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Lunchbreak: Eagles Executed Across the Board to Take NFC North Title

In the City of Brotherly Love, the hostile environment was anything but as the Vikings were handedly defeated by the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

The 38-7 loss abruptly ended a Vikings season that had been rolling until that point.

Miscues and missed opportunities on both offense and defense hurt Minnesota in the NFC Championship game, while on the flip side, the Eagles executed nearly everything they attempted. Mark Craig of the *Star Tribune *said in his postgame column that Philadelphia was "superb in almost every way."

Craig pointed to five specific situations in the game, starting with the Eagles offensive line and specifically the matchup between Everson Griffen and Eagles left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Craig wrote:

*According to Pro Football Focus, Vaitai gave up nine sacks in just nine games this season, the second most by a tackle. But late into the fourth quarter of Sunday's 38-7 win, Vaitai contained Griffen, who had just two tackles and no sacks. *

The Eagles played well on the both sides of the ball; Craig said that the Eagles offense found a rhythm behind backup-turned-starter Nick Foles. He highlighted defensive lineman Fletcher Cox as a "game wrecker" and also the way Philadelphia's run defense also excelled.

The Eagles are pretty doggone proud of their top-ranked unit (79.2). But hidden in that number was a 4.3-yard average allowed over the past six games. Offensively, the Vikings had the seventh-best running game (122.3), but their average of 3.9 ranked 23rd. Matched in a NFC title game featuring two defense-oriented teams with backup quarterbacks, the running game was going to be vital.



Vikings defense uncharacteristic against Foles, Eagles

Following a game in which both sides of the ball made mistakes that contributed to a tough loss, it was largely the defensive players who seemed the most stumped.

Minnesota's defense entered the game No. 1 in both yards and points allowed, and they had been dominant all season long on third down. But that all changed at Philadelphia, when the Eagles totaled 456 yards of total offense and 38 points.

Matthew Coller of wrote about the uncharacteristic struggles defensively by the Vikings.

The Vikings defense hadn't given up a 300-yard game since Week 10 against Washington – and Kirk Cousins was largely playing from behind in that game. They even had a stretch of five straight games holding opposing quarterbacks under 200 yards.

Did the Eagles throw in some wrinkles? Yes. But Terence Newman told media members following the game that there wasn't much they hadn't already seen on tape.

"It was tricky, but we knew there were going to be some RPOs (run-pass options)," Newman said. "We were prepared for some of the things they were going to do. They just executed and made plays."

Another trend that was blown up on Sunday: The Vikings defense struggled on third down. The Eagles finished 10-for-14 on third downs against a defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL in third down efficiency.

"That was the biggest deal right there, extending drives," defensive tackle Tom Johnson told media. "We're used to getting off the field on third down; it's one of our strengths. For us to not be able to execute and get off the field, we gotta rally and make a big play and hopefully it goes your way. Today it didn't."

Thielen frustrated by Vikings inability to 'check last box'

The Vikings were one game away from making history and playing a Super Bowl in their home stadium, but their dream was snuffed out Sunday night by an Eagles team that clicked on all cylinders while Minnesota struggled to start its engine.

Following the game, Thielen said he will likely watch the Super Bowl but doesn't plan to attend the game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"I'll watch it, but at this point, there is no need for me to go," Thielen told media members.

Bob Sansevere of the *Pioneer Press *wrote about the Vikings tough loss and Thielen's reaction to it.

The native of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, had a breakout season in 2017 and gave it his all in the NFC Championship game at Philadelphia. Sansevere wrote:

All season, in all but three games before Sunday, the Vikings found ways to retrieve momentum, and Thielen played a significant role. He had 91 receptions for 1,276 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season and [selected to his first career] Pro Bowl.

A native of Detroit Lakes who played his college ball at Minnesota State Mankato, he became a favorite among Vikings fans because he was one of their own, and because he was very good. That's not something he thinks about, though. Not now. Not yet.

Minnesota still has a lot to hang its hat on – the team was 13-3 in the regular-season before defeating the Saints to advance to the conference title game. But for Thielen, it will be a while before he's able to reflect on the success up to this point.

"We had bigger goals than making the NFC Championship Game," Thielen said. "Our ultimate goal was to go to the Super Bowl. We didn't check the last box. We checked a lot of other boxes."

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