The Eagles are going to Super Bowl LII. And there was never really any doubt.
After a season with a lot of ups, and a lot of downs, the offense and defense coalesed into what resembled the best team in the NFL Sunday night, as the Eagles dismantled the favored Vikings 38-7.
Nick Foles looked like a Pro Bowler again. The Eagles defense looked like the best in the entire NFL. And the Linc was louder than a jet taking off down the street at Philadelphia International Airport.
With an insurmountable lead by the time the fourth quarter started, a party broke out at 1 Lincoln Financial Field Way in front of fans desperate for a winner. Here are the three things that lifted the Eagles to an NFC championship — their first since 2004 — and a rematch against the Patriots in Minnesota in two weeks (where, by the eay, they’ll be 5.5 point underdogs):
It was a pair of heroes on defense that lifted the Eagles to a halftime lead. First, an impressive interception by Patrick Robinson was made even more impressive by a ridiclious sideline to sideline return, with the cornerback sprinting to the opposite sideline and finding paydirt after a key block from Ronald Darby. A furious pass-rush and brush to the arm by Chris Long hurried the throw to set up the pick-six.
The second came a quarter later, as the Vikings looked poised to even the score inside the red zone. Derek Barnett bullrushed Keenum — completely untouched — pummeling him and jarring the ball loose. Long recovered it to set up the Eagles’ second touchdown drive. A third turnover, a fourth quarter Keenum pass nearly intercepted by Darby fell into Corey Graham’s hands (again in the red zone) to end the Vikings best scoring chance since the first quarter.
Foles was aggressive early, though it didn’t pay off as two spot-on throws hit the turf with incompletions. But he made up for it a drive later, leading the Eagles on a 75-yard drive (and completing five of six passes) that eventually set up a punishing run to the right side by LeGarrette Blount to give the Eagles their first lead.
Inside the two minute warning and facing one of those dreaded third and longs, Foles escaped collapising pocked to air it out 53-yards to a wide open Alshon Jeffery — dancing into the end zone to put Philly ahead 21-7. With the ball back and under a minute to go in the half after a short defensive stand, a 36-yard bomb to Zach Ertz and 13-yar screen pass to Jay Ajayi gave Philly even more cushion with a 38-yard Jake Elliott field goal.
With a big 17-point halftime lead, one would think conservatism would be a natural instinct for Doug Pederson. But no — a 41-yard dart just over the shoulder of Torrey Smith put the Eagles up 31-7 to open the third quarter. The foot went further down on the gas as a 42-yard pass down the sideline to Nelso Agholor and plays later Jeffery and Foles connected on another touchdown to put things out of reach. He would finish with a mighty impressive 352 yards on 26-for-33 passing and three touchdown passes. His QB rating was 141.4.
Best of the NFC?
The Vikings came out with a breakneck drive to the end zone, marching the entire field and seemingly moving the ball at will. A 22-yard rainbow toss to Kyle Rudolph put Minnesota on top early and grab the momentum right out of the gate. Paired with a forced punt on the Eagles first drive, it took the Robinson touchdown to get the Eagles awake.
Not to be silenced, Keenum led the Vikings all the way down to the eight-yardline, where a near Adam Thielen touchdown reception hit the ground and was reversed. A turnover on downs gave the Eagles the ball back where they proceeded to march their running game down the field (with a few passes mixed in).
In all, the Eagles outgained the Vikings 459-to-333, with most of Minnesota’s yardage coming with the game’s result in hand.