NFC Championship Recap

Minnesota Vikings 7
Philadelphia Eagles 38

Sunday, January 21 st , 6:15 PM EST.

I’ve mentioned that the Eagles played a soft schedule this season, probably the softest among the NFC playoff teams. The Vikings were a strong two-seed, also winning thirteen games, but losing home field advantage on tie-breakers. I haven’t been shy about saying that Minnesota was the best team in the NFC, even before Carson Wentz went down. But on the road, in the cold, against an Eagles team that was a home underdog for the second consecutive week, the Vikings shrank from the challenge.

I can’t say for certain if it was Case Keenum losing his edge in the cold, or Adam Thielen’s back limiting his effectiveness, but in any case, there would be no Minnesota Miracle this week. No matter the reason, Philadelphia’s defense took away Case Keenum’s favorite target in Thielen, holding him to three catches for twenty-eight yards. If his back was hindering him, I would have expected the Vikings to have adjusted, but Keenum was held to one touchdown and two interceptions, and under three hundred yards in all, despite playing catchup from the second quarter on. The game started well enough for Minnesota, with a four-minute drive that ended in the end zone, but it would be the only highlight of the Vikings day. Nothing seemed to click after Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson’s first quarter pick six tied the game later in the first quarter.

After that, the wheels came off the wagon and the rout was on. The Eaqles scored thirty-eight unanswered points, including Robinson’s fifty-yard effort, and there was nothing the Viking defense could do to stop the bleeding. Nick Foles looked like the 2013 Pro Bowler, not the guy who’s struggled for two other teams since then. Jay Ajayi and LaGarrette Blount did what they do, powering through the normally stout Vikings front, but this day it was Nick Foles who would carry the Eagles, throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Week by week, Foles’ increased familiarity with this version of the Eagles offense has made him more confident and dangerous. As I’ve mentioned previously, this is an Eagles team that makes quarterbacks better, not the other way around. Foles is simply stepping up and doing exactly what he should. It didn’t hurt that the Eagles offensive line manhandled the front four of the Vikings all day, giving Foles plenty of time and space to operate. Nick Foles is simply a different quarterback when he isn’t under pressure, and the Vikings just couldn’t do enough to make him uncomfortable.

Sometimes, home field advantage means much more than having the faithful in the stands. Crowd noise, pressure on the refs and familiarity with the field are all important, but sometimes, sleeping in your own bed can be the best preparation. The Eagles prepared perfectly.

Image source: twitter.com/eagles

Tom Capo

 

Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.

 

 

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