The Minnesota Vikings entered Philadelphia with the NFL’s most feared defense, an effective enough offense and hopes of being the first team to play a Super Bowl in its stadium.
Those hopes were dashed, really by the end of the first half, during Sunday’s 38-7 NFC championship game loss to the Eagles at a rocking Lincoln Financial Field.
So it will be the Eagles who will head to Minnesota for the Super Bowl against the defending champion New England Patriots on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.
The Vikings head home, undoubtedly in disbelief that they were so thoroughly dominated.
“It is obviously frustrating to get whupped like that in a game like this,” said Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen, who had three receptions for 28 yards.
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) January 22, 2018
This is a Minnesota team that led the NFL in the regular season in scoring defense, allowing 15.8 points per game.
“A lot of credit to them, they are a really good football team well coached, they have a lot of players and they obviously had our number,” Thielen said.
It was easily the worst defeat this season for the Vikings, who were 13-3 in the regular season.
Eric Kendricks, the brother of Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks, felt the raw emotion of the loss and at least immediately, couldn’t express joy for his brother.
“I am mad; I am not happy for him,” Eric Kendricks said. “It is crazy we are in this position, all the things we have been through. It’s cool, but I am not happy for him, I wanted to win this game, and they beat us fair and square, but we will see. Right now, I am not happy.”
When Minnesota looks back at the 2017 season, the Vikings won’t have fond memories of the state of Pennsylvania.
Their worst loss coming into this game was a 26-9 defeat in Pittsburgh against the Steelers in Week 2.
“We didn’t play well enough to win, credit to Philadelphia, they got after us pretty good tonight and we didn’t do enough good things,” coach Mike Zimmer said.
This one was much worse than the Steelers game, especially since the Vikings’ vaunted defense line was not a factor for most of the game. The Eagles offensive line, as it has nearly all season, clearly won the battle in the trenches.
Nick Foles was able to complete short, intermediate and long passes against a defense that showed plenty of holes. He threw for 352 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and a 141.4 passer rating. Eagles receivers and tight ends were running open all game.
The Vikings obviously got a false sense of security when they drove 75 yards on nine plays on the opening drive and Case Keenum hit wide-open tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 25-yard touchdown.
After that, the Eagles regrouped and the Vikings never got their footing.
When Patrick Robinson returned a Keenum interception 50 yards for a touchdown to tie the score later in the first quarter, the Eagles never allowed Minnesota to regain any momentum.
The Eagles led, 24-7, at halftime and 31-7 through three quarters. They finished 10-for-14 on third-down conversions.
We turned the ball over [three times], we didn’t get them out on third down and gave up big plays,” Zimmer said.
It was thought that the only way Foles and the Eagles could move the ball on the Vikings defense was to dink and dunk, because the Minnesota defensive line wouldn’t give him much time to throw.
That wasn’t the case.
Foles was sacked just once, for six yards by Danielle Hunter.
Defensive end Everson Griffen, who had 13 sacks in the regular season and was considered the biggest key to the Vikings defense, wasn’t a factor at all.
Keenum, a journeyman before this magical season in Minnesota, reverted to his former self.
The Vikings were in shock, but what about their fans? They were the ones on Sunday morning who performed their “Skol” chant on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. What in the name of Rocky Balboa were they doing?
More important, what were the Vikings doing all game? They were favored, but their ride back to Minnesota will be much more somber than the Eagles’ on their upcoming trip to the North Star State.