Eagles March Past Vikings to Super Bowl, Just as They Predicted
The Philadelphia Eagles’ season did not end six weeks ago in the fading Southern California daylight, when the star quarterback Carson Wentz tore a knee ligament. Nor did it end four weeks ago, when his replacement, Nick Foles, slogged through an ugly victory on Christmas night. Nor did it end last week, when the Eagles, underdogs at home despite holding the N.F.C.’s top seed, eked out a playoff win.
Now the Eagles know for sure when their season will end.
No matter what, it will conclude on Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, site of Super Bowl LII, just as they said it would, as they knew it would. Philadelphia got there Sunday by trampling Minnesota in a 38-7 rout in the N.F.C. championship. The margin of victory defied all good sense to anyone following both teams over the last month but affirmed all that which the Eagles believed.
“I mean, when you execute, that’s what it looks like,” receiver Torrey Smith said.
The players told themselves and each other, and anyone else who would listen, that they would advance, that they could minimize Wentz’s absence because of the talent that remained and the coaches who would lead them.
By nature and nurture, a certain fatalism courses through the fans here. Winning one major professional sports championship since 1983 underpins that inferiority complex. The Eagles have won the second-most playoff games (17) in the Super Bowl era without winning a title.
Another chance for glory awaits in two weeks, and early in the fourth quarter Sunday a crowd full of people who had waited 13 years since the Eagles’ last Super Bowl appearance — and who had shifted nervously when Minnesota scored a touchdown on its opening drive — started singing along to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”
In halting Minnesota’s quest to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium, Foles destroyed the league’s stingiest scoring defense, completing 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
It was Chris Long, a menace off the edge, who helped force an interception and recovered a fumble. It was Patrick Robinson, who wove through the Vikings on a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown that revived the building. And it was, unquestionably, Foles, who flummoxed the Vikings with passes long and short — even a flea-flicker touchdown to Torrey Smith — and rewarded the steadfast faith and masterly play-calling of Coach Doug Pederson to continue leading Philadelphia down a familiar path.
The last time the Eagles reached the Super Bowl, in the 2004 season, they defeated Atlanta and Minnesota before facing New England, just as they have, and will, in this postseason. They will be the underdog in Minneapolis, as they have been in both of their playoff games, and that will not bother them one iota.
“People can do whatever they want — count us out, count us in,” running back Jay Ajayi said. “We’re playing in the Super Bowl. They’re going to have to sit back and watch us do that.”
That the Eagles emerged from a rugged N.F.C., ahead of recent conference champions (Atlanta and Carolina) and teams with Hall of Fame quarterbacks (New Orleans), would have been less surprising had Wentz not gotten hurt. That December night in Los Angeles, after Wentz left with a knee injury, and after Foles came on to direct them to a division-clinching victory against the Rams that improved their record to 11-2, safety Malcolm Jenkins gathered the team in a cramped Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum locker room and peddled positives. Nothing had changed, he said. The goal remained the same.
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