The Vikings were on the doorstep of history and were looking to bash in the door as they challenged the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game for the right to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. The Eagles had other idea, though, and they blitzed the Vikings in front of a raucous home crowd to come away with a thorough 38-7 win.
Here are five takeaways from the Vikings loss to Philadelphia in the conference title game.
1. Uncharacteristic loss ends memorable season
Any loss at this stage of the season is going to be hard to accept, but Vikings fans will find this one particularly difficult given how uncharacteristic it is in nature along with the fact that it has ended what was a memorable season. The 2017 season began with a flawless effort by Sam Bradford and a breakout performance by rookie Dalvin Cook. Then the season was continued and kept alive by Case Keenum's magical run as starting quarterback and by a historically dominant defensive performance. And finally, the season was brought back from the dead thanks to the Minneapolis Miracle in the Divisional round. It all came to an end in Philadelphia, though, on a night when Nick Foles pressed all the right buttons and the Vikings couldn't find a good enough response.
2. Turnovers spoiled Vikings fast start and gave Eagles control
It was all going according to plan for the Vikings until Patrick Robinson changed the game. The Vikings drove 75 yards in nine plays on the opening possession to take an early 7-0 lead and silence the home crowd. Philadelphia was forced to punt after five plays and the Vikings took the field for the second possession with a chance to back the Eagles into a corner. That's when Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson intercepted a pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at seven. Later in the 2nd quarter, the Vikings had the ball in the red zone and were trying to tie the game at 14 when Keenum was sacked and fumbled. Philadelphia recovered and turned the takeaway into seven more points in what amounted to a 14-point swing as the Eagles took a commanding 21-7 lead that increased to 24-7 thanks to a field goal as time expired in the first half.
3. Foles solved the Vikings 3rd down defense
The Vikings didn't just have the best 3rd down defense in the NFL this season. They had the best 3rd down defense ever recorded by the NFL, holding opponents to a 25.2% conversion rate. But on a night in which everything seemed to go the Eagles way, Foles had no trouble extending drives against the Vikings vaunted 3rd down defense, doing so 10 of 14 times (71%). After failing to convert their first 3rd down of the game, the Eagles went on to convert nine of their next 10 attempts with two touchdowns on 3rd downs in that span.
4. Eagles out-executed Vikings right before and after halftime
Following a 53-yard touchdown reception by Alshon Jeffery to give Philadelphia a 21-7 lead, the Vikings took possession at their own 25 with 1:09 to play. Keenum and Co. were unable to get into scoring range and the Vikings wound up punting way. Rather than just take their 14-point lead with 29 seconds to go in the 2nd quarter and head to the locker room, the Eagles used three explosive passing plays, including a 36-yard reception by Zach Ertz, to get into field goal range to increase the lead to 24-7 at halftime. Philadelphia then took the opening possession of the 3rd quarter and marched 75 yards in eight plays to tack on another touchdown and increase the lead to 31-7. When you combine the Vikings red zone turnover that Philadelphia turned into a touchdown with the double-dip Philadelphia executed at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half, the end result is the Eagles taking a 14-7 lead and turning it into a 31-7 lead in 7:20 of game action.
5. Big deficit made offensive balance hard for Vikings to achieve
Philadelphia's opportunism led to a big lead and that made it hard for the Vikings to maintain a sense of balance on offense. Keenum finished with 48 passing attempts while the Vikings wound up with only 18 rushing attempts. Such few rushing attempts is surprising considering the Vikings ran the ball well on the opening possession, totaling 27 yards on six carries. But the Vikings were trailing 31-7 by the time they took their first possession of the 3rd quarter, making it difficult to stick with the run.