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Nick Foles leads Eagles to SB LII with win over Vikings

The Eagles -- rendered underdogs in their own stadium on Sunday -- are Super Bowl-bound after rattling off 38 unanswered points in a 38-7 romp over the Vikings. Here's what we learned from an NFC title bout that tees up Philadelphia to do battle with a Patriots squad making their eighth Super Bowl appearance under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady:

  1. Nick Foles came into this game as a roundly dismissed, laughed-off signal-caller who seemed destined to leave everyone wondering what could have been with Carson Wentz at the wheel. Instead, Foles played his finest game in four seasons, tugging the Eagles to their first Super Bowl in 13 years with a performance that saw the backup passer take shots downfield, thrive against pressure and display tangible confidence. Operating in a fever-dream state from wire to wire, Foles devastated the Vikings with a rash of huge plays through the air. The Eagles could have veered conservative after Torrey Smith dropped what would have been a 54-yard completion on Philly's opening drive. Instead, Foles rebounded to unfurl a 53-yard scoring strike to Alshon Jeffery before finding Smith for a 41-yard touchdown that put the Eagles up 31-7 in the third quarter. Finishing 26 of 33 for 352 yards with three scores and zero picks, Foles (141.4) joins Tony Eason as the only signal-caller since the 1970 merger to begin his playoff career with three straight games of a 100-plus passer rating. If Foles plays like this two Sundays from now, anything is possible.
  1. A pair of killer turnovers buried the Vikings in the first half. After failing to generate a takeaway against the Falcons, Philly's defense swung the contest early with Patrick Robinson's 50-yard, against-the-grain pick six of Case Keenum to tie the affair at 7-7. Keenum's arm was hit on the throw by Chris Long, triggering the quarterback's first pick six all season and the lone defensive touchdown allowed by the Vikings during an otherwise stellar campaign. Minnesota's second killer gaffe came with the Vikings down 14-7 late in the second quarter and driving. Eleven plays into a six-plus-minute march, Keenum turned the ball over on a vicious strip-sack by rookie pass-rusher Derek Barnett to set up Philly's second touchdown. Fourteen Eagles points off two turnovers amounted to total disaster for a Vikings team that never recovered.
  1. Down 24-7 at the half, Vikings fans were left wondering what happened to the team's stellar defense. After shutting out New Orleans in the first half of last week's Minneapolis Miracle classic, the Vikings finished the season allowing 62 points over their final six quarters -- after allowing just 17 points over their previous 14 periods of play. Sunday's 38 points, 456 total yards and 346 passing yards allowed all marked season-highs for a Vikings defense that seemed magical just a fortnight ago. While Malcolm Jenkins and the Eagles put on a clinic in open-field tackling, the Vikings were a seething mess in pass protection. After allowing a third-down conversion rate of only 25.2 percent this season -- tops in the NFL and the lowest third-down conversion rate allowed since at least 1991 -- the Vikings gave way as Minnesota converted an outrageous 10-of-14 third-down snaps.
  1. Motoring a Philly ground game that piled up 110 yards at 3.7 yards per rush, LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi authored a handful of key gallops, highlighted by Blount ripping through Minnesota's front-seven for an 11-yard touchdown that put Philly up 14-7. Blount's 10 rushing touchdowns in the playoffs since 2013 are four more than any other player and more than Eric Dickerson (4), Walter Payton (2), Jim Brown (1), and Barry Sanders (1) put up in the postseason combined.
  1. Back to Foles, who made good use of Ajayi (18/73) through the air and spread the ball to seven targets. Jeffery (5/85), Smith (5/69) and Agholor (3/59) -- a largely invisible trio since Wentz went down -- all sprung to life, while Foles showed much-needed, saucy chemistry with tight end Zach Ertz, who beat Minnesota's coverage for 93 yards off eight grabs.
  1. There's no overstating the amount of heartbreak Vikings fans are dealing with tonight. Four quarters away from becoming the first team in history to host a Super Bowl, the Vikings instead float deathlike into their offseason with plenty of questions under center. Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater all are set to hit free agency. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported there is a "possibility" the Vikings will use the franchise tag on Keenum. The team also believes in Bridgewater, but long-term contracts for both players are exceedingly tricky. Minnesota's offseason work begins right away.
  1. Did last week's miracle conclusion leave the Vikings in a psychologically rough place? Fair question, but don't discount a rowdy, dog-mask-wearing Eagles crowd that spent much of the second half sarcastically morphing Minnesota's SKOL chant into passionate cries for "FOLES!" Counted out for weeks by football-observing masterminds, the Eagles are just the latest bit of proof that most people covering this wonderful sport know absolutely nothing when it comes to predicting outcomes.
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