PHILADELPHIA — Everything is magnified on the road to the Super Bowl.
The Philadelphia Eagles are fully aware of that fact as they prepare to host the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The No. 1-seeded Eagles (14-3) won a thrilling 15-10 game against the Atlanta Falcons while the Vikings (14-3) defeated the New Orleans Saints 29-24 in one of the craziest finishes in NFL history. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Case Keenum on the final play of the game.
“Listen, we all understand what’s at stake with this weekend,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s a great opportunity, again, for our team and for the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s the challenge, in probably our case and in the Vikings’ case is coming off these emotional, close victories, and then having to turn around and do it again. And so I’ve just got to make sure that I continue to stay aggressive with the week of practice and prepare the guys just like we have the last couple of weeks and just try to stay in our lane and try to block out some of the noise.”
The Eagles haven’t advanced to the Super Bowl since the 2004 season when they defeated the Falcons 27-10 in the NFC Championship before falling to the New England Patriots.
Philadelphia hasn’t participated in an NFC Championship since the ’08 season when they lost 32-25 at Arizona.
Not that long ago, quarterback Nick Foles pondered retirement. Now he’s the starter for the Eagles against his former backup with the St. Louis Rams in one of the biggest games in franchise history.
“I feel like every person goes through moments in their life where it’s a big decision moment. And that was it for me,” said Foles, who was 23 for 30 for 246 yards against the Falcons. “And I’m glad I went through it. And I said in my interview earlier, that I’m a better person, better player, better father, better husband because of what I went through and having to decide that because I decided that with my family. It’s unbelievable to be up here. It’s very humbling to be up here and to go to the NFC Championship game with the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s been a crazy ride, and I’m excited that I get to do it with these guys.”
The Vikings lean on a nasty defense with standouts at every level of the unit, from defensive end Everson Griffen (13 sacks this season) to linebacker Anthony Barr, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith. They take on an Eagles’ offense sputtering since Foles stepped in for Carson Wentz in December at less than 280 yards per game. That total would rank dead last in the NFL if projected over a 16-game season.
The Vikings are looking for their first berth in the Super Bowl since the ’76 season in Super Bowl XI. They are 0-4 all-time in the Super Bowl and have lost five consecutive times in the NFC Championship.
The Vikings have never defeated Philadelphia in the playoffs with an 0-3 record.
Minnesota has a terrific chance following their exciting victory over the Saints. The Vikings led the NFL in points allowed per game with just 15.8 being scored against them.
Linebacker Eric Kendricks paced the Vikings with 136 tackles and Smith equaled his career-high with five interceptions.
Despite the ultra-successful regular season and unbelievable playoff win, the Vikings realize that they need to play better to advance again.
“I told them basically the same thing; we can’t make these mistakes in playoff games or we’ll be going home,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters. “There’s always good and always bad in some of the games, but we made some critical errors in that game that could have gotten us beat.”
The Vikings last faced the Eagles in the playoffs in the ’08 season and lost in the wild card round.
–Andy Jasner, Field Level Media