Long-suffering Philadelphia fans would never be so foolish to think a trip to the Super Bowl was a lock, even though their Eagles have been clearly the best team in the NFC this...

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PHILADELPHIA — Long-suffering Philadelphia fans would never be so foolish to think a trip to the Super Bowl was a lock, even though their Eagles have been clearly the best team in the NFC this season.

“Something could still happen,” is a dreaded, but not uncommon, thought among loyalists. Something did happen.

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Standout receiver Terrell Owens will miss the final two games of the regular season, the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl because of a sprained right ankle.

Yesterday’s news is a serious blow to a franchise that has lost three consecutive NFC title games.

“I was looking forward to the playoffs, really trying to get this team to the Super Bowl,” Owens said. “I think without me, still, they achieve that goal.

“There’s no reason for the city of Philadelphia to get down because I’m not there. Obviously, my presence will be missed, but we have the guys to get it done.”

Perhaps, but it is going to be harder for the Eagles (13-1) without Owens. The NFC East champions are left without their biggest offensive threat and their most animated player.

Owens will have surgery tomorrow.

Head trainer Rick Burkholder said T.O. has an outside shot at being able to play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6, if Philadelphia makes it that far.

“I’m going to be their biggest cheerleader,” Owens said.

Owens, who has 77 catches for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns, also has a fracture a few inches below his knee. But Burkholder didn’t rule out the chance Owens would be able to run in five weeks — the weekend of the NFC Championship Game.

“The scenario I painted is the best-case scenario, but it is realistic,” Burkholder said. “There’s a lot of hurdles that have to be taken on before he can ever get to that point.”

Of Owens, Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said, “He’s a great player, but can the offense go on? Absolutely. We have some pretty good players on this offensive unit, so it’ll still function and do very well this week.”

But without Owens, the Eagles will be left with basically the same lackluster receiving corps that disappeared when needed in previous title games. Freddie Mitchell or Greg Lewis could join Todd Pinkston as the other starting wideout. Those three have a combined 60 catches for 1,073 yards.

“Freddie’s going to get his chances to make plays,” Owens said. “There shouldn’t be any more excuses as to why he’s not getting the ball. Now he gets his chance.”

Pinkston has an injured knee. Reid said Philadelphia will activate wide receiver Billy McMullen.

Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, now without his No. 1 target, said the team would survive.

“I feel for Terrell,” McNabb said. “He’s worked hard, we’ve all worked hard, to try and bring a championship to Philadelphia. I know he will do everything he possibly can to get better and be a part of what we want to accomplish. In any event, we have to move forward.”

Owens was hurt in the third quarter of Philadelphia’s 12-7 win over Dallas on Sunday when he was dragged down from behind by Roy Williams on a 20-yard reception.

Tests revealed a sprained deltoid ligament. A screw will be implanted to stabilize and strengthen Owens’ ankle joint.

Injury report
Player, Team Injury Status
WR Terrell Owens, Eagles Ankle Out for season
RB Chris Brown, Titans Foot Out for season
WR Robert Ferguson, Packers Concussion Doubtful
QB Carson Palmer, Bengals Knee Questionable
TE Alge Crumpler, Falcons Knee Questionable
RB Willis McGahee, Bills Knee Questionable