PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles secured a Super Bowl rematch Sunday, and denied the Minnesota Vikings in their bid to make history.
Led by quarterback Nick Foles and a smothering defense, the Eagles posted a 38-7 victory over Minnesota before a towel-swirling crowd so raucous at Lincoln Financial Field that the vast majority of fans stood the entire game.
Foles threw three touchdown passes, the Eagles were remarkably efficient on third down, and their defense harassed Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum all night as the Vikings never got into rhythm.
In two weeks, the Eagles will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX. In that game, played 13 years ago in Jacksonville, the Patriots won, 24-21.
This year’s game pits the top-seeded teams in each conference. The Patriots advanced with a 24-20 victory over Jacksonville in the earlier game Sunday.
The Super Bowl will be played at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and the Vikings were hoping to become the first team to play a Super Bowl on its home field.
The Eagles, who lost star second-year quarterback Carson Wentz to a season-ending knee injury in a Week 14 game at the Los Angeles Rams, were not widely expected to get this far. In fact, they were underdogs in their two home playoff games.
The Eagles didn’t just lose Wentz, but nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, and playmaking middle linebacker Jordan Hicks.
So often, the Eagles and their fans have come oh-so-close, only to see their hopes dashed. The combination of then-coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb got the franchise to five conference title games between 2001-2008, winning just one.
The Eagles have some players on their roster with Super Bowl experience, among them Chris Long (New England), LeGarrette Blount (New England), Malcolm Jenkins (New Orleans), Corey Graham (Baltimore), Torrey Smith (Baltimore), Dannell Ellerbe (Baltimore), Chris Maragos (Seattle), and Will Beatty (New York Giants).
The Eagles do not have a player on their roster who has amassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage this season. According to the NFL, the last team to reach a Super Bowl without such a player was the 1990 Giants, who beat Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV.
It was another heartbreaking performance on the big stage for Minnesota, which, in addition to going 0-4 in Super Bowls between 1969-1976, has now lost in its last four appearances in the NFC title game.
Before Sunday’s game, authorities in Philadelphia were doing what they could to keep potential revelers somewhat under control. City crews who referred to themselves as “Crisco cops” greased the light poles around town to prevent fans from climbing them in celebration.
Sunday marked the first conference championship game featuring two starting quarterbacks who were backups at the beginning of the season. Minnesota’s Keenum replaced the injured Sam Bradford in Week 2, and Foles stepped in for Wentz.
The Vikings rode a wild wave of excitement into Philadelphia, having beaten New Orleans in the divisional round on an unbelievable, 61-yard touchdown reception by Stefon Diggs on the final play. This time, there would be no sequel to the Minnesota Miracle.
The Eagles, facing the NFL’s top-ranked defense, scored at least a touchdown in every quarter, building a comfortable lead with 17 points in the second quarter.
The Eagles took a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter — an advantage they would never relinquish — when Blount charged 11 yards up the middle for a touchdown. That capped a 12-play, 75-yard drive.
Blount, who won two Super Bowl rings with New England, has scored 10 rushing touchdowns in the postseason since 2013. That’s the most in the league during that span, and four more than the next-closest player, Oakland’s Marshawn Lynch.
According to a tweet by @NFLResearch, Blount’s 10 rushing touchdowns in the postseason are more than the combined playoff totals of Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (four), Walter Payton (two), Jim Brown (one) and Barry Sanders (one).
Midway through the first quarter, the Eagles forged a 7-7 tie in dramatic style. Patrick Robinson picked off a third-down pass by Keenum at midfield, cut all the way across the field from left to right, and scored on a 50-yard return. The cheers were so loud, the stadium shook.
The Vikings opened the game with a nine-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Kyle Rudolph. They would not score again.