PHILADELPHIA – The narrative in advance of the NFC Championship Game was not very flattering to Nick Foles.
A popular line of thinking went something like this …
Foles was a weak link for the Philadelphia Eagles. How would the Eagles ever score enough points to reach the Super Bowl with that shaky backup quarterback filling in for injured star Carson Wentz?
A mismatch materialized, all right.
Foles made mincemeat out of the Vikings top-ranked defense.
This qualifies as a true stunner. Foles systematically and thoroughly dismantled the Vikings in a 38-7 laugher to send the Eagles to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in two weeks.
“Words can’t really describe what I feel,” Foles said.
He’s not the only one speechless. His stat line would seem far-fetched unless you watched him carve up Mike Zimmer’s defense with the ease of hot knife through soft butter.
Foles completed 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns with a 141.4 rating. In other words, he played darn near perfect.
“Some of the stuff he did out there was unbelievable,” tight end Brent Celek said.
Philadelphia cops coated downtown light posts in Crisco early Sunday morning to prevent rowdy fans from climbing them in celebration. Apparently, they smeared that stuff all over Vikings defenders too.
They missed tackles and couldn’t contain Foles’ passing.
The Eagles answered the challenge. The Vikings crumbled. There’s no other way to diagnose this beatdown.
The Vikings wilted and were no match for Foles, who initially struggled after taking over for Wentz late in the season but looked fully capable in the biggest moment of his career.
“The guys believed in him,” Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said. “Listen, he’s not a rookie. He’s a veteran who has started a lot of games in this league.”
He looked All-World against a defense that is not used to being taken to the woodshed. Foles shredded the NFL’s No. 1 defense and made it look rather easy.
He completed passes to nine players and averaged 10.2 yards per completion. The Eagles converted 10 of 14 third-down chances against a defense that set an NFL record for third-down success.
“We wanted to be aggressive,” Foles said. “Their defense is one of the top defenses in the league, so we had to go right at them.”
Let’s hold off anointing the Vikings defense with a cool nickname after this no-show. Give Foles and the Eagles offense their proper due because they made the Vikings look clueless.
The Eagles basically did whatever they wanted with run or pass, which was stunning because the Vikings usually dictate terms.
Not this time. Foles torched their secondary as if he was slinging the ball around in the backyard.
“We tried to keep them out of rhythm,” Foles said. “If they can catch a rhythm they’re almost unstoppable. But we were able to keep them off-balance.”
They kept the Vikings off-balance with run-pass option plays and then broke their spirit on deep shots.
With the Eagles up 14-7 late in the first half, Foles bought extra time by eluding the rush. Terence Newman and Harrison Smith had a miscommunication in the secondary, allowing Alshon Jeffery to run wide open down the field. Foles floated him an easy 53-yard TD pass with 1 minute, 18 seconds until halftime.
Foles wasn’t done. The Eagles got the ball back with 29 seconds left. Tight end Zach Ertz turned Smith inside-out with a move that led to a 36-yard completion. That set up a field goal at the halftime horn.
Halftime didn’t cool off Foles. He threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith on a flea-flicker on the opening drive of the second half.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever run a flea-flicker,” Foles said. “It was my first time so I just tried not to smile. … Sometimes they go really bad. I’m just glad it worked.”
That play and his performance worked out better than anyone could have imagined.