Minnesota Vikings fans were on the highest of emotional highs after the “Minneapolis Miracle.”
After Stefon Diggs’ improbable touchdown, we were all thinking, “Did that really just happen?” Yes, it did. And it put the Vikings one win away from playing a virtual home game for Super Bowl LII.
As Vikings fans went to bed Sunday night, again we were thinking, “Did that just really happen?” With the NFC title on the line and a Super Bowl appearance at stake, the Vikings looked like they missed the flight to Philadelphia after the first drive.
The Eagles weren’t fooled by anything on either side of the ball and scored 38 straight points for the victory. The Vikings put on an embarrassing display of football and looked unprepared on the national stage. Here are four takeaways from the game.
Case Keenum’s Interception
Case Keenum couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start on the Vikings’ opening drive. The Vikings ran the ball successfully, got first downs and Keenum found Kyle Rudolph for a 25-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
Then, everything changed. They forced a Philadelphia punt, and another score would’ve put the Eagles on their heels and taken the fans out of the game. Instead, Keenum’s arm got hit as he was trying to find Adam Thielen, it was intercepted by Patrick Robinson and returned for a touchdown. Tie game, momentum shifted. The Vikings never recovered, in any phase of the game.
A Complete Defensive No-Show
The Vikings had the NFL’s No. 1 defense entering the NFC Championship Game. They were allowing a little more than 15 points per game, and about 275 yards in total offense. There were no indications that a complete no-show and meltdown like the one that took place Sunday night was coming. There were missed tackles all over the field. There was little to no pressure on Nick Foles.
Harrison Smith, one of the best safeties in the NFL, looked lost and got beat on two touchdowns. Anthony Barr might as well have been on a milk carton. The Eagles executed their game plan to perfection, scoring 38 unanswered points. Nick Foles was a perfect 11-for-11 passing with two touchdowns in the second half, one on a flea-flicker. He threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns. He was virtually perfect.
There was one play that summed up the night, and it wasn’t even a Foles pass. LeGarrette Blount ran in from 11 yards out to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead, and did so by running over and completely destroying Vikings’ safety Andrew Sendejo. It was without question the Vikings’ worst defensive performance of the year, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. To make matters worse, players in the locker room after the game had no explanation for it.
Vikings Go Away From Run Game
The Vikings’ offensive game plan was fairly baffling after the first drive. They ran the ball successfully on the way to their first and only touchdown. For whatever reason, they went away from it for a good chunk of the rest of the first half. Jerick McKinnon finished with 10 carries for 40 yards. Latavius Murray finished with just six carries for 18 yards.
Getting behind didn’t help matters, nor did the offensive line struggling to contain the Eagles defense. But as an offense, you have to stick to what you’re good at and hope your defense can keep you in the game.
Eagles Not Fooled By Anything
The Eagles came into Sunday’s game with the No. 4-ranked defense in the NFL, and they might have smelled blood coming from the fans fighting each other in the tailgate lots before the game. They made every big play after the Vikings’ opening score, got the momentum on their side with an interception for a touchdown and got a strip sack of Keenum when the Vikings were threatening to score before the end of the first half.
The Eagles were ready for anything the Vikings were going to throw at them, and most disappointing, the Vikings looked like they had not prepared for anything the Eagles were doing on offense. How a team can go into a game with everything on the line, a virtual home game for the Super Bowl and put up that kind of display is mind-boggling.
But oh well, there’s always next year.