How the Eagles Beat the Vikings in the N.F.C. Championship Game

How the Eagles Beat the Vikings in the N.F.C. Championship Game

The Eagles’ defense, which had been stout all season, proved up to the talk of living up to Foles’ big day, limiting Minnesota to 333 yards while forcing three turnovers.


A.F.C. Championship game: The Patriots come back to beat the Jaguars.


The Vikings scored on their opening drive, undoubtedly allowing fans to dream of the possibility of Minnesota being the first team to play a Super Bowl at home, but a pick-six by Case Keenum on the Vikings’ second offensive possession set the tone for how the game would play out.

Keenum, who has a tenuous hold at best on the starting quarterback position in Minnesota, completed 28 of 48 passes for 271 yards and one touchdown, with much of that yardage coming once the game was well out of hand. He also accounted for all three of his team’s turnovers by way of two interceptions and a fumble on a strip-sack.

Philadelphia has taken great pride in being underdogs in both of their playoff games despite being the top-seeded team in the N.F.C., and they are sure to continue that trend when facing Brady and the Patriots.

Chris Long, who had a fantastic day for Philadelphia’s defense, recovering a fumble and helping force an interception, looked remarkably calm on the stage receiving the N.F.C. championship trophy with his coaches and teammates.“We’re not surprised at all,” he said. “They went up seven early and a lot of teams would have folded their tents. Not us. We don’t panic.”

Here’s how the Eagles beat the Vikings in the N.F.C. Championship game:


Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes in the Eagles’ N.F.C. Championship game victory.

Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Nick Foles show keeps rolling.

Absolutely everything is going Nick Foles’s way. Philadelphia’s backup quarterback has looked like a superstar, and he delivered yet another scoring drive with a 5-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles now lead 38-7, with this game already representing Minnesota’s worst defensive effort of the season.

The latest scoring drive was a thing of beauty, with Foles working his way down the field with a series of quality passes while benefiting greatly from some solid work after the catch by his receivers. It was then a perfect throw to Jeffery which put yet another touchdown on the board.

Foles, who had been remarkably conservative since taking over for Carson Wentz late in the season, has thrown four passes of more than 35 yards in the game and is up to 341 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns against one of the two best secondaries in the N.F.L.

The Vikings will now get the ball back down 31 points with just over 14 minutes left in the game. If they are going to make this a game, they need to score almost immediately.

Vikings have a touchdown taken away by replay.

Adam Thielen pulled down a hugely improbable touchdown reception on a 4th-and-goal play, but after a review showed the ball had hit the ground before the wide receiver secured it, Philadelphia takes over from their own 7-yard line still leading 31-7.

The Vikings’ offense looked considerably better than it had in quite some time, starting the drive with one first down before Case Keenum found Jarius Wright for a fantastic 33-yard gain on the sideline that could potentially have been a touchdown if Wright had not lost his balance.

Jerick McKinnon got Minnesota inside the Philadelphia 10-yard line with an 11-yard reception, but on 3rd-and-goal from the 7-yard line, Keenum missed badly on a pass to a wide-open Thielen, and on fourth down he threw to Thielen again. The ball was tipped at least once, with Thielen falling to the ground before reaching out to pull it into his chest. It was only when the play was shown from the other side of Thielen that it was clear where the ball made contact with the ground before he pulled it back in.


Torrey Smith (82) scored a touchdown in front of Harrison Smith in the third quarter.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Foles airs it out again and the Eagles build a huge lead.

Nick Foles was at it again, launching a 41-yard pass to Torrey Smith, who beat Harrison Smith to the ball and then dove across the goal line into the end zone. Philadelphia now leads 31-7 in what has turned into a blowout. Adding to the Vikings’ woes is Andrew Sendejo, Minnesota’s standout safety, being doubtful for the remainder of the game with a calf injury while Xavier Rhodes, their top cornerback, has been sitting out with a toe injury. Rhodes is probable to return, but if the Vikings’ secondary is not at full-strength, coming back from this huge deficit seems nearly impossible.

Eagles add to their lead at halftime.

At halftime, the N.F.C. Championship game is all Philadelphia, with the underdog Eagles leading 24-7. Nick Foles has looked like a different player than what we had seen in recent weeks — maybe even something resembling his incredible run of success in 2013 — and the Eagles’ defense forced two huge turnovers against the conservative Minnesota offense.

The Vikings allowed 21 consecutive points after starting out the game with a 7-0 lead, and they got the ball back with just 1:09 left in the half. They tried to get something going with a few fairly conservative plays that picked up one first down, but the drive ended with an awkward pass from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph that fell incomplete.

With only 38 seconds left, the Vikings punted the ball away, hoping for better fortune in the second half. But the Eagles took advantage by driving down the field quickly to set up Jake Elliott for a 38-yard field goal attempt that increased their lead to 17 points.

The Eagles will receive the ball to start the second half and are currently outgaining the Vikings 242 to 185 despite trailing in time of possession.

Foles finds Jeffrey for a 53-yard touchdown.

So much for Philadelphia running a conservative offense with Nick Foles. The team’s backup quarterback looked like a starter on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery, which along with the extra point gave Philadelphia a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter.

At the two-minute warning, the Eagles faced a tough 3rd-and-6 at their own 28-yard line. They converted thanks to a great effort from Corey Clement on an 8-yard pass, and then got another first down on an 11-yard pass from Foles to Torrey Smith.

Foles threw a pair of incomplete passes, and then on 3rd-and-10 from his team’s 47-yard line he dropped back, avoided a tight pass-rush, and nearly fell to the ground with effort as he launched the ball 50-plus yards in the air to Jeffery for the huge score.

Eagles’ defense forces another turnover.

The Eagles’ defense forced their second turnover of the game with a strip-sack by Derek Barnett that was recovered by Chris Long.

The teams had traded punts without much offense to show for either drive, but the Vikings got back to basics on a drive that saw them glide down the field with a succession of first downs provided by Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Jerick McKinnon.

But on 3rd-and-5 from the Philadelphia 16-yard line, Case Keenum dropped back to pass and Barnett came up on the blind side and jarred the ball out of Keenum’s throwing hand as the quarterback tried to get set to throw.


LeGarrette Blount scored on a short run in the second quarter.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Eagles put together a balanced scoring drive.

After Nick Foles got the Eagles close, LeGarrette Blount hammered the ball into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown that made the Vikings’ formidable defense look helpless to stop him. Philadelphia now leads by a score of 14-7, having successfully answered Minnesota’s 7-0 start to the game.

On the drive, Foles looked like a different quarterback than the one who struggled at the end of the regular season. He threw aggressively to his receivers, picking up several first down passes with confident throws to Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz.

The progress was slow and steady, but Jay Ajayi and Blount showed that the Eagles’ running game is tough enough to keep Minnesota from keying on Foles, which should dramatically help the former backup quarterback succeed.

Eagles’ defense making life difficult for Keenum.

The Vikings’ first possession resulted in a Minnesota touchdown, and their second gave a touchdown to Philadelphia. On a third try, it was far less dramatic with the team going 5 yards on three plays before punting. The only good news on the drive came in the form of Stefon Diggs making his way back onto the field after leaving briefly with a back injury.


Patrick Robinson returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Pick-six gives Eagles a big boost.

The Eagles tied the game, 7-7, thanks to a pick-six by Patrick Robinson on a bad throw by Case Keenum.

Keenum dropped back on 3rd-and-8 and was under pressure from Chris Long, who made contact with Keenum’s throwing arm on a pass intended for Adam Thielen. Robinson stepped right in front of Thielen, taking the ball away and then he found his way through the crowd for a 50-yard touchdown.

The offensive drive for Minnesota not only resulted in points for the Eagles, but also saw the Vikings lose Stefon Diggs, the hero of the divisional round, to a back injury, at least temporarily. The wide receiver appeared to be ok after taking a knee to the back on an incomplete pass, but he was removed from the game as the team helped him get back to his feet.

Eagles can’t answer Vikings’ opening score.

The Eagles looked aggressive on their first drive of the game, but when they were asked to answer a quick 7-0 deficit, they ended up punting.

Philadelphia started from its own 25-yard line and Nick Foles started off with an 11-yard completion to Nelson Agholor. He went deep to Torrey Smith on the second play of the drive, and very nearly pulled out a huge gain, but Smith couldn’t hang on to the ball.

Foles recovered to get one more completion to Agholor, this one going for 6 yards, but on 3rd-and-4 Trey Burton, who was wide open, could not land inbounds on a ball thrown to him, resulting in the punt.


Kyle Rudolph caught a touchdown pass on the first drive of the game.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Keenum has Vikings looking sharp at the start.

The Vikings did almost anything they wanted on the opening drive of this game. Case Keenum gave his team a 7-0 lead with a beautiful 25-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph that left the Eagles looking flat-footed. Latavius Murry and Jerick McKinnon combined for 27 yards on the ground during the scoring drive, keeping the Eagles from being able to pressure Keenum, and the journeyman quarterback took advantage of that by tearing them apart, completing all three of his passes for 48 yards and the score.

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