NFC Championship: Aggressive Eagles face top-ranked Vikings defense
Philadelphia — Nick Foles threw a deep pass into the wind on the first play from scrimmage against the Falcons, LeGarrette Blount scored the only touchdown on fourth down and wide receiver Nelson Agholor ran 21 yards on a new play.
The Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) are aggressive no matter what.
They’ll need that approach when they face the Minnesota Vikings (14-3) and their top-ranked defense in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
“You’d probably call me unorthodox with some of the decisions I’ve made on fourth downs and going for it, 2-point conversions, things like that,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday.
“Sometimes you just don’t do the norm, you just don’t do what everybody expects you to do and sometimes that can help you. I’m calculated by it, but at the same time, I’m going to make sure that I’m putting our guys in a good position.”
Foles underthrew the long pass to Torrey Smith to start the divisional playoff game, but a pass interference call gave the Eagles a 42-yard gain to the Falcons 25.
Jay Ajayi fumbled on the next play or perhaps the game wouldn’t have come down to a defensive stand at the end to preserve Philadelphia’s 15-10 win.
“Take a shot,” Pederson said explaining his decision to throw long into a stiff wind.
On the touchdown drive early in the second quarter, Philadelphia faced third-and-3 from the Falcons 24. Foles faked a pitch to running back Corey Clement and handed off to Agholor on an inside counter with Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson pulling out and leading the way. Agholor took it to the Falcons 3. It was the first time Pederson called the play this season.
“Coach has just had a knack of seemingly calling those at the right time,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.
“It comes up different every week. We really work well as a staff together in game planning. Sometimes we think we like something and we go out on the practice field and it doesn’t quite look like it’s ready. So, we have to keep it in the crock pot for another week or start over with a new recipe.”
Three plays later, tight end Trey Burton lined up at fullback and Blount followed his block into the end zone for a 1-yard TD run. Pederson didn’t think twice about going for it instead of kicking a game-tying field goal.
“The ball was just inside the 1-yard line, and we had confidence to go for it in that situation,” Pederson said. “We were real close and the guys did a great job.”
During the regular season, only Green Bay (28) went for it on fourth down more than Philadelphia (26). The Eagles converted 17 times for 65.4 percent, third-best behind New Orleans (80 percent on 12 for 15) and Jacksonville (76.9 percent on 10 for 13). Minnesota is 1 for 7 on fourth down, fewest attempts in the league.
“You always want to be aggressive,” Foles said.
Vikings at Eagles
Kickoff: 6:40 p.m. Sunday, Lincoln Financial Field
Line: Vikings by 3½