Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Vikings
PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Eagles once again shocked the world and earned a trip to Super Bowl LII by dominating the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game.
The Eagles fell behind 7-0, but shutout the Vikings the rest of the way and scored 38 unanswered points to win the conference title. Quarterback Nick Foles has been nothing short of amazing in the postseason and he will now have his chance to win a Super Bowl in two weeks.
Meanwhile, the defense scored in this game on a pick-six by Patrick Robinson and forced two other turnovers. They also held the Vikings to 0-for-3 in the Red Zone without allowing a single point.
This team was certainly an improbable Super Bowl participant. They lost Carson Wentz, Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Chris Maragos for the season. They also played eight games without starting corner Ronald Darby. Overcoming adversity and proving doubters wrong is nothing new for this group. Now they will get a chance at giving Eagles fans a little revenge when they meet the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Patriots beat the Eagles the last time these two met in the big game 13 years ago.
As for the report card, nothing but glowing marks for this team that put on quite a show en route to its NFC title.
Doug Pederson - Pederson put together a masterful offensive game plan. Calling some of the receivers wide open is an understatement. Alshon Jeffery caught a 53 yard touchdown late in the first half and no defender was within ten yards of him. Zach Ertz caught a 36 yard pass late in the first half with no defender within ten yards of him. The Vikings looked confused on defense and the Eagles were well prepared to take advantage of it. Major props to Pederson who deserves an amazing amount of credit for seeing this team through so many injuries to key players and still steering the ship to the Super Bowl.
Nick Foles - Foles looked extremely impressive and ready for this stage. His reads were spot on and his throws just as good. He did not miss wide open receivers and those big plays turned into a lot of points for the Eagles. He had a clean pocket to operate in thanks to his offensive line and did a great job dispersing the ball amongst his receivers. Foles completed 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns. This postseason he has completed 49 of 63 passes for 598 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He has also been sacked just twice.
Offensive Line - Did an excellent job of keeping a pretty clean pocket for Nick Foles to operate in. They blocked well in the run game too. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson were extremely impressive as a unit in this game. The Eagles put up 456 yards of total offense and controlled time of possession by more than eight minutes. The Eagles converted 10 of 14 third down opportunities as well as went a perfect two-for-two from the Red Zone scoring touchdowns both times.
Zach Ertz - Ertz had a huge presence in the first half. He hauled in five passes for 76 yards in the opening half. That included a big 11-yard catch on third down with a solid second effort to move the chains. He also pulled in a 36-yard catch down the sideline to help setup a field goal as time expired in the first half. Ertz finished the night with eight receptions for 93 yards.
Alshon Jeffery - Jeffery was a key part of the game plan. Foles hit him on intermediate routes until late in the first half when Jeffery got extremely wide open and caught a 53-yard touchdown pass. He had three catches for 70 yards and a touchdown at the half. Jeffery finished with five catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
Jim Schwartz - Schwartz' defense allowed an opening drive touchdown to the Vikings, but really buckled down and dominated the Vikings the rest of the game. They held them scoreless twice in the red zone. Once, due to a sack-fumble and another time by stopping them on fourth-and-goal. He blitzed a little more than he usually does and got Case Keenum on the move out of the pocket. It rattled him and when the Eagles did not sack him they at least got to him and started racking up some quarterback hits. The defense gave up three trips inside the Red Zone, but did not yield even one point on those three trips. They forced three turnovers and a turnover on downs. The Eagles also registered eight quarterback hits on Case Keenum.
Patrick Robinson - Robinson made arguably the biggest play of the game. With the Eagles trailing 7-0, he took an under thrown pass by Keenum and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. On the return, he made a great decision to cut it back to the other side of the field and used a great block by Ronald Darby to get it into the endzone. That play seemed to really spark the Eagles and the crowd in a huge way. He also added a pair of tackles in the game.
Chris Long - Long has been another excellent offseason pickup. He has provided a huge spark to this team both in the locker room and on the field. Long helped turn the momentum when he got a piece of Case Keenum as he was throwing causing the ball to hang in the air for Robinson's pick-six. Long continued to harass Keenum as the game went on. He finished with two tackles, two quarterback hits, two passes successfully defended and a fumble recovery. The Eagles are going to need more of that from Long when they take on his former team in the Super Bowl.
Derek Barnett - The rookie continues to look more and more comfortable at this level. Barnett had the chance to pin his ears back and go after the quarterback and it resulted in a sack-fumble that was recovered by Chris Long. It was the only sack of the game by the Eagles. Barnett also added a pair of tackles, a quarterback hit and that forced fumble.
Torrey Smith - Smith got off to a rough start when he dropped a deep ball that hit him in the hands. However, he more than made up for it when he made an amazing and difficult catch for a 41-yard touchdown on a flea flicker to cap off the opening drive of the second half. Had a deep ball hit him in the hands and he could not hold on. Fell incomplete.
Jay Ajayi - Ajayi did a great job once again of always keeping the pile moving forward. His longest carry was for 16 yards, but he worked hard in this game and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Ajayi carried the ball 18 times for 73 yards. He also caught three passes for 26 yards. Ajayi has been a great mid-season pickup for this team.
Nelson Agholor - Agholor has showed an immense amount of growth this year. His focus has been unwavering and his confidence has remained sky high throughout the season. The move to the slot receiver position was just what he needed. Agholor and Foles showed they were on the same page in the third quarter when Foles got flushed from the pocket and Agholor broke upfield. At that exact moment Foles threw a perfect pass over the top of the defender for a 42-yard gain. Agholor finished with three receptions for 59 yards.
Fletcher Cox - Cox was once again a major factor for the Eagles. He plugged up the middle and also found his way to Case Keenum a few times. Cox recorded three tackles and a pair of quarterback hits, which helped to make Keenum feel uncomfortable when he dropped back to pass.
Malcolm Jenkins - Jenkins deserves a lot of credit for the success on defense in this game. Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph scored on a 25-yard reception on the opening drive. Schwartz made a switch and Jenkins shadowed Rudolph most of the rest of the game. It paid off because Rudolph never caught another pass and it ultimately helped to take that part of the offense out of the playbook for the Vikings. Jenkins also racked up four tackles in the game.
Ronald Darby - Darby's biggest contribution in this game might have been a block he threw on Robinson's pick-six. Robinson cut it back across the field and Darby took out the final would-be tackler around the ten-yard line giving Robinson just enough time and space to reach the endzone. Darby also played a role in another interception. He nearly picked it off himself, but forced the ball to pop up in the air and into the arms of Corey Graham. Darby finished second on the team with seven tackles and successfully defended three passes.
Corey Graham - Graham helped play a big role in keeping the Vikings scoreless inside the Red Zone. He kept his eye on the ball as it bounced off Ronald Darby and popped up into the air. He quickly grabbed it and stayed in play to make it an interception. Graham also finished third on the team with five tackles.