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Week 20 Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings 7, Philadelphia Eagles 38
What you need to know
If you only watched the first drive of the NFC Championship Game you would think the Vikings won handily and scored several other times during the rest of the game. However, for those of us who watched the rest of the game, we saw a team that could not score and a defense that looked outmatched on almost every drive. Case Keenum
had his arm hit on a ball that ended up being intercepted and returned for a touchdown in the first quarter and this really set the tone for the rest of the game. The Vikings were able to drive into the red zone 3 other times in the game and they were either stopped on 4th down because they needed to go for the touchdown or Keenum fumbled after getting hit from his blind side. This was a very disappointing end to a miracle season for the Vikings as they were blown out in the game that matter most. The running game was nowhere to be found and Keenum finally looked like the backup quarterback he is. With 2 interceptions and a fumble lost, Keenum had his worst game of the season and also missed on several other throws that he had made all season long. The Vikings will have several decisions to make in key positions this offseason, especially at quarterback.
The Eagles had an explosive performance at the most important time going up against the vaunted Vikings defense. Nick Foles
and the passing offense were tremendous in this game as they wore the Vikings down with short underneath passes only to beat them long on two deep passes one to Torrey Smith
and one to Alshon Jeffery
. The offensive line played tremendously holding the Vikings to just one sack and gave the offense time as Foles was not rushed for most of the game. The running game for the Eagles was a high volume but relatively ineffective part of the offense as they seemingly abandoned the run for most of the first half due to the success the Eagles had through the air and only late in the game to seal the victory did they get back to the running attack.
|QB Case Keenum, Pass: 28 - 48 - 271 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 8 - 0|
Keenum has far surpassed what anyone could have imagined this season, but in his biggest moment on the biggest stage, he fell apart. Keenum has strived on his accuracy and ability to protect the ball all season long. This week he accounted for 3 turnovers and missed on 20 of his 48 throws. There were several wide-open receivers that he simply missed, and many opportunities to either extend drives or put points on the board were squandered. Keenum's first interception was returned for a touchdown after his arm was hit on the throw and the ball did not end up anywhere near a Minnesota receiver. The fumble and second interception both came on the Philadelphia side of the field and were entirely preventable as the fumble was a result of holding the ball too long and the interception was a ball forced into double coverage. Keenum did manage to lead the Vikings down the field for a touchdown on the first drive of the game. He connected with Kyle Rudolph
on a beautiful 24-yard pass right over his back shoulder. Rudolph ran a drag route underneath and then simply outran his linebacker in coverage to the end zone. Keenum did not look the same after and may have missed on his chance to be a franchise quarterback somewhere after this performance.
This was one of the only games where McKinnon had more rushing attempts than any other running back. This was because he was the only back to have any success on the ground. McKinnon lead the team with 21 total touches and had more rushing and receiving yards than anyone else. He broke a 10-yard rush off the end for the only explosive play on the ground and had a 13-yard catch and run for a first down to keep a Viking drive alive. McKinnon has long since been relegated to the change of pace and 3rd down back in Minnesota but may find himself in the conversation as the second back next season. This was not the end to the season that the Vikings wanted, but McKinnon sure added to his value heading into next season with his performance.
After losing Dalvin Cook
, the Vikings have struggled to run the ball. However, this has not stopped them from having the second most rush attempts in the NFL. This is a formula the Vikings did not get to employ this week as they were playing from behind for the majority of the game. Murray looked good on the first drive and even started the game with a 6-yard rush right up the middle. It was all downhill from there as he was only given 5 more carries and could not even break 20 yards on the ground. He was used very sparingly in the passing game with 2 catches but that was par for the course as he only had 18 catches all season. Minnesota's game plan was disrupted early, and Murray was not used nearly as much as he has been in recent weeks. When Dalvin Cook
comes back next season it will be a very crowded backfield and it will be interesting to see which running back is on the outside looking in.
After the Minneapolis Miracle last week, everyone expected Diggs to play a big role in the offense again this week. Keenum did try and force the ball to Diggs several times and he tied McKinnon for the team lead in targets with 12. Diggs was harassed all night long with tight coverage and a few plays where it looked like the defensive back may have been there a little early. However, he was unable to break free and get into the end zone on any play and aside from a 22-yard outburst on a single play, he was tackled almost immediately. A lot of this had to do with his quarterback not being very accurate. Keenum was often late with the ball or could not get the ball far enough in front of Diggs that he could catch and run. Diggs ended the best season of his career and should be in the Vikings long-term plans for many seasons to come.
If anyone felt the ineffectiveness of Keenum, it was Adam Thielen
. He was targeted 9 times but only managed to make 3 catches for less than 30 yards because of errant passes. Keenum could not seem to hit the broad side of a barn when throwing to Thielen. Give credit to the Philadelphia defense who pressed Thielen to disrupt his routes and got enough pressure on Keenum to throw off his rhythm. The longest play of the day for Thielen was a 12-yard crossing pattern. There was the acrobatic touchdown catch on 4th down that was reversed upon replay showing the ball touched the ground. Keenum threw up a prayer into double coverage that Thielen looked to catch while on his back on the ground. However, as he rolled over the ball bounced off the turf and was easily overturned. Thielen did not finish the season the way he started as teams started to shape their coverage around him, but he still was half of one of the best WR duos in the NFL this season. It will be interesting to see if this success translates to next season.
Despite the touchdown catch, this was another disappointing game for Rudolph. He has long since been a very athletic tight end that the Vikings have no idea how to use. Keenum found him in the end zone on a beautiful ball right over his shoulder but missed the mark on his other 3 targets. Rudolph could easily be used in similar roles to the Kelce and Gronkowski's of the world, but the Vikings never seem to use him that way. The big-bodied tight end is not featured in the offense the way he should be and that is going to pay off for some other team when he finally walks.
Foles executed the game plan perfectly as the Vikings seemingly were ok with allowing the quick slants all game which Foles patiently took for most of the first half only to beat the defense on double moves later in the game. The offensive line gave Foles all the time he needed in this game as he was very rarely under duress allowing for him to comfortably establish a rhythm.
|RB Jay Ajayi, Rush: 18 - 73 - 0, Rec: 3 - 26 - 0 (3 targets)|
Much like last week, Jay Ajayi
started off hot with his first two carries going for 20 yards, but then seemingly the Eagles went away from him in the first half as he had just two additional carries for 3 yards in the first half. While his overall stat line looks solid with 78 yards, most of this was once the Eagles opened up a big lead as he had 29 yards on the team's last drive as they looked to run out the clock. Consistency will be a big concern for Ajayi in the Super Bowl as they will need him to continue the solid performance that we have seen to start games the past few weeks.
Blount continues his role as the short yardage back as he only saw six carries in this game, but was able to find the end-zone on an 11-yard run up the middle in which the offensive line did a great job creating a hole and Blount barreled into the end-zone carrying defenders who were unable to knock the big running back backwards.
The Eagles have continued to utilize Torrey Smith
throughout the playoffs and with Nick Foles
as their quarterback as they are utilizing his speed which is something they did not do during the regular season. Smith was able to utilize this speed to get behind the defense on a 41-yard touchdown pass in which a flea-flicker caused the defense to bite on it for just enough time for Smith to get behind the defense for a long touchdown.
As we mentioned last week, there were signs that Foles and Alshon Jeffery
were getting used to playing together after struggling to be on the same page. Foles and Jeffery connected on all five attempts as their first two attempts were on slants which setup a 53-yard touchdown on a slant and go that did not appear designed it appeared that Jeffery knew he was covered and released upfield as Nick Foles
bought himself extra time and was able to find the receiver for the long touchdown. Jeffery later scored another touchdown on a nine-yard slant route over the middle in which he was able to use his size and go up and catch the ball for a touchdown.
The Eagles got back to basics with aligning with Zach Ertz
as their primary receiver in this game. Ertz was used heavily on underneath routes as the team took advantage of Ertz's speed against the linebackers Andrew Sendejo and Anthony Barr. Ertz's highlight catch was a double move which was an out and up against Anthony Barr that went for a 36-yard play. Ertz had the luxury of utilizing his speed for clean separation in this game as on almost all of his catches he was wide open which allowed him to run for additional yards after the catch.