Big Play Seals Eagles' Defeat of Vikings in NFL Playoffs

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 5, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 4 -- The Philadelphia Eagles continued to reassemble a season that once looked broken beyond repair. They did little on offense for much of the day at the Metrodome but turned one well-timed catch-and-run by tailback Brian Westbrook, a defensive touchdown and four field goals into a 26-14 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings in a first-round NFC playoff game.

The Eagles advanced to a meeting with the New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions and the NFC's top seed, in a conference semifinal next Sunday afternoon at Giants Stadium.

To get there, Eagles Coach Andy Reid beat his former offensive coordinator, Vikings Coach Brad Childress. It wasn't particularly artful.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb completed 23 of 34 passes for 300 yards. But he had two turnovers, throwing an interception and losing a fumble, and the Eagles didn't score an offensive touchdown until a little more than 6 1/2 minutes remained in the game.

That's when Westbrook caught a short flip by McNabb and weaved through defenders for a 71-yard touchdown that turned a precarious 16-14 lead for the Eagles into a much more comfortable nine-point advantage.

"Any time you get an opportunity to get the ball to a guy like Westbrook against any defender," McNabb said, "you feel good about the matchup."

Said Westbrook, "We called that play at exactly the right time."

That was enough for the Eagles, who had gotten three field goals by place kicker David Akers and a touchdown by cornerback Asante Samuel on a 44-yard interception return in the first half. Akers added his fourth field goal with 1 minute 55 seconds to play.

The Eagles get to keep playing in a season in which they had an ugly tie with the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, after which McNabb admitted he hadn't known an NFL game could end in a tie. They get to keep playing in a season in which Reid benched McNabb in the second half of a feeble loss in Baltimore, and in which their playoff hopes seemed to be all but extinguished by a deflating defeat to the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in the next-to-last game of the regular season.

But they got lucky on the final weekend of the regular season with losses by teams they were chasing in the wild-card race, then beat the Dallas Cowboys convincingly to sneak into the postseason. There have been times this season when they have resembled one of the league's top teams, and they were in control most of the way in this game.

"We sustained some drives," McNabb said. "We just weren't able to get touchdowns. We were getting field goals. . . . In a game like this, you just have to be patient. . . . If you do that, plays like that screen play will happen."

Tailback Adrian Peterson ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings, but Minnesota didn't score after halftime. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson connected on only 15 of 35 passes for 164 yards, and Childress never went to veteran Gus Frerotte to try to get the offense jump-started.

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