Notes, Observations and Storylines: The Eagles are Going to the Super Bowl

The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia by the final score of 38-7. In a game where many thought that it would be a low scoring battle between two of the NFL’s top defenses, the Eagles exploded and just blew out the Vikings. Nick Foles played arguably the best game of his career and, after a slow start, the defense played like one of the best in the league.

1. Nick Foles shocked the NFL with a perfect performance against the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings were ranked number one in overall yards allowed per game (275.9 yards) and second in passing yards allowed per game (192.4 yards) in the regular season. The Philadelphia Eagles, and Nick Foles specifically, decided to write their own story on Sunday night. Foles completed 26 of 33 passes (78.7 percent completion percentage) for 352 yards and three touchdowns. He, for the second straight week, played turnover-free football on his way to leading the Eagles to playoff wins. On Sunday night, Foles showed something that he hadn’t showed before, functional mobility. On his 53-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery, Foles first had to fight through a crumbling pocket to step up and make that excellent throw to hit Jeffery in stride. He had a 141.4 quarterback rating, which just emphasizes how perfect his performance on Sunday night was. What Foles did against the best defense in the league was shocking.

2. Doug Pederson puts another feather in his cap with this outstanding game plan

Doug Pederson, where to get started with Doug Pederson. Pederson, the guy that made everyone scratch their head when he was hired to be the Eagles head coach just two short years ago, has led the Eagles to the Super Bowl in his second season. The man that everyone doubted just keeps adding stellar coaching performances and fantastic game plans to his cap this season.

In the Eagles win over the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, the game plan was run heavy and was oriented around protecting Nick Foles. There were a lot of run-pass options (RPOs) and short, quick passes. Many people, both fans and experts alike, thought that the game plan would be similar heading into the NFC Championship bout with the Vikings. However, Pederson unleashed Foles and the offense on an unsuspecting Vikings defense. The air attack by Philadelphia slashed big play after big play against a Vikings defense that built their game plan around stopping the run and not the pass. The Eagles, while strongly utilizing their passing game, still ran the ball enough times (30 for 110 yards and a touchdown) to keep Minnesota having to defend the run.

The execution of the game plan by Pederson showcased itself no more perfectly than on third down.

3. The Eagles executed at an extremely high rate on third downs

The Minnesota Vikings defense allowed a historically low third down conversion percentage of 25 percent during the regular season. The Philadelphia Eagles came in with a perfect game plan and executed it brilliantly, specifically on third downs. The Eagles successfully converted 10 of their 14 third downs (71.4 percent), and most of that was due to Foles’ hot hand and some great play calls coming in by Doug Pederson. Converting on third down allowed Philadelphia to control the ball, win the time of possession battle, and tire out the Minnesota defense.

4. The Eagles won the battle of two top defenses, proving that they should be the NFL’s top defense

The Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles were two of the NFL’s best defenses this season. It was exciting to see these two defenses match up. The Eagles won the battle, to say the least, in convincing fashion. Philadelphia gave up 333 yards to the Vikings, but they only gave up 7 points and forced three turnovers. The pick six by Patrick Robinson was the play that turned the game around (more on that later), and Derek Barnett getting the strip sack on Case Keenum showed the depth that the Eagles talented front has. With the Eagles win over the Vikings getting them into the Super Bowl, the defense is going to have its toughest test yet when they face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

5. Pressure applied on Case Keenum spearheaded the great performance by the Eagles defense

Everyone knew heading into the game that the key to stopping Case Keenum and the Minnesota passing game was to apply pressure right up in his face. The Eagles were the team that was built to do just that, with a talented and deep defensive front that excels at getting to the quarterback. Philadelphia sacked Keenum only once (but that sack was critical, it was a strip sack by rookie defensive end Derek Barnett late in the second quarter) but they hit him eight times. Chris Long, Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry all tallied multiple quarterback hits. The pressure applied on Keenum led to same errant throws later in the game as well as two turnovers (the previously mentioned strip sack by Derek Barnett and an interception that was caused by Chris Long hitting Keenum as he was letting go of the football) that proved key plays in the game.

6. Turning point of the game: Patrick Robinson’s pick six in the first quarter

The Minnesota Vikings came into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night as the favorites over the home team Philadelphia Eagles. The momentum turned completely to Minnesota after they easily drove down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, and followed that up with a defensive stop. However, everything changed with 6:26 on the clock in the first quarter. Chris Long rushed around the edge and hit Keenum’s arm as he was throwing, causing the ball to not get much distance and fall into the arms of Patrick Robinson. Robinson proceeded to pull off a spectacular 50-yard return for a touchdown, including crossing to the other side of the field and getting a huge block by Ronald Darby that just freed up Robinson to get into the end zone. This play electrified the crowd and tied the game at 7. Everything from here on out went in the Eagles direction, and the Eagles were able to win the game 38-7 to advance to the Super Bowl.

7. The Philadelphia passing attack utilized the entirety of the receiving and tight end corps

Nick Foles shocked the world with his amazing performance against the elite Vikings defense. He did it by spreading the ball around to everyone in the offense. Seven different players totaled a catch or more. Tight end Zach Ertz led the way with eight catches for 93 yards, followed closely by Alshon Jeffery (five catches, 85 yards, two touchdowns) and Torrey Smith (five catches, 69 yards, one touchdown). Smith, after dropping a deep pass on the team’s first drive of the game, redeemed himself by making a big catch on a flea flicker for a 41-yard touchdown that sealed the game.

8. The Eagles offensive line did a fantastic job of protecting Nick Foles

The Eagles offensive line needed to protect Nick Foles against a potent Minnesota pass rush. Everson Griffin was fourth in the NFL in sacks with 13.0, and the Eagles did an excellent job of keeping him away from Foles. Philadelphia held Griffin to only two tackles and no sacks. Foles was sacked only once and hit six times in the Eagles blowout win over the Vikings.

What’s Next?

The Philadelphia Eagles, with their blowout win over the Vikings, cemented themselves a spot in Super Bowl LII. They will be taking on the New England Patriots in a game that pits the underdog (the Patriots are currently 5.5 point favorites) against the dynasty. The Eagles will be playing in just their third Super Bowl on February 4 at 6:30 p.m. on NBC.

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