 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Later on, Antonio Chatman's 10-yard punt return gave the Packers great field position on their own 49-yard line. On the next play, Favre threw a 44-yard completion to Javon Walker. Philadelphia's defense kept Green Bay out of the end zone, but Ryan Longwell kicked a 21-yard field goal to give them a 17–14 lead.

The Play

The drive started with a 22-yard run by Duce Staley, but on the next play, McNabb threw for an incompletion. Subsequently, on second down the Eagles were penalized 5 yards for a false start. On the ensuing play, a sack pushed the Eagles back to their own 25 yard line, and on third down McNabb threw another incompletion. The Eagles, faced with a fourth down and 26 yards, needed to convert for a first down, with only 1:12 remaining and no timeouts available.

On fourth down, the play (74 Double Go) called for a 25-yard slant route for wide receiver Freddie Mitchell. Donovan McNabb threw a perfect strike to Mitchell deep into the Packers' secondary. The Packers' coverage, a Cover 2 package, broke down. Linebacker Nick Barnett, who was responsible for shallow coverage of Mitchell, decided to bite on the tight end. Inexplicably, Darren Sharper, who was partially responsible for deep coverage of Mitchell, played past the first down marker positioning himself for an interception rather than preventing any catch in front of the marker. The only player that was close to making a play, Packers' safety Bhawoh Jue, was playing the sidelines as is customary in Cover 2 defense and was too late to prevent a catch or first down. Mitchell completed a leaping reception and was brought down at the Packers 46, giving the Eagles a first down. [1]

The play set up David Akers' 37-yard field goal attempt after McNabb ran for another first down. The field goal was good, and the game went into overtime, where Eagles star safety Brian Dawkins was able to intercept a Packers pass and return it 35 yards, setting up another Akers field goal try. The 31-yard kick was good, giving the Eagles a dramatic 20-17 victory in sudden death overtime. The play helped send the Eagles to their third straight NFC Championship Game.

Limited edition T-shirts were made immediately following the game, with "FOURTH AND 26" emblazoned on the front and "BELIEVE" printed on the back.[2] However, the Eagles went on to lose the NFC Championship game to the Carolina Panthers, 14-3. This was the Eagles' third consecutive NFC Championship loss and the second consecutive NFC Championship loss at home.

References

External links

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