Of the three ways the NFC championship game could have played out it was the least likely option that came to pass. My thoughts on this game were that the Vikings were either going to blow the Eagles away, if they started fast, or it was going to be a tight game with the winner not being known until very late in the game. The fact that the Eagles were able to so thoroughly dominate the Vikings in the fashion they did was extremely impressive and sets up a fascinating Superbowl.
In fact the Vikings did start fast; they marched down the field with an impressive drive and went up 7-0. Then their defence held the Eagles to just one first down to get the ball back. At this point it really looked like the Eagles might be the ones blown away because 14-0 was going to be tough for the Nick Foles-led Eagles to overcome. Fortunately for the Eagles Case Keenum threw an interception at the 50 yard line which Patrick Robinson returned for a touchdown.
At this point I was thinking it might settle down and we would see the ball control game everyone predicted. The Vikings didn’t do anything with their next possession and then the Eagles came to life on offence. For the next 50 minutes of football they barely put a foot wrong. The Vikings defence was suddenly made to look dreadful by some great play design and some well coached QB play.
Foles was calm in the pocket, was able to execute on short passes as well as being able to push the ball down the field. If you didn’t know better you might have thought it was Carson Wentz on the field. I said a few weeks back that the timing of Foles injury meant the Eagles had a handful of games in the regular season to get him ready and that seems to exactly what we they have done. Suddenly an offence that looked completely toast those last three weeks is able to function efficiently using a power run game and a QB who looks in command.
On the other hand the Vikings offence couldn’t get anything going. The run game wasn’t there and with Thielen well below 100% their 50/50 passes didn’t have the same impact. The numbers aren’t terrible in terms of sacks, one, and interceptions, two. Unfortunately that sack led to a fumble at an extremely critical moment. Down 14-7 and at the Philly 16 yard line it looked like the Vikings might tie things up with just a few minutes left in the first half. Derek Barnett had other ideas and he knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hands for Chris Long to recover. Seven plays later Foles hit Alshon Jeffrey for a 53 yard score and a 14-point lead.
Whilst the Vikings run game could only manage 70 yards rushing in total across four guys Jay Ajayi managed to beat that by three yards on his own. It was Blount, with his 21yard performance, who got the touchdown moment but Ajayi was the real under rated hero in this game. Without his power running the Eagles offence never runs this smoothly and if he can operate like that again in two weeks’ time then they are going to be a very hard team to stop.
I want to just end on Foles because he should get the plaudits from this game. The whole of the Eagles team and staff did a great job but Foles was the man who had to go out and execute. He did just that and he did it with great precision. His final stat line was 26 of 33 with 352 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and just one sack. If he can return that stat line in Minnesota in two weeks then we could be looking at a true rags to riches story capped off with a potential Superbowl MVPs no one could have seen coming as little as a 10 days ago.