Tag Archives: Minnesota Vikings

NFC Championship: A Matter of Luck For Two Snakebitten Franchises and Cities Starving for a Title.

20 Jan
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Can the Eagles rely on Nick Foles to take them to the Super Bowl? The Birds will take on the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo By Webster Riddick.

This weekend’s NFC Championship matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings pits two hard luck franchises against each other.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field will be a matchup of two franchises that have lost six Super Bowls in total and have had more than their share of post-season disappointments.

From 2001 to 2008, the Eagles went to five NFC title games, losing four of them. When the team did win the NFC Championship in the 2004 season, they went on to lose to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings haven’t won a NFC title game since the 1976 season, where they lost to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XI. Since then, they’ve lost four title games, three of which were lost in the final minute or in overtime.

(In other words, they know exactly how the New Orleans Saints, whom they defeated on Sunday on a fluke play with seconds left in the game, feel…)

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum looking to lead his team to a win over the Eagles.

Since neither team has won the Super Bowl—the Eagles won a pre-Super Bowl NFL Championship in 1960—something has to give, right? The football gods are going to reward one of these long suffering fan bases with a trip to the Super Bowl and another chance to win an elusive championship.

But now that we’ve talked about all that history, let’s talk about the game itself.

Neither of the quarterbacks participating in Sunday’s game is going to make anyone forget former Eagles great Donovan McNabb, Vikings Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton or even Vikings short-termer Brett Favre. But Nick Foles and Minnesota’s Case Keenum, two guys who didn’t distinguish themselves as part of the Los Angeles or St. Louis Rams squads in the early Oughts, have managed to get their teams to the conference final despite pronouncements to the contrary.

Foles is coming off a solid performance in the win over the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round in which he completed 23-of-30 passes for 246 yards with no touchdown passes, but also no interceptions.  He was efficient and kept the Eagles offense moving at key stretches, mixing passes to tight-end Zach Ertz, and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor with screens to running backs Jay Ajayi and   Corey Clement and smash mouth running from running back LeGarrette Blunt.

That’s something the Eagles will have to do against a Vikings defense that ranks at the top of the NFL.

“The quick, short passing game obviously can help, the running game can help,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “Somewhere in there, if you can take a shot, you take a shot and whether you hit, like first play of the game, if you hit it or not, that kind of gets your blood flowing a little bit. And sometimes even tempo, hurry-up, no-huddle offense can get your quarterback into that kind of rhythm.”

It also helps that the Eagles running game, while not great, moved the ball well enough to keep the Falcons defense off balance. The Eagles as a group rushed for 96 yards including a couple of 10-yard plus runs on jet sweeps by Agholor.  Ajayi also averaged close to four yards per carry.

It kept the Eagles from being one-dimensional, Ertz, the tight end, said.

“Yeah, I thought we were really good on first and second down in the second half of that game last week,” he said “We kind had the RPOs (run pass options) early on first down that put us in those positions to be successful. I thought Doug [Pederson] a really good job. One of the things that stood out is that we never got in those third-and-really long situations, third-and-11-plus situations where you have to have the running back and the tight-end chip. You never want to be in those situations and we kind of stayed out of those, so that was definitely huge for us.”

Meanwhile, the Eagles defense is not taking Keenum and the Vikings offense lightly. This is an offense coming off the high of the “Minneapolis Miracle”, when Keenum hit Stefon Diggs on a 61-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left to defeat the New Orleans Saints.

Keenum, who was the NFL’s 12th rated passer, has been efficient. In the game against the Saints, Keenum was 25-of-40 for 318 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

But the Eagles defense is no slouch—they are the fourth ranked defense in the league and are first against the run.  The Vikings running game ranked seventh during the regular season despite the loss of rookie Dalvin Cook. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are averaging close to four yards per carry.

Defensive end Brandon Graham recognizes this and says the defense does as well.

“Oh, yeah, you can’t take nobody lightly and I think Case does a good job as far as moving in the pocket, being able to extend plays with his legs and you know just being able to trust himself going out there,” he said. “You know, going out there, making plays because he’s got the receivers. He’s got the running game that’s been helping him take a lot of pressure off of him.”

The Eagles, who managed to become the Number One seed despite a slate of injuries that includes MVP-candidate quarterback Carson Wentz, are once again the underdog despite this being a home game.

So expect the return of the Dog Masks. And a shoulder chip you can see from space.

“The disrespect continues,” said Eagles Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. “For us to be the No 1 seed and to have this championship run through the Linc, what more do you want? At the end of the day, respect is not given, we gotta go out and take it like we’ve been doing all year. I think we’ll go out and dominate.”

The NFC Championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings will be played on Sunday night at 6:40 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia. Tickets are sold out, but if you want to catch the game, it’ll be on Fox-29, beginning with the Fox NFL-Sunday pregame show at 6 p.m.

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Shady McCoy for MVP: Why Not?

11 Dec
Eagles running back Shady McCoy puts a move on Detroit Lions strong safety Glover Quin en route to a 41-yard touchdown run. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back Shady McCoy puts a move on Detroit Lions strong safety Glover Quin en route to a 41-yard touchdown run. Photo by Webster Riddick.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—When all the balloting for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award is finally tabulated, it will probably be either Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning or perhaps even Tom Brady of the New England Patriots taking home the trophy as the league’s best player.

Meanwhile in the City of Brotherly Love, there’s a certain running back that is having a career year and would be in serious contention for league MVP honors if it weren’t for the outstanding years of the two aforementioned superstar signal-callers.  Considering his accomplishments this season, you would have to put LeSean “Shady” McCoy in the conversation.

“I’ll put him in it, I’ll vote for (McCoy),” said Eagles left tackle Jason Peters. “I don’t know who at running back is playing better than him. You got your quarterbacks, but I’ll vote him in as MVP this year.”

Suffice it to say, McCoy is not just having a good year, he’s having a career year. In week, he’s leading the NFL in rushing with 1,305 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry.

“I think he’s playing better than any running back in the NFL right now,” said Eagles center Jason Kelce.

McCoy will far exceed the 1,309 yards he gained last season and was the first back in the NFL to gain 1,000 yards this season. In fact, he is 208 yards away from breaking the Eagles single-season rushing record currently held by legendary Birds running back Wilbert Montgomery, who rushed for 1,512 yards in 1979.

“I’ve met him, he’s a cool guy and knows tons about football,” McCoy said. “That would be something big to break his record.”

Not only is he the game’s leading rusher this season, McCoy is also leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,744. To top it all off, Shady also has 40 receptions for 439 yards in the passing game.

Undoubtedly, McCoy’s best performance of this season came during last Sunday’s blizzard at Lincoln Financial Field where he stormed through the Detroit Lions defense for a team-record and career-best 217 yards. He scored on two long, spectacular touchdown runs in the fourth quarter that shifted the momentum of the game to the Eagles for good.

“When you watch the film, you know he’s an explosive runner, he’s talented, he can do a lot of things on his own,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “He can make a lot of people miss. He’s probably as good as there is in the league at making people miss in the open field. I was excited when I got here to get a chance to work with him.”

McCoy’s performance last week was compelling enough to have his jersey, cleats and gloves sent to Canton, Ohio to be on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the second Eagles player this season to receive such an honor. That other jersey on display was that of quarterback Nick Foles for his seven-touchdown performance last month against the Oakland Raiders.

“That’s something special, something that my son can see and like and look up to, give him a challenge to make it there,” McCoy said.

If you don’t think McCoy is good enough to warrant MVP consideration, you have to say that he’s one of the league’s best running backs. The numbers this season certainly say it, especially when you consider that he has more yards than guys like Minnesota Vikings ball carrier Adrian Peterson, Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles, Chicago’s Matt Forte and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch.

“I definitely think I’m in the top five or the top three,” McCoy said. “That’s what I feel like. They’re a lot of different guys.”

McCoy said while he has a lot in common with some of the league’s best backs, he believes that there are some things that set him apart from those other backs.

“I watch myself on tape and I would say vision, I’m very elusive,” McCoy said. “I’m a long distance guy and just hard to tackle.”

With his shifty side-to-side moves, McCoy doesn’t like the idea that some observers of the game see him only as a back with speed and good moves. He said his best runs have come attacking the heart of the defense by moving straight ahead.

“A lot people think I’m a side-to-side guy, but if you really watch me that’s really not me,” McCoy said. “All of my best plays are up the middle.”

All of the attention surrounding Foles’ rise to prominence with his outstanding play has slightly obscured what McCoy has done this season. You might even argue that McCoy is not even the MVP on his team considering how well Foles has played this season.

If there’s one thing that could possibly put McCoy in the conversation for MVP,  the Eagles (8-5) have to keep winning. The first-place Birds seem to have a clear path to the NFC East crown with three games left including this Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. They are one game ahead of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

“He’s playing really well. I hope he gets it,” said Eagles tight end Brent Celek. “Our goal is to win games and whatever happens, happens.”