PHILADELPHIA – In the NFL’s second consecutive pairing of former Texas quarterbacks in as many weeks, a man from Austin took center stage.
And with a 24-7 halftime lead — reminiscent of the Vikings’ 17-point headstart against the Saints — no less.
Led by Nick Foles’ near-flawless first half and a 50-yard pick-6 by Patrick Robinson, Philadelphia clinched a Super Bowl berth after Sunday’s 38-7 finish at Lincoln Financial Field.
“It’s unbelievable soaking it all in. It’s humbling. I’m so proud of the work Case [Keenum] and [the Vikings] did this season. That’s one of my great friends,” Foles said after the win. “We have such a close-knit group of players, it takes away from the nerves.”
For the most part, Abilene Wylie’s Keenum had evaded the mistake bug during the postseason, but it took less than a quarter for him to toss a momentum-changing touchdown — to the other team. He turned the ball over twice more via a second quarter fumble and a fourth quarter interception to Corey Graham.
While Keenum lost his handle on last week’s “miracle” magic, Foles was electric.
One of Austin Westlake High School’s most prolific signal calling alumni closed the first half 15 of 22 wth 208 yards and a 53-yard lightning strike to Alshon Jeffery — one of two on the evening — that turned a seven-point deficit into a 14-point hole.
Foles’ laser beam came after LaGarrette Blount tied the game with a 4-yard rumble and Robinson’s interception return. It also was made possible by the protection of two former Lone Star State players.
Haltom City’s Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Groveton’s Lane Johnson.
The Eagle hit parade continued less than five minutes into the third quarter, after Foles split two defenders with a 41-yard TD pass to Torrey Smith. At the 14:10 mark of the fourth quarter, Jeffery’s 5-yard shoestring reception that pushed stretched the points’ gap to 31 points.
Foles finished 26 of 33 for 252 yards and a trio of TDs. Eight of those completions fell into the hands of Zach Ertz to the tune of 93 yards. The most two most important statistics, though, may be the one’s least noticed. He finished with zero interceptions and a 79 completion percentage — including a string of 15 straight completions to end the game.
“That’s the biggest thing about these guys — resiliency,” Eagles’ Head Coach Doug Pederson said, “I’m so proud of Nick and the offense. For everything Nick’s gone through, he’s stayed the course.”
The Eagles snuffed out any opportunity for Minnesota to secure a home game in the Super Bowl and scored 38 points against the No. 2 defense in the NFL. They also did it with a backup quarterback that had played on three different teams in two different conferences in three years. With accuracy, a strong arm, and peerless poise in the pocket, Foles led the City of Brotherly Love to its first Super Bowl appearance since future Hall of Famer Donovan McNabb did in 2005.
The looming matchup with New England will be a rematch of Super Bowl 39, one which Tom Brady and Bill Belichick topped McNabb and Andy Reid 24-21 at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.