Eagles survive slugfest

Eagles fans across the region celebrated their team's 26-14 win over the Vikings in the first round of the NFL playoffs. (Eric Mencher/Staff Photographer)

Little of it was pretty. Much of it was brutal, and brutally tough.  But in the end, the Eagles went on the road and beat the Minnesota Vikings in their NFC wildcard game, 26-14. And now it's on to a divisional playoff game against the New York Giants, next Sunday at the Meadowlands.

Style points were not awarded, not that it mattered. The big play came in the fourth quarter, when Brian Westbrook turned a fairly-innocent looking screen pass into a 71-yard touchdown. Westbrook's day had been their day: pounding their heads against the Vikings' front wall, pounding but not producing for a long time. Quarterback Donovan McNabb turned the ball over twice, on a fumble and an interception. Westbrook's TD was the only offensive touchdown of the game.

The other scores came on four David Akers field goals in the first half, including a 51-yarder, and a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown by Asante Samuel. It was the kind of play that the Eagles envisioned when they signed him: poaching on a terribly-underthrown pass and making the Vikings pay.

The Eagles held a 16-14 lead at halftime and all through the third quarter and into the fourth. It was a really rugged game. The Vikings converted a lot of third downs on offense, and stuck with their running game a lot, and were on the field a lot. But the Eagles' defense, so strong down the stretch, stood tough again in a physical, pounding kind of game.
And now come the Giants, in a division game with enormous stakes, in another game that is likely to be just as physically tough as this one.

In a way, this was perfect preparation for the Meadowlands.