Let’s put this right out there: It’s easy to label the New England Patriots a Dynasty in football. They’ve become about as close a parallel as one can have to the days when the Boston Celtics dominated basketball for a decade, and when the New York Yankees dominated baseball for a century. And yes, Belichik and Brady are about as reliable a pairing as Auerbach and Russell or Stengel and Ford. But the game that we witnessed on national TV last night was just about the most perfect game that the Philadelphia Eagles, Doug Pederson, and Nick Foles could have possibly played.
I say “just about” because the game didn’t start out that way. The Eagles won the toss and elected to kick off to the Vikings enabling the vaunted Iggle defense to jump start their offense and help Nick Foles out. The only problem is, they began the game looking as efficient as Washington’s crew crossing the Delaware Expressway.
Case Keenum and the Vikes shredded the Birds with such precision on their first drive that some fans thought they were witnessing a game they might not be prepared to watch.
By now we know that the Eagles felt they got no respect from the media prior to the game. And they were right – the signs of disrespect were everywhere. Take the USA Today Sports Weekly cover leading up to the game, for example. What do you notice?
That’s right. The pundits literally and figuratively giving Case Keenum the upper hand, and their inside game preview gave the Vikings the edge 21-18. As if Nick Foles and the Birds needed motivation, here it was: “The story lines at quarterback alone in the unofficial ‘Bradford Bowl’ all make for great conversation, but the difference in a battle of elite defenses and evenly matched backups will be Case Keenum’s hot hand and fleet feet.”
Keenum’s fast start made the pundits look good at the outset. He managed to quiet a home crowd that had whipped themselves into a standing, white towel waving frenzy between the time they got out of bed, pulled on their game day gear, and in some cases travelled hundreds if not thousands of miles to get to this point.
And then it happened. This Magic Moment. This Immaculate Interception that turned the game around. Watching it on live TV, it wasn’t obvious that Chris Long had disrupted Case Keenum as effectively as he had. But Merrill Reese knew right away:
Actually, the Eagles made the kind of superb in-game adjustments that Belichick and Company are known for. Take a look as Howard’s nephew, Greg Cosell, dissects the play at the outset of his All-22 Review that helped the Eagles get right back into the game after their disappointing start:
And then, so many big plays on offense. Blount’s only decent run of the game, but what a huge lift when he barreled in for the the Eagles’ go-ahead TD. Followed by the heave-ho to Alshon Jeffrey that put a smile on everyone’s face.
Among the many great plays of the game, this was the one that convinced me it was our night. Face it: No one is going to mistake Halapoulivaati Vaitai for Jason Peters. As an understudy left tackle to an All-Pro, he has been as much of a pillar on offensive line as Ronald Darby has been in the secondary. Tasked with protecting Nick Foles’ blind side against a very good defensive end, Everson Griffen, “Big V” was being manhandled and got shoved backward into Foles. Nick not only maintained his balance, but managed to slide into a gap as Griffen swiped at his arm. To Big V’s credit, he kept Griffen enough at bay to allow Foles the time to unload that Hail Alshon Pass … and the rout was on! A rout that had Jay Ajai jumping for joy and allowed Nick Foles to be pulled with two minutes left so that Nate Sudfeld could tell his grandkids he played in an NFL Conference Championship victory.