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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Lincoln Financial Field seats almost 70,000 people, most of whom are known to voice their displeasure toward opposing teams.
With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, one can only imagine what the atmosphere will be like Sunday night.
The Vikings have said this week they expect a hostile environment in the NFC Championship game.
“It’s a loud environment, but we play a lot of other teams that have loud stadiums,” said Vikings quarterback Case Keenum. “We’ll just do a silent count, we’ve been practicing that throughout the week. The same thing we’d do for any other away game.”
Added Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer: “They’re loud. They’re great fans. It’ll be a night game, so I’m sure they’ll have a lot of time to get ready to yell.”
The Eagles went 7-1 at home during the regular season and won 15-10 over the Falcons in the Divisional round last week.
Philadelphia has gone 26-14 at home over the past five seasons.
The Eagles are 5-3 at Lincoln Financial Field in playoff games since it opened in 2003, including 1-1 in NFC title games.
If anyone associated with Minnesota knows the environment that awaits Sunday night, it’s Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur, who has spent more than a dozen years of his coaching career with the Eagles.
“They’re passionate, educated fans,” Shurmur said. “They love their football team, and they’re there to watch the game and contribute in a way to help their team win, so I get it.
“I lived it for 13 years on that side of it, and it’s going to be a great environment for a game,” Shurmur added. “We have to approach it as we do any road environment where it’s the noise that we have to deal with and then keep the rest of it out of it.”
Veteran offensive lineman Joe Berger said the Vikings will try to convert the hostile environment into positive energy.
“As a player, yeah. It’s fun to go into a stadium that’s rockin’ and get the boos when you’re out on the field,” Berger said. “To me, I think that’s part of it. You know you’re there with your group and that’s all that matters, and you don’t need anything else.”
Different techniques, same results
Running backs on both sides might be in for a long night Sunday as the Eagles and Vikings feature the two stingiest run defenses in the NFL. Philadelphia led the league by allowing 79.2 rushing yards per game, while Minnesota was second at 83.6 yards per game.
But while both units were extremely successful at stuffing the run, the teams use different techniques to do so.
The Vikings defensive line tends to play the run first, covering their gaps before getting after the quarterback if he is passing the ball.
“We play the run first, that’s how we’re coached here,” said Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. “We focus on technique and the little things … the main thing going into a game is stopping the run so we can earn the right to rush the passer.”
The Eagles, meanwhile, use a more aggressive approach, as Philadelphia’s linemen generally make a beeline for the quarterback and try to stop the run along the way.
“They’re a group that likes to get after the pass rusher, no matter what,” said Vikings tight end David Morgan. “If you can get to the quarterback, you’re getting through a bunch of guys.
“Their guys are athletic and physical and can wiggle around and get by people,” Morgan added. “We have to start fast and strike them early.”
A pair of Vikings offensive linemen know the challenge that lies ahead against a ferocious Eagles defensive line.
“We’ve watched a lot of film and have seen what people have done, good and bad. Just try to do everything we can to learn from other teams,” said Vikings left guard Mike Remmers. “They’re a great defense, and it’s going to be a good challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
Added Berger: “They’re big, strong players that get off the ball and try to get to you before you get your feet in the ground. They get off the ball well and get into contact well. They just play well together as a group.”
The Eagles ranked fourth in both points (18.4) and yards allowed per game (306.5). Philadelphia had six games where it held its opponents under 65 total rushing yards in 2017.
“It’s going to be a tough task. Their defensive stats and rankings speak for themselves,” said Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon. “We’re going to have our hands full because that D-line is disruptive.”
Forbath ready for another late-game chance if necessary
Most of the time, Kai Forbath’s successful 53-yard field goal with 89 seconds left ends up being the game-winner in the playoffs.
But even though Minnesota needed a miraculous play to win, the Vikings kicker said he still takes confidence from the fact he hit that one and a 49-yard kick against New Orleans.
“You build on makes like that, just take the confidence over to the next kick,” Forbath said. “But at the same time, I also move past those kicks and take it one kick at a time. It’s a new week.”
With the Vikings set for an outdoor playoff game, Forbath said he has practiced outside this week with long snapper Jeff Overbaugh and holder Ryan Quigley.
“It’s not really grass out there at this point, but it’s better than kicking inside,” Forbath said.
The Vikings second-season kicker said he’s prepared for another late-game opportunity if it comes his way, much like he was in the Divisional round.
In fact, Forbath said he relishes those opportunities.
“I think if you dread it then you’re probably in the wrong profession,” Forbath said. “That’s kind of what you want.
“We work hard and practice a lot and kick a lot of balls, so in that case where it comes down to you, it’s what you’ve been doing all this work for,” Forbath added. “You have to be confident and know you can make it.”
Forbath has made 34 of 41 field goals in the regular season and playoffs, including seven from 50-pus yards.<span style="text-decoration: underline;"> </span>