Sunday, January 4, 2009
The Eagles failed to score an offensive touchdown until late in the game but still managed to squeak by the Minnesota Vikings 26-14 in an NFC Wild Card game. For the most part, the game was a defensive struggle as each team came up with big defensive stops and turnovers to set up the offenses. Save for one big play for each team, both offenses struggled to put points on the board.
The Vikings defense bottled up Brian Westbrook for most of the game, keeping the Eagles biggest weapon grounded until a big play in the 4th quarter. With nearly 7 minutes left in the game and the Eagles up 16-14, Westbrook caught a Donovan McNabb screen pass and took it 71 yards and sealed the Eagles victory. Westbrook continues to prove that, when he's healthy, he is still a threat to to score every time he touches the ball. The screen pass he scored on didn't look like it was much of a play until Westbrook turned on the jets and broke a tackle or two.
The Birds played about as well as they could have defensively, allowing Adrian Peterson one big touchdown run but swallowing up nearly everything else the Vikings tried to do. The Eagles were able to slow down the Vikings and force them into obvious passing situations, allowing them to blitz from every angle and confuse Tarvaris Jackson and force turnovers. The defense was also responsible for a touchdown when Asante Samuel picked off Jackson and took it to the house in the second quarter.
With the win, the Eagles now head to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants in the second round. The Giants and Eagles each beat the other team on the road this season, with the Eagles beating the Giants most recently in Week 14. It should be a close contest between two teams with similar defensive styles and completely opposite offensive strategies. The Giants will look to run the ball down the Eagles throats and the Birds will try to stop them just like they did in Week 14 when the Giants managed only 88 yards on the ground. In Week 10, the first time the two teams played, the Giants plowed over the Eagles and racked up 218 yards on the ground. Needless to say, stopping the run will be the key for the Eagles.
The Eagles improbable season continues. While the Eagles didn't look incredibly impressive today, they did just enough to get past the Vikings. Their defense carried the day for them and if they can put together a similar defensive effort against the Giants, the Eagles should do well. It's the offense for the Eagles that needs to step it up. The Eagles can't continue to settle for field goals, they need to start punching the ball into the end zone.
It took a miracle for the Eagles to get into the playoffs and now the Eagles have taken advantage of their good fortune and look poised to make a deep run in these playoffs. Rumors of the demise of the Eagles were greatly exaggerated.