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Owens much more than decoy

Eagles receiver doesn't score but is effective in return

By Charles Chandler

Knight Ridder Newspapers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As promised, Terrell Owens played in Super Bowl XXXIX, not as a decoy but up to his regular All-Pro level.

Starting and playing against the advice of his surgeon, Dr. Mark Myerson, Owens, a Philadelphia receiver, caught a 7-yard pass on the second play from scrimmage and finished with nine receptions for 122 yards in the Eagles' 24-21 loss to New England.

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"My message to a lot of people who are watching is the reason I came back to play this game is because God is good, God is great," Owens said. "He allowed me to come back and play this game when nobody in the world gave me a chance. He put me on the biggest platform ever, but it just didn't work out (for us to win).

"The power of prayer and the power of faith carried me all the way."

Nothing was more scrutinized or hyped leading up to the game than whether or not "T.O." would -- or should -- play 61⁄2; weeks after undergoing ankle surgery that usually takes eight to 10 weeks to rehabilitate.

Owens suffered an ankle fracture with ligament damage in a Dec.19 game against Dallas. During the surgery, Myerson placed two screws in the ankle.

In the week leading up to the game, many medical experts from around the country sided with Myerson and suggested that Owens could be risking a career-threatening injury by playing.

But if Owens was bothered by his ankle, it was hardly noticeable. He ran strong on a 36-yard catch in the fourth quarter and a 30-yarder in the first quarter. He was quarterback Donovan McNabb's go-to receiver in the final minutes as the Eagles were trying to make a comeback.

Owens played so well he affected the game even when he wasn't the designated receiver. It was obvious that New England's defense had to account for the threat he posed, especially when McNabb hit running back Brian Westbrook for a 10-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

"That's incredible for him to come back as early as he did and to play at the high level he did," said New England cornerback Asante Samuel, who covered Owens. "I didn't think he was going to be as effective as he was. I didn't think he was going to be able to come back and help his team like that."

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Despite not getting medical clearance, Owens never wavered in his intent to play last week, a position he said Sunday was misinterpreted.

"The media made it a situation where they thought I was grandstanding," Owens said.

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