The Minnesota Vikings were clearly no more than slight road bump for the Philadelphia Eagles as they made a late season push for the number two playoff seed in the NFC.
The Vikings came into the game as two touchdown underdogs and if there ever were two teams headed in different directions Minnesota and Philadelphia appeared to be those two teams.
Minnesota was down to its third string quarterback, a rookie named Joe Webb that played at Alabama-Birmingham.
Philadelphia’s quarterback Michael Vick on the other hand has been simply unbelievable as this year as the Most Valuable Player award has come down to Vick and New England’s Tom Brady.
Minnesota was coming off of a brutal beat down at the hands of their bitter rival Chicago Bears 40-14 in which quarterback Brett Favre suffered a concussion rendering him unavailable.
Philadelphia’s stunning New York Giants 38-31 win in which they scored four touchdowns in the last eight minutes of their game will be a game that will be discussed as one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the league.
Underscoring Minnesota’s dramatic fall from grace from last year was the announcement of the NFC Pro Bowl team.
Last year, Minnesota had ten players on the Pro Bowl team. This year, Minnesota’s sole representative was Adrian Peterson.
Vikings fans appeared to be resigned to seeing their team not embarrass itself and maybe offer a glimpse of what Webb might be able to do next year.
Philadelphia Eagles fans had to be lipping their chops tonight at the prospect of their team blowing out Minnesota.
The old adage in the NFL is that on any given Sunday in the NFL any team can beat another team.
After tonight’s game, the old adage will have to be amended to include Tuesday as the Minnesota Vikings played their best game of the season to upset the Eagles 24-14 and end any hopes Philadelphia had of obtaining a first round bye.
Interim Coach Leslie Frazier devised a scheme of blitzes and stunts that had Michael Vick back pedaling for the most of the night. Vick seemed discombobulated all night long by the pressure that the Vikings defense was able to put on him.
On the signature play of the night for the Vikings defense, Antoine Winfield caused Vick to fumble coming on a blind side blitz. Winfield not satisfied with the fumble, scooped up the loose ball and scampered 45 yards for a touchdown tying the game at 7-7 late in the second quarter.
The Vikings would never trail in the game again.
Minnesota returned to its roots on offense with a steady diet of Adrian Peterson as he touched the ball on more than a third of the Vikings offensive plays.
Peterson ran the ball 22 times for 118 yards and a touchdown. He was ran hard and with power throughout the night and if not for some heroics by the Eagles secondary in the second level, Adrian likely would have scored at least one more touchdown and rushed for an additional 50 yards.
The only blemish on the night was Peterson’s first fumble of the season that occurred on a freak play when Bernard Berrian kicked the ball out of his hands.
How good has Peterson been with ball security this year in that he has played 15 games, he has had only one fumble and that fumble was caused by a teammate accidently kicking the ball out of his hands?
The Vikings also may have found that their quarterback cupboard is not completely barren.
Webb posted solid numbers connecting on 17 of his 26 passes for 195 yards. In the third quarter, He appeared to have the first touchdown of his career when he found Sidney Rice on a fade route in one-on-one coverage in the red zone.
The touchdown pass to Rice was overturned by the replay official who held that Rice did not maintain possession of the ball throughout the process of the catch.
Honestly, does anyone really know what the NFL is trying to accomplish with the new rules pertaining to maintaining possession of the ball throughout the process of the catch?
On the next play, Webb was sacked as he scrambled out of the pocket. The play demonstrated that Webb is still a young developing quarterback but he has promise.
On one hand, the Joe didn’t make the right play as he failed to see Peterson in the flat who had released down the field after making his initial block. The Vikings likely lost a very good chance to score a touchdown as Peterson only needed to get a yard or two after the catch to score.
On the other hand, Webb didn’t force a pass in the situation that he didn’t feel he could make in the red zone. On the road and in the second half of a close game, you don’t want to create a turnover and give the home team momentum.
The Vikings took the lead with the decision of Webb not to force the ball when Ryan Longwell kicked a 30 yard field goal.
Less than five minutes later, Webb capped off a well-orchestrated 75 yard drive with a nine yard touchdown scramble. The longest play of the drive was a 46 yard post route to Percy Harvin.
The scramble by Webb immediately drew comparisons to Vick’s athletic ability by the game’s announcers. Most Vikings fans however were likely initially thinking there is no way that the old man could pull off that play.
The most impressive aspect of Webb’s game last night is that he seemed to be eerily relaxed in the role of starting quarterback. In Webb’s on the field post-game interview he appeared to be entirely comfortable in the spotlight.
Later this week, the question will be asked as to whether the Vikings have stumbled on to their next quarterback. I think the answer is yes.
The only other guy on the field that appeared to be as relaxed as Webb on the Vikings sideline was Coach Frazier.
Maybe Frazier is relaxed because players such as Winfield are openly campaigning for Vikings ownership to remove the word “interim” from his job title.
Winfield was very effuse in his praise of Frazier in his post-game comments and given Winfield’s status of one of the elder statesmen in the locker room one has to believe that Frazier’s stock is rising among Vikings ownership.