PHILADELPHIA — Oh, they flew all right.
Around the field on defense, stifling the Vikings for most of the game, shutting them out after allowing a touchdown on the first drive and scoring on a long interception return.
Up and down the field on offense, scoring two touchdowns of more than 40 yards, putting up 456 yards of total offense with their backup quarterback and going 10-for-14 on third down against the NFL’s top-ranked defense.
And in about a week, they’ll take off again, in a plane bound for Minneapolis, in search of a title the franchise hasn’t been able to claim since 1960.
The Eagles trounced the Vikings, 38-7, in the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night, using a grit that earned them the No. 1 seed in the conference and the determination of a team that had been doubted since it lost starting quarterback Carson Wentz on Dec. 10.
“I’m so proud of our players,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “The resilience this group of men has is unequaled.”
“This is very humbling and unbelievable,” said Nick Foles, who was 26-for-33 for 352 yards and three touchdowns. “I just think you’ve got to keep going at it. And we all believe in each other. I’m blessed to have amazing teammates, amazing coaches. Everyone here that’s a part of the Philadelphia Eagles organization is first-class.’’
Said Eagles coach Doug Pederson, “I’m so happy for Nick and the offense. And for Nick, everything he’s been through and battled, he stayed the course and we all believed in him.”
When the Eagles face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis, it will be their third trip to the big game. They lost Super Bowl XV to the Raiders and Super Bowl XXXIX to the Patriots.
Meanwhile, the Vikings fell short in their bid to become the first team to play a Super Bowl on its home field. “We would’ve loved to play in the Super Bowl if it was in China,” coach Mike Zimmer said.
The game was unofficially put out of reach after the opening drive of the third quarter with a razzle-dazzle play. Foles handed off to Corey Clement, then took a flea-flicker back from him before slinging a 41-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to Torrey Smith to make it 31-7.
The Vikings’ last gasp at making it competitive came on fourth-and-goal from the 7. Instead of attempting a field goal to make it a three-touchdown game, the Vikings went for the end zone, and Case Keenum’s pass for Adam Thielen was tipped in the air. It initially was ruled a touchdown, but replays showed the ball bouncing off the grass, and the score was overturned with 6:21 left in the third.
The Eagles then drove 93 yards to score on a 5-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery. That made it 38-7 with 14:10 left in the game, and the Vikings were done.
“I love this football team. They’re great kids, great competitors,” Zimmer said. “I love how they go about their business. I love everything about this football team. I love the organization. We just didn’t get it done tonight. I’m not going to grade anybody’s performance tonight. I think there’s a lot of performances that could’ve been a lot better, including myself.”
The Eagles took advantage of two Vikings turnovers and scored 10 points in the final 1:09 of the second quarter to hit halftime with a 24-7 advantage.
Patrick Robinson scored the first Eagles touchdown when he picked off a pass and returned it 50 yards to tie it at 7 with 6:26 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles drove 75 yards on 12 plays and took a 14-7 lead on LeGarrette Blount’s 11-yard TD run, converting a pair of third downs with passes to Zach Ertz. Blount ran over safety Andrew Sendejo at the 5 before rumbling into the end zone.
The Vikings had a chance to get a three-and-out just under the two-minute warning on a short screen pass, but Clement spun out of a tackle attempt by Anthony Barr to convert a first down. That sparked a drive that ended with Foles launching a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery with 1:09 left. Foles was under pressure — Everson Griffen had a grip on his shoulder — but slid to his left before chucking the pass.
Jake Elliott kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired in the half to make it 24-7.