Eagles aim for greater heights in NFC title game

By Andy Jasner, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 17, 2018 at 4:12 PM
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PHILADELPHIA -- The top-seeded Eagles are in search of their first trip to the Super Bowl since the 2004 season when they host the second-seeded Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles (14-3) posted a 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round last Saturday and will participate in the NFC Championship Game for the first time since the 2008 season. They dropped a 32-25 decision to the Arizona Cardinals in that contest.

Philadelphia hasn't hosted an NFC Championship Game since recording a 27-10 win over the Falcons following the 2004 season.

The Vikings (14-3) advanced following a thrilling 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints. Stefon Diggs hauled in a 61-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Case Keenum on the final play of the game Sunday.

Like the Eagles, Minnesota has yet to win a Super Bowl. The Vikings have dropped five consecutive NFC Championship games.

Philadelphia will enter Sunday's game as an underdog, especially with quarterback Carson Wentz out with a torn ACL.

"It's about those players in that dressing room, whether we're three-point underdogs or three-point favorites. They really don't listen to that stuff," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "Of course, they have been sort of force-fed for about two weeks now, three weeks now, the information, and they just stick together. They just stick together and find a way and it's been that way all season."

Backup quarterback Nick Foles did an admirable job against the Falcons, completing 23 of 30 passes for 246 yards and a 100.1 passer rating. In two career playoff games with the Eagles -- the other coming in a 26-24 loss to the Saints in 2014 -- Foles is 46 of 63 for 441 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 102.7 passer rating.

"I am very humbled to win this game and to be a part of this team," Foles said. "That's what it's always been about. I know there was a lot of people against us this last week. Just answering questions, and just hearing about it.

"... The biggest thing in our locker room is we believe in one another. Everyone believes, and that was shown on display. The city of Philadelphia obviously believes because they were here and loud. So we are grateful for that. Honestly, it's unbelievable to win this game and we are not finished."

The Vikings are in search of their first trip to the Super Bowl since the 1976 season -- Super Bowl XI.

During the regular season, the Vikings' defense ranked first in points allowed per game (15.8) and yards given up per game (275.9). Defensive end Everson Griffen was tied for fourth in the league with a career-best 13 sacks this season.

While the Vikings likely have seen video of Diggs' amazing catch a million times, another game awaits in the NFC Championship.

"We should celebrate this and enjoy this," tight end Kyle Rudolph told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It's hard to win playoff games. There's a lot of guys in this locker room, including myself, this is our first playoff win. But it's just the beginning. We've still got a lot of work to do.

"It'd be a shame to let something like that go to waste by us not showing up."

The incredible final play will be etched in viewers' minds forever.

"I don't think it's still really sunk in as far as like what something like that's going to be," guard Jeremiah Sirles told ESPN.com. "That's the stuff that in 20 years, you turn on NFL Films and it's going to be the 2018 NFL Classic. Something like that that you can't take away from any player that's in this room right now. We'll always be a part of something that happened that was super special like that."

A win over the Eagles would not only clinch a trip to the Super Bowl, but it would also be the Vikings' first playoff victory against Philadelphia in four tries. The last time the teams met was in the 2008 wild-card round.

The Vikings are 0-4 all-time in the Super Bowl. In order to get a fifth shot, they'll have to travel to a hostile environment and knock out the No. 1 seed.

"They're a pretty resilient bunch," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told ESPN.com. "They're pretty determined in what they're always trying to get done. They're always trying to get better. They're a good group of guys that work really hard."

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