Matt DiSanto, Staff Writer
The Philadelphia Eagles are headed to the Super Bowl. Yes, you read that right. The team that no one besides the 53 men on the roster believed in is heading to Minneapolis with a Lombardi trophy on the line, determined more than ever to put themselves in the record books.
The Eagles wouldn’t have been able to advance to Minneapolis without dealing with the team responsible for the so-called “Minneapolis Miracle”: The Minnesota Vikings. The Birds knew it would be a challenge to face off against a defense that ranks first in the league in points allowed and second against both rushing and passing.
Thank goodness they had time to prepare.
The Eagles completely shredded the Vikings’ formidable defense, scoring a whopping 38 unanswered points following Minnesota’s lone touchdown on their opening drive. Backup quarterback Nick Foles played an out-of-his-mind game, completing 26 of 33 pass attempts while tallying up a whopping 352 yards and three TDs. His MVP-caliber game also came with a 141.4 passer rating. The Vikings only allowed eight plays of more than 30 yards throughout the entire season, and three of them came against the Eagles.
I can’t understate how well Foles played when it mattered most. He was confident in the pocket and never backed away from any pressure, throwing flea-flickers on first down and looking downfield when opportunities presented themselves. Looking for a list of quarterbacks who have completed 75% of their passes in back-to-back playoff games in NFL history? Joe Montana and Nick Foles. No Eagles quarterback has ever done that in back-to-back games in the regular season, let alone the playoffs.
This game wasn’t won solely by Foles. Cornerback Patrick Robinson brought the momentum back to the Eagles’ side when he returned an interception to the endzone for a 50-yard pick six. Following his play, the Birds would go on to score another 31 unanswered points in a stunning turn of events.
Running back LeGarrette Blount added an 11-yard rushing TD, breaking the tackles of several defenders on his way to the endzone (something he does very often!). Along with a field goal from Jake Elliott, Nick Foles followed that drive with a smooth 53-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery just before the first half expired, bringing the Eagles’ score to 24-7 before halftime.
The Eagles were in a fantastic rhythm entering the second half. Foles got things started with a perfectly executed flea-flicker pass to Torrey Smith for a 41-yard touchdown, redeeming himself for dropping another perfect pass on their first drive. They followed that up with another touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery in the back of the endzone to eventually put themselves up 38-7, which would be the final score of the game.
Philadelphia’s offensive balance is stunning. Zach Ertz finished with eight catches for 93 yards, Alshon Jeffery caught five passes for 85 yards and two TDs, Torrey Smith tallied five catches for 69 yards, and Nelson Agholor wrapped up with three catches for 59 yards. Running back Jay Ajayi totaled almost 100 total yards in both rushing and receiving, exemplifying how productive the former Dolphin can be. The Eagles’ offensive balance is one of many keys to their success.
Head coach Doug Pederson is another big reason the team has been so successful. While he hasn’t even been an NFL coach for 24 months, his play-calling was aggressive and balanced, which allowed the Eagles to build a lead and stand their ground. He wasn’t afraid to execute big plays on third down, as the Eagles ended up converting ten out of fourteen in the game. Previously, the Vikings defense had been one of the best in the league on third down, allowing teams to convert only 25.4% of the time.
Philadelphia hasn’t won the Super Bowl yet, but the fans are already celebrating. Thousands of happy fans poured out from Lincoln Financial Field to completely take over Broad and Walnut well into the night, climbing up Crisco-covered light poles and riding dune buggies up the Art Museum’s steps (yeah, you read that right).
The Eagles completely dominated the Vikings throughout all sixty minutes of regulation. Hopefully this newfound sense of confidence will allow them to head to Minneapolis with enough swagger to defeat the Patriots.
Look, I know that when people hear that the Birds are playing the Pats, everybody is suddenly afraid. “How on Earth could we beat THEM?”, some say. While some refuse to acknowledge them, the Patriots certainly have flaws, some of which would allow a team to beat them.
First and foremost, the Patriots are not a team that wins with a massive lead. In fact, they’ve only outscored opponents 169-157 in the Super Bowl. Their average win in the Super Bowl has only been by 3.8 points. They’re a dangerous team because they know how to finish and close out a game, which is their x-factor in the postseason. New England has also had a shaky history running the ball, and will likely have an even tougher time against the Eagles’ number-one rushing defense.
Even Tom Brady, who might as well have a statue in Canton already, has had flaws in the Super Bowl. Brady only has one completion of more than 35 yards in his seven trips to the Super Bowl. The Eagles’ defense has a much better chance of being successful if they can limit New England to a game-plan full of lots of low-yardage completions.
So long as the Birds can pressure the quarterback, control the run game, and prevent big plays on defense, they can certainly give the Patriots quite a fight. Nick Foles and the Eagles seem more confident and capable than ever, and I certainly believe that they can deliver in the biggest game of their lives.
Super Bowl LII will air at 6:30pm on NBC, and before you know it, the Eagles could soon be Super Bowl champions.