Vikings fall to the Eagles; Patriots defeat Jaguars to set match up for Super Bowl 52
The unlikely was made routine this playoff season, as the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles have become the final two standing from a turbulent pool of competition that involved strange names and impossible plays. In case you missed it, here is how it all went down in the championship round:
New England Beat Jacksonville 24-20
Despite having 10 stitches put in his hand just days before the game in which he was facing the 2nd ranked defense in the NFL, Tom Brady looked fantastic. He threw a tight spiral with deadly accuracy from the first drive, as the Patriots went down the field for three points to start the game.
But the highly touted front seven of the Jaguars defense was not to be subdued by the New England spotlight or the pedigree of Brady and company. They came out showing their teeth, getting to the 4-time Super Bowl MVP time and time again; throwing the timing of the passing attack off and forcing Brady to move around the pocket. They also schemed well for tight end Rob Gronkowski, with safety help masking the double-coverage that was consistently with the pro bowl target.
However, the most impressive player was Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who was hitting the deep pass and bailing out a stalling running game that averaged a mere 3.2 yards per carry. The UCF product finished with 293 yards and a score, securing a 20-10 lead on the road late in the third quarter.
Jacksonville seemed to be piling on with a forced fumble from linebacker Myles Jack, who stole the ball from running back Dion Lewis and gave Jacksonville another possession to try and put the Patriots away. But when the Patriots needed it most, the pressure that never found Bortles all game finally hit home to produce some stops.
This is Brady’s comfort zone, down late in the game, down weapons (Gronkowski was knocked out of the game in the first half with a concussion) and forced to score multiple times. Brady was primed for another comeback.
The 40-year-old constantly found receivers Danny Amendola and Brandon Cooks to burn a relentless secondary, driving down the field not once, but twice to find Amendola in the end zone for the game winning score. Brady finished with 290 yards and two scores, stitches and all, while Cooks lead the team with 100 receiving yards. The victory sends the Brady/Bill Belichick combo to their 10th Super Bowl.
Philadelphia Beats Minnesota 38-7
In what was predicted by many (me included) to be a low scoring game that pitted the Minnesota Vikings 1st ranked defense against the Eagles 4th ranked squad, no one could have imagined the gruesome destruction that would occur. It was even harder to imagine after a crisp opening drive from the Vikings, one that led to a Kyle Rudolph score to take an early lead.
But the Eagles defense was there for another week, with another answer. Patrick Robinson jumped an out route with the Vikings backed up in their own end, taking it to the house to even the game at 7-7. Despite the setback, the Vikings looked undeterred and quarterback Case Keenum took the team down the field again. But the play that proved too much for the Vikings early in the game was a Keenum fumble on the Philadelphia 16-yard line.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, the unlikely championship round star, drove the team down on the heels of another turnover and found receiver Alshon Jeffery for a 53-yard score. The defense looked at a loss against the run-pass option plays that gave Foles easy reads. The skill position players on the Eagles outpaced a Vikings defense that prided themselves on winning man-to-man matchups.
Foles went for 352 yards and three scores, scaring the Vikings deep for passes of 53, 42, 41 and 36 yards. The Eagles defense too was consistently in the face of Keenum, forcing him off his spot or keeping him from getting through all of his reads play after play. The Eagles ability to gain a stop and give the ball back to the offense for a field goal to go up 24-7 before the half have a game sealing feel to it. The Eagles continued to pour on the points in a dominate showing in front of a crowd of dog masks. Foles and the vastly underrated Eagles had done it again in a big way, to make it to the big dance.