PHILADELPHIA (AP) — With one quarter remaining, Eagles players on the field and sideline already were dancing.
A bit later, after their stunning and resounding 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings earned them the NFC championship, they listened as nearly 70,000 made the Linc shake with “Fly Eagles Fly.”
Hey Philly, you’re in the Super Bowl.
“It was electric. The fans are awesome,” All-Pro tackle Lane Johnson said.
“We’re going there to prove we belong,” added Brandon Graham of the meeting with the AFC champion Patriots in two weeks.
And maybe it’s time for everyone to put aside Carson Wentz’s injury. Nick Foles might be good enough to win the Eagles their first NFL title since 1960.
Foles was on fire Sunday night against the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. Next up after their most-lopsided playoff victory: the Eagles’ first Super Bowl appearance since 2005, against the team that beat them then.
Foles replaced the injured Wentz in Game 13 and finished off a rise from last place last season to first in the NFC East. There were plenty of doubters entering the playoffs, but the former starter in Philadelphia (15-3) under another regime has been brilliant.
“I just think you’ve got to keep going at it,” Foles said. “And we all believe in each other. I’m blessed to have amazing teammates, amazing coaches. Everyone here that’s a part of the Philadelphia Eagles organization is first class.”
Foles’ best work might have come against Minnesota (14-4) and its vaunted defense that was torn apart in every manner. Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise, escapability and moxie in going 26 for 33.
“I’m so happy for Nick and the offense,” said coach Doug Pederson, “and for Nick, everything he’s been through and battled, he stayed the course and we all believed in him.”
Foles was helped greatly by the Eagles’ domination on defense and a spectacular weaving 50-yard interception return TD by Patrick Robinson. Philadelphia ruined the Vikings’ hopes of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium.
Instead, the Eagles will seek their first Super Bowl crown in Minnesota on Feb. 4; their last championship came in 1960.
“I’m so proud of our players,” team owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “The resilience this group of men has is unequaled.”
OVER AT HALFTIME: Minnesota made it look easy at the outset, driving 75 yards on nine plays, each of which gained yardage. The payoff was a 25-yard throw from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph well behind linebacker Najee Goode as Philadelphia’s defense looked confused on the play.
That didn’t happen again for Philly.
Defensive end Chris Long had a huge hand in Robinson’s 50-yard interception return. Long burst in from the left side and got his arm on Keenum to disrupt the throw for Adam Thielen. The ball went directly to Robinson, who sped down the left side, then made a sharp cut to the right and got a superb block from Ronald Darby to reach the end zone.
Inspired, Philly’s D forced a three-and-out, the Foles led the Eagles on a 12-play, 75-yard masterpiece of a drive. LeGarrette Blount showed all his power and escapability on an 11-yard surge up the middle for a 14-7 lead.
Turnovers, something Minnesota rarely committed with an NFC-low 14 during the season, hurt again and not only ended a solid drive, but set up more Philly points. On third down from the Eagles 15, Keenum was blindsided by rookie Derek Barnett, and the ball bounced directly to Long.
It was only the second strip-sack the Vikings have been victimized by all season.
A blown coverage — another rarity for Minnesota — on third-and-10 allowed Alshon Jeffery to get wide open for a 53-yard TD, and Philadelphia tacked on Jake Elliott’s 38-yard field goal to make it 24-3 at halftime.
“Credit to Philadelphia, they got after us pretty good tonight and we didn’t do enough good things,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
“I’m still proud of my football team with the way they worked all year. The way they went about their business. The way they competed all year and tonight we didn’t get it done.”
BACK TO THE BIG GAME: Long won the Super Bowl last year with the Patriots, as did Blount. Now they return on the other side.
QUICK DRIVE: Philadelphia got the ball with 29 seconds remaining in the first half at its 20. Foles hit passes of 11 yards to Jay Ajayi, 36 to Zach Ertz and 13 to Ajayi before Elliott’s field goal to end the half.
THIRD DOWNS: Minnesota was the league’s best team defending third downs and was third in converting them. Yet Philadelphia went 10 for 14.
Jeffery caught TD passes of 53 and 5 yards and had five receptions for 85 yards. Ertz was free seemingly all night and finished with eight catches for 93 yards. Torrey Smith had a 41-yard TD catch against double coverage in the third period.
Keenum finished 28 of 48 for 271 yards, with two picks, a lost fumble and the TD throw to Rudolph. The Vikings’ previously staunch defense yielded 456 yards.
Philadelphia can look forward to facing New England in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4. The Patriots are a 5- to 6-point favorite.
Minnesota returns home to watch two other teams play at its stadium for the Lombardi Trophy.
“We would’ve loved to play in the Super Bowl if it was in China,” Zimmer said.
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