As you already know by now, the Philadelphia Eagles are set to host the Minnesota Vikings Sunday for the NFC Championship. It is fitting that the top two teams in the NFC face off as the entire year it seemed like these two were the best in the conference. Unlike the AFC, the playoff seeding held true to form as these two entered the post season as the number one and number two seeds overall. Sunday night should be fun, as The City of Brotherly Love hosts the NFC Championship for the first time in over ten years. The Eagles should build upon the success they had when they beat the Falcons Saturday as there were a few important lessons they need to remember.
First, the entire defense needs to duplicate their performance that they had when they completely shut down the Falcons. Matt Ryan and company left Philadelphia with only 10 points on the board and all 10 came off turnovers. Their field goal came after Jay Ajayi fumbled on the Eagles first drive and the Falcons only touchdown of the game came on a short field when the Eagles committed the cardinal sin of turning the ball over on special teams. Holding a powerful offense, such as the Falcons, to 10 points is enough to win most of the games in the NFL and although Saturday came down to the wire their defense stepped up with a goal line stand for the ages. If the defense plays like that again, Case Keenum will have a tough day Sunday.
Entering Saturday night’s game, the play of Nick Foles was a huge question mark for the Eagles. How will he respond to the criticism that has been the talk of the town for the past month? Nick did not show anyone he was capable of leading a team on a Super Bowl run in the regular season during his two starts filling in for the injured Carson Wentz. However, he was able to silence his critics, if only for a week, with his strong play and quick throws that enabled this offense to victory. Sure the argument can be made he didn’t light up the scoreboard with points or stats but Nick Foles did just enough to lead the Eagles to the win. By not throwing interceptions and jumping on the ball at the goal line when the offense almost fumbled one away Nick Foles showed the NFL that his game intelligence is a key strength for this team going forward. Nick played a very smart game and his attributes are quietly not being questioned anymore.
Finally, the coaching decisions made by Doug Pederson were spot on for his first time being at the helm during a playoff game. His decision to kick the field goal in the 4th quarter changed how the Falcons had to play their final drive. At first, Doug was going to go for it as it was 4th and short deep in Falcons territory but he chose to take the easy three points which turned out to be the game winner. He also changed his entire offense to fit the strengths of his quarterback with quick throws and timely pass patterns which helped the confidence of Nick Foles. His greatest drive of the game though came late in the second quarter. His play calling ability helped the Eagles get a field goal as time expired to cut the Falcons lead to 10-9 entering halftime. Nobody realized at the time but that was an important score as this not only shifted momentum towards the Eagles favor but also proved that they can move the ball against this defense. His decision to go for it rather then kneel and go to halftime completely changed the outcome in the Eagles favor.
The Minnesota Vikings are going to be a tougher match up than the Atlanta Falcons but the Eagles have a huge momentum twist in their corner. Their play Saturday has forced the naysayers to start to believe in the Eagles as they prepare to host the NFC championship. The offense and the defense need to play as they did and this team will be able to play in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl. There is one game left to enter the promise land and the Eagles are able to play in front of their home fans which is a huge advantage for a young team. Just build on the lessons from Saturday and if the players can maintain their style of play there is no doubt that this team will be representing the NFC for the Super Bowl.
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