All but forgotten as a postseason contender just one month earlier, Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles have a playoff win. Next up: the Super Bowl champions.
Brian Westbrook caught a short pass out of the backfield and zigzagged through the Minnesota defense for a devastating 71-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and the Eagles spoiled the VikingsÕ first home playoff game in eight years with a 26-14 victory Sunday.
Asante Samuels 44-yard interception return of Tarvaris Jacksons errant pass in the second quarter set a tone for the kind of game most Vikings fans feared from the unpolished quarterback.
Reid improved his playoff coaching record to 9-6, including at least one win each time the Eagles have qualified in his 10 years. He bested his buddy and former offensive coordinator Brad Childress in this one, and they spoke for several moments on the field after the game.
Philadelphia will play next Sunday in New Jersey against the top-seeded Giants, sending Arizona to play Carolina in the other NFC semifinal on Saturday.
Jackson, who lost his job in September but got it back when Gus Frerotte was hurt, went 15-for-35 for 164 yards. Adrian Petersons two touchdown runs werent nearly enough for NFC North champion Minnesota, which will head to yet another offseason with burning questions about the quarterbacks.
Westbrook couldnt find any room to run, even with two starters (Ray Edwards and Pat Williams) missing on Minnesotas offensive line. But McNabb, who went 23-for-34 for 300 yards, kept the offense from derailing. He tossed a ball toward his always-reliable running back at just the right time with the Eagles clinging to a two-point lead after a scoreless third quarter.
Westbrook received a slew of strong blocks as he slalomed downfield for the clinching TD.
Stability at quarterback almost certainly would have given the Vikings another win or two, and perhaps a first-round bye. And despite a drastically better December, Jackson showed hes still quite raw and in need of a lot more experience.
His one big mistake really hurt, an underthrown out route to Sidney Rice that Samuel read perfectly and picked off for a 44-yard return and a 16-7 lead.
McNabb wasnt perfect. He lost a fumble in the third quarter and took an 8-yard sack to push the Eagles out of David Akers field goal range. But the Vikings didnt capitalize on the turnover and left plenty of receivers open in the middle of the field – particularly Jason Avant and tight end Brent Celek – for McNabb to target.