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Eagles Handle the Playoff Pressue in the Twin Cities Just Fine

The Eagles and the Vikings both came out of the tunnels raring to take each other on. Both squads had properly done their homework, as both teams were forced to punt on their opening possessions. It was obvious that this game would be a matter of who made the first mistake. The audience had to wait until the second half to find out who the perp would be.

The halftime score was very indicative of how close the first two quarters were. The two-point differential was as close as the quarterbacks’ first-half stats.

Donovan McNabb was 11 for 19 with 122 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. Tarvaris Jackson’s numbers were almost symmetrical: 120 yards, 9 for 18, no touchdowns and one interception.

Both pointmen showed great command of their squads, calling appropriate audibles and recognizing what the defense was giving them. Jackson might even be given the edge in that match up since he was able to bring his team to the endzone twice in the first half while McNabb did not accomplish that feat until the fourth quarter.

“I knew it was going to be a game of field position,” Vikings head coach Brad Childress said. And he was right. The problem came when Jackson could no longer earn his team the field position they needed.

Jackson completed a lowly 35% of his passes after the intermission while his counterpart, McNabb, came out of the break throwing for an 80% completion rate. Jackson was also held to his lowest passer rating since week seven of the 2007 season, 45.4. Philly’s QB more-than-doubled Tarvaris’ effort by tallying a 92.8 passer rating.

This game pit the number four rush defense, the Vikings, against the Eagles who are ranked sixth on the same list. This was evident right from the start.

Every time Adrian Peterson rushed the ball he was swarmed by a flock of Eagles. And whenever Westbrook was in the backfield Minnesota had a spy watching him.

This worked well for both teams. Neither running back had more than one run that went longer than 10 yards (Peterson had a 40-yarder and Westbrook had a 10-yarder).

The difference came in the second half. Minnesota seemed disheartened by AP’s lack of production and only called his number eight times in the final two periods. That is not a smart move when you have a runner like Peterson. He does not always give you long runs when you want them, but after enough tries he will bust one open and make all of the failed attempts worthwhile. His first six carries accrued only 10 yards, but on the seventh, he broke free for 40 yards and a touchdown. Peterson could have been one or two carries away from a big play in the second half, which would have easily made it a game again, but he never got the chance.

With 9:34 left in the first half, Ben Leber was forced to burn a timeout because of confusion between the outside linebackers. There was some banter prior to the play, which couldn’t get straightened out in time so the timeout was spent. At that moment the Eagles offensive line knew they had figure out whatever it was that plagued their protection up until that point.

Prior to the epiphany, McNabb was never afforded much time to throw the ball. It seemed like every time he dropped back he was hurried and/or knocked down. Many of his passes were errant, due to a Viking defender knocking McNabbs arm, causing the throw to be a duck.

That timeout confirmed that the Eagles spotted the Vikings’ tell and they exploited it like Matt Damon watching Teddy KGB’s Oreos. The very next play McNabb had enough time to drop back and launch a 34-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson up the right side.

Vikings defensive coordinator switch to delayed linebacker blitzes in the second half and that threw the Eagle line for a loop. Napoleon Harris and Jared Allen both got sacks and Jared caused McNabb to fumble. However, once again, Philly made the proper adjustments and dominated in the fourth quarter.

In a stadium as loud as the Hurbert H. Humprey Metrodome it is hard for the quarterback to properly get his plays called and keep his offensive line in rhythm. The Eagles came prepared for this.

In an attempt to control the noise, the Eagles would regularly break the huddle with about 10 seconds left on the play clock. This did not give the fans a chance to get the decibel levels up, and gave the linebackers no chance to hype the crowd.

The Eagles were only called for one false start and the Vikings jumped the gun three times during the contest. It looks like Andy Reid used the home field advantage more than the home team.

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