The Minnesota Vikings picked up where they left off last week, scoring on their first drive in the NFC championship game against the Eagles in Philadelphia. But the Eagles struck right back and they just kept on striking.
Behind the 352 passing yards of Nick Foles, the Eagles rolled into a Super Bowl LII matchup with the New England Patriots, with a 38-7 victory.
The Vikings started well, with Case Keenum completing his first three passes for 48 yards and hitting tight end Kyle Rudolph on a 25-yard touchdown play. But then a pass intended for Adam Thielen was intercepted by Patrick Robinson and returned 50 yards for a touchdown and the Vikings were finished.
Early in the second quarter, the Eagles went up 14-7 on an 11-yard run by LeGarrette Blount. Shortly before halftime, Foles, his play seemingly improving with every drive, hit Alshon Jeffery on a third-and-10, 53-yard pass play for a 21-7 lead. To top it off, they added a field goal for a 24-7 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Foles, who turned 29 on Saturday, found Torrey Smith for a 41-yard touchdown pass that made it 31-7 and stunned the Vikings’ defense. It looked for a brief bit as if Keenum had found Thielen for a touchdown that would have narrowed the score to 31-13, but the ball clearly bounced off the ground on the fourth-down play.
Just as the fourth quarter began, Jeffery made it 38-7 with another touchdown, and players from the two teams started shoving one another. With a lead that big, Philly fans began trolling the Vikings.
Hours after Philadelphia police applied Crisco to light posts to prevent mayhem, they issued this warning:
In New England, seven is not enough: Ordinarily, you might think the Jacksonville Jaguars had the game under control with a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.
But they were playing the Patriots, a team that, like a vampire, cannot be killed.
Tom Brady has a bad cut and a bandage on his passing hand? No problem. Rob Gronkowski is out with a concussion? Don’t be ridiculous. A fourth-quarter deficit? Please.
With Brady passing for 138 yards and two touchdowns to Danny Amendola, the Patriots rallied in the fourth quarter for a 24-20 victory over the Jaguars and their second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. Overall, it will be the eighth trip to the championship game in the Bill Belichick-Brady era.
The victory is the fourth in the playoffs when trailing by 10 or more points in the fourth quarter. No other quarterback has more than one.
It looked as if the Jaguars were going to advance after taking a 20-10 lead on two field goals. With the Patriots driving in the fourth quarter, Myles Jack came up with a big play, stripping the ball from Dion Lewis. But these are the Patriots. They simply went on another drive, closing within 20-17 on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Amendola.
And then Brady and Amendola did it again, connecting on a four-yard touchdown pass that put New England up 24-20.
Now, Brady and Gronkowski have two weeks in which to heal. Sporting a black bandage, Brady required “more than 10 stitches” after cutting the inside of his right hand near his thumb during practice Wednesday, ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported. In addition, he reportedly suffered a collateral ligament sprain in the thumb when he collided with running back Rex Burkhead.
“It was just a very fluke injury,” he said in a statement before kickoff. “It was something that’s happened a lot of times over the course of my career and there was a collision in practice and, you know, my hand suffered a bit of an injury, but hopefully I can go out there and still be really effective and we’ll see what I can do today.”
Bill Belichick’s take on the injury?
“He’s a tough guy, we all know that. But we’re not talking about open heart surgery here.”
Top story lines
Philly’s Crisco Cops: No matter whether the Vikings or Eagles win, the scene in Philadelphia is likely to be wild. Law-enforcement authorities in the City of Brotherly Love are taking precautions by greasing the city’s light poles, the better to thwart anyone who plans to shinny up the standards.
And, hours before the game, a brawl erupted in one of the stadium’s parking lots.
Meanwhile, Vikings fans are skol-ing away. Take that, Rocky.
Jacksonville talks a good game: The Patriots will face the Jaguars’ tough defense, with Jalen Ramsey doing the kind of trash talking that will either backfire or succeed fantastically.
“We going to the Super Bowl,” the 23-year-old cornerback told a group of fans after the Jags beat the Steelers last weekend. “And we’re going to win that b—-!” (Read more about the cornerback’s journey to trash talker extraordinaire.)
He kept it up during warm-ups, too,
Being John Malkovich: CBS had a strong pregame promo. Take a look.
Hits, not concussions, linked to CTE: A new study from Boston University links repetitive hits to the head rather than concussions as the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, especially in younger athletes. (Read more.)
Troops will be able to watch: Military members stationed abroad can watch the games after the Department of Defense designates the Armed Forces Network “essential.” (Read more.)
Leave the paper products at home: Gene Steratore — you’ll remember how he used an index card to determine a first down in a Sunday night game — gets the call to referee Super Bowl LII. (Read more.)
Send your résumé to The Hoodie: Bill Belichick is going to be challenged again by the expected departure of his two star coordinators. That hasn’t mattered in the past. Will it this time, when Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniel depart? (Read more.)
Fear not for “Kurt”: Kirk Cousins is still going to get paid despite the presence of three nonelite quarterbacks among the NFL’s final four teams. (Read more.) Still, Scot McCloughan says, “I don’t see special,” where Cousins is concerned. (Read more.)
When you have three QBs, you’ve really got none: Which quarterback should the Vikings keep? How about none of them? (Read more.)
Vikings-Eagles inactives: For the Vikings, QB Teddy Bridgewater, DE Tashawn Bower, RB Mack Brown, C Cornelius Edison, OL Danny Isidora, QB Kyle Sloter and DT Shamar Stephen are out. For the Eagles, LB Dannell Ellerbee, OL Will Beatty, WR Marcus Johnson, CB Sidney Jones, DE Steven Means, DT Elijah Qualls and RB Wendell Smallwood are inactive.
The Patriots and Vikings will move on to Super Bowl LII. (Read more.)