Posted on January 22, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Outside of Philadelphia, there were likely few people not from the Philly area that thought the Eagles had a chance in the NFC Championship Sunday night. Yes, their team’s defense would make life hard for Case Keenum. Surely, the Vikings defense would help Nick Foles remember why he was just a backup when the season started.
But things didn’t quite work out that way.
At first, it looked like it was going to be an easy one for the Vikings. Keenum needed just nine plays to drive the team 75 yards for a touchdown. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon did most of the work in the run game. But Keenum finished off the drive with a beautiful 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
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Minnesota’s defense gave up one first down before forcing the Eagles to punt. Things didn’t go well even then as a fair catch interference penalty gave the Vikings better field position. But it wasn’t long before everything would go downhill for the Vikings.
Six plays later, Keenum is intercepted by Patrick Robinson who weaves in and out of traffic all the way to the end zone.
Minnesota desperately needed to get something done on the next drive; a few first downs if not some points. But the Eagles defense held tough and forced a three and out. However, if the defense could do its job, everything would be okay.
But it couldn’t.
The Vikings defense struggled against the run and had no answer for Foles connecting with his receivers on short to intermediate routes. After working their way down the field with a bunch of six, seven, and eight-yard routes, it was LeGarrette Blount that finished the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown run.
The best chance the Vikings had to get back in the game came late in the second quarter. Keenum had the team in the red zone. But on third and five he was sacked—and he fumbled it. Philadelphia recovered the ball and seven plays later extended their lead to 21-7.
A quick, 29-second drive at the end of the half set Jake Elliot up for a 38-yard field goal attempt and gave the Eagles a 24-7 lead at the half.
While it wasn’t going to be easy, if the Vikings defense could wake up and if Case Keenum could finish off a few drives with points, the Vikings could get back into the game. A 17-point lead is far from insurmountable with two quarters left to play.
But when that deficit became 24-points following Nick Foles connecting with Torrey Smith from 41-yards out for a touchdown, it becomes a lot tougher. It became imperative for the Vikings to score on their next drive, and for a moment, it appeared Adam Thielen did on a fourth and goal play from the seven. But upon review, it was easy to see he had trapped the ball.
So, no points; it was a turnover on downs.
The nail in the coffin came on the next drive. Had the Vikings been able to get a quick stop, there still might have been some hope left—but they didn’t. A 42-yard bomb to Nelson Agholor moved the Eagles into field goal range. A few plays Foles connected with Alshon Jeffrey from five yards out to make the score 38-7, Eagles.
Minnesota’s final drive ended with Keenum throwing a red zone interception with 5:59 left to play. The Vikings defense couldn’t stop the Eagles from running the clock out after that.
Final Score—Philadelphia 38 Minnesota 7.
Having the host team playing in the Super Bowl for the first time would have made for a heck of a story, but it just wasn’t meant to be for the Vikings. Without any run game to speak of (70 total yards on 18 carries), the Vikings had to rely on Keenum. While he didn’t have a bad game, he didn’t have a good one either.
But the league’s best defense looked like amateurs against a backup quarterback.
“Credit to Philadelphia, they got after us pretty good tonight, and we didn’t do enough good things,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said (ESPN).
Foles did have an incredible night completing 26 of 33 pass attempts for 352 yards and three touchdowns. But he also got the help Keenum didn’t from his run game (30 carries for 110 total yards and a touchdown).
While beating the Vikings is an accomplishment worth celebrating, the Eagles better not celebrate for long. They face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in two weeks.