Eagles score high grades in NFC Championship Game

Eagles score high grades in NFC Championship Game

Grading the Eagles' 38-7 win Sunday night over the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field to advance to Super Bowl LII (see breakdown):

QUARTERBACK
Nick Foles: 26/33, 352 YDS, 3 TD

From the Eagles' opening snap, Foles looked sharp, picking up right where he left off last week. Yet, even the way he was slinging the football on those first few possessions, I doubt anybody envisioned this performance coming. Foles completed 78.8 percent of his passes, averaged 10.8 yards per attempt and connected on touchdown passes of 53, 41 and five yards — against the No. 1 defense in the NFL. He moved well in the pocket but stood tough when called upon to do so. Most importantly, no turnovers and just one sack. This was the finest moment of Foles' career, which is truly saying something for a guy who set multiple franchise and NFL records in 2013.

Grade: A+

RUNNING BACK
Jay Ajayi: 18 ATT, 73 YDS, 3 REC, 26 YDS

Though Ajayi got the bulk of the word, LeGarrette Blount had the play of the game. Blount would not be denied on his 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter, barreling over and through Vikings defenders on his way across the goal line. It was exactly the kind of hardnosed postseason mudding the Eagles envisioned when they signed the two-time Super Bowl champion, even if he only finished with 21 yards on six carries. Ajayi was having a mediocre game, but picked it up on the Eagles' final possession and did his part to help put Minnesota on ice.

Grade: A-

WIDE RECEIVERS
Alshon Jeffery: 5 REC, 85 YDS, 2 TD

Torrey Smith was seen apologizing to Foles after dropping what should've been a 50-yard pass on the Eagles' second play from scrimmage. Smith did a bit better than "I'm sorry" in the third quarter, making a tough 41-yard grab at the pylon to complete a 41-yard flea flicker. That wasn't even the longest play by a receiver, falling short of Jeffery's 53-yard score in the second quarter. The play fell apart, so Jeffery broke off his route and headed for the end zone. All told, Jeffery, Smith and Nelson Agholor combined for 13 receptions, 213 yards and three touchdowns. Flat out dominant against the league's No. 2 pass defense.

Grade: A+

TIGHT ENDS
Zach Ertz: 8 REC, 93 YDS

It became clear early the Vikings had no answer for Ertz. The Pro Bowl tight end hauled in all eight targets that came his way, leading the Eagles in both receptions and receiving yards. Brent Celek and Trey Burton weren't as productive with their opportunities, combining for one 12-yard catch on three targets, but no matter. Ertz was a monster.

Grade: A

OFFENSIVE LINE
Credit Jeffery for turning his route up the field and catching the ball (see Roob's observations). Credit Foles for hanging in the pocket and delivering a perfect pass. But make sure you credit the offensive line as well for giving Foles' 53-yard touchdown to Jeffery time to develop. That pretty much personified the unit's performance. The quarterback was only hit five times and sacked once. The Eagles weren't nearly as strong on the ground, averaging a modest 3.7 yards per carry. Regardless, the run blocking wasn't exactly ineffective, either, not to mention that really seems like nitpicking.

Grade: A

DEFENSIVE LINE
Chris Long: 2 TKL, 2 QBH, 2 PD, 1 FR

Long has been good all season, but it was as if he took a dip in the Fountain of Youth right before this game. The 10th-year veteran caused a momentum-altering interception with one of his two quarterback hits, then fell on the fumble forced by fellow defensive end Derek Barnett's strip sack, both plays in the first half. Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry each got two pressures on the signal caller as well, as the D-line made throwing down the field next to impossible for the Vikings. Minnesota ball carriers averaged a respectable 3.9 yards per carry, but it wasn't enough to influence the game in any meaningful way.

Grade: A

LINEBACKERS
Mychal Kendricks: 8 TKL

Ugly start for this unit. The Vikings' offense went right down the field on the game's opening drive, largely at the expense of Najee Goode. Playing for the injured Dannell Ellerbe, Goode was torched for 25-yard touchdown pass amid some confusion, and generally looked in over his head. Goode was on the field less as the game progressed, while it seemed at times there were two of Kendricks, who led the team in tackles. After a quiet first half, Nigel Bradham picked up his play as well, finishing with four tackles. No major complaints are given the outcome.

Grade: B

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Ronald Darby: 7 TKL, 3 PD

Who knows the way this game may have transpired were it not for Patrick Robinson's interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Robinson took the woefully underthrown pass forced by Long, weaved across the field and outraced the Vikings' offense for a 50-yard score. Darby threw a key block on the return and later forced another turnover, one of his three pass breakups deflecting into the hands of Corey Graham. The Eagles' secondary was active and physical, as Minnesota completed just 58.3 percent of pass attempts for 5.6 yards per attempt.

Grade: A

SPECIAL TEAMS
Donnie Jones: 43.3 AVG, 3 IN20

Little of note from special teams. All three of Jones' punts pinned the Vikings' offense inside their own 20-yard line. Jake Elliott was perfect on one 38-yard field goal and five extra points, and all six kickoffs went for touchbacks. Kenjon Barner returned one punt for 10 yards. It was exactly what it needed to be.

Grade: B+

COACHING
Eagles' record: 15-3

Absolutely masterful job by the Eagles' coaching staff on both sides of the football. Doug Pederson's play-calling was brilliant from start to finish, keeping the Vikings' No. 1 defense completely off balance. Jim Schwartz's defense recovered after an opening march 75 yards on nine plays for paydirt — it was the last time Minnesota would score. This was the No. 2 seed in the NFC, a team with 14 wins, including playoffs and the Eagles, went right through them like it was nothing. Amazing job and an amazing season overall by Pederson and Schwartz.

Grade: A+

Eagles fans are loving life celebrating Super Bowl berth, poke some fun at Vikings

Eagles fans are loving life celebrating Super Bowl berth, poke some fun at Vikings

The city of Philadelphia is full of joy on this beautiful evening.

The Eagles put an absolute butt whoopin' together in the NFC Championship game and steamrolled the Minnesota Vikings to the tune of 38-7.

It was a work of art from Nick Foles and the Birds' offense. And the defense showed up big time.

The blowout allowed fans at the Linc to enjoy this one for much of the second half, unlike the nail-biter the week before against the Falcons. 

Intrepid Eagles fans in the stadium used the opportunity to do a mock "Skol" chant that the adorable Vikings fans at the Art Museum did earlier in the day. Even the Eagles players got in on the Skol mocking.

It was glorious. Nothing like a good mock chant/cheer.

And guys, the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl. It's a party in Philly tonight.

A few more celebratory videos from the Linc.

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Vikings

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Vikings

BOX SCORE

I've said it all year. With Carson Wentz or without Carson Wentz, there is something special about this football team.

Inexperienced head coach? Backup quarterback? A guy named Big V playing left tackle? It doesn't matter. Because this is the ultimate team sport, and the 2017 Eagles are the ultimate team (see story).

Doug Pederson is their coach. Nick Foles is their quarterback. And they're headed to the Super Bowl.

Vegas can say this was an upset, but this wasn't an upset. The Eagles destroyed the Vikings Sunday night at the Linc, spotting them a 7-0 lead and then scoring the game's final 38 points to win the NFC Championship Game, 38-7 (see breakdown).

No contest.

Take that weak Skol crap back to Minnesota. We're taking over your city next week!

Here we go with an NFC Championship Game edition of Roob's 10 observations.

1. Foles is going to quarterback the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Just think about that for a moment or two (see story). What Foles has done since replacing Wentz is nothing short of astonishing. Forget the Dallas game in which the starters played only a quarter. The Eagles haven't lost since the NFL MVP got hurt. Foles was magnificent Sunday night, completing 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His pocket presence was off the charts, as was his accuracy. Foles has gotten more and more comfortable with each passing game, and this one was a work of art. That guy has been through so much, both this year and over the last few years. For him to play like that on this stage with so much at stake is just mind-blowing. I'm so happy for him.

2. What a masterful play-calling performance by Pederson (see report card). This is a guy who never coached a game above the high school level until 16 months ago. And he just put up 31 points on the best defense in the NFL in an NFC Championship Game with his backup quarterback. Pederson got Foles into a rhythm early, he was creative, he ran the ball enough and he dialed up some plays that were simply unstoppable. Pederson has grown so much in so many ways, but his flair for play-calling is just off the charts right now (see story).

3. Talk about a momentum changer. Patrick Robinson's interception and brilliant 50-yard return was the play of the game (see story). The Eagles trailed, 7-0, after the Vikings opened the game with a methodical 75-yard TD drive, and they had the ball again near midfield when P-Rob picked off Case Keenum near the left sideline at midfield, reversed field and ran across the field and into the end zone at the right pylon. It reminded me of Eric Allen's miracle 94-yard pick-six against Boomer Esiason and the Jets back in 1993. Not quite as remarkable but pretty darn impressive. Here's a guy who was on the brink of being released back in training camp, and he's done nothing but give the Eagles smart, heady playmaking in the slot all year. That's five INTs for Robinson, which makes him only the sixth player in franchise history with five INTs in a season after turning 30. The 50-yarder is the longest postseason pick-six by anybody in their 30s since Rodney Harrison's 87-yarder off Ben Roethlisberger in the 2004 AFC Championship Game. Robinson is so typical of this team. A guy nobody wanted. With his fourth team in four years. Making a play to help his team reach the Super Bowl. And let's not forget the pressure by Chris Long and the downfield block by Ronald Darby. That play was huge, and the Vikings never recovered.

4. Let's get one thing straight. This was not an upset. Maybe according to Las Vegas it was, but anybody who has watched the Eagles this year knows that in this building, it's going to take a superhuman effort by a Hall of Fame quarterback to put up enough points to win a football game in this building. Keenum made a few plays, but he was just overmatched. He was forced to throw 48 times, completed 28, got picked off twice and really did nothing after that TD pass five minutes into the game. Tremendous stuff from the Eagles' pass rush to make him uncomfortable and the secondary for blanketing some pretty good receivers.

5. Once again, the Eagles' offensive balance was one of their biggest weapons. Good luck trying to figure out where the ball is going. Alshon Jeffery was 5 for 85. Zach Ertz 8 for 93. Torrey Smith 5 for 69. Nelson Agholor 3 for 59. All four of those guys caught at least one deep ball. When Foles was having his All-Pro season in 2013, he always spread the ball around like this, and, man, this felt just like it. I thought Ertz was a beast, once again proving wrong everybody who says he doesn't get any yards after the catch. Jeffery, you could just see him and Foles developing more and more chemistry over the past few weeks, and he is such a weapon in the end zone. Smith had a bad drop early but made up for it with the TD on the flea flicker. And Agholor continues to just do his job. 

6. And think about this: The Eagles are the first team since the 1996 Packers to win the NFC without a 1,000-yard receiver or rusher. Who was on that 1996 Packers team? Doug Pederson.

7. The Eagles' defense heard the national media blabber all week about how the Vikings' defense was the best in the NFL, and then it went out and showed the world who actually has the best defense in the NFL. This was another monumental performance by the Eagles' defense, holding a decent Vikings offense to just seven points on one early touchdown. This Eagles defense just gives you nothing. It's playing incredibly well as a unit. Tremendous pressure. Consistent coverage. Terrific tackling. This unit has now allowed six touchdowns and 59 points in its last seven home games, which is absolutely absurd. The challenge will be more difficult on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis, but the way this defense is playing, nothing would surprise me.

8. How great was it that after throwing the ball up and down the field all night, the Eagles were able to run the clock in the final minutes running the ball? After Corey Graham's interception with six minutes left, Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement ran six times for 40 yards to run out the clock. The Eagles haven't been super consistent running the football the last few weeks, but even with that big lead and the Vikings crowding the line of scrimmage, they were able to run clock effectively and move the chains. Those three backs combined for 26 carries for 114 yards. That's going to be huge once they build up a big lead over the Patriots in two weeks.

9. Here's a list of quarterbacks in NFL postseason history who've completed 75 percent of their passes in back-to-back games: Joe Montana. And Foles.

10. Eagles-Patriots. Once again everybody is going to pick the Eagles to lose. Once again, I'm going to repeat this over and over and over: Doubt the 2017 Eagles at your own risk.