By Joseph Santoliquito

By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — It’s easy for the history to be lost under the layers of improbability and doubt that fell on them at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday night. No one foresaw this, even the Eagles who say they did. They didn’t.

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Though it was very real, so authentic that Nostradamus himself couldn’t have foretold this tale of a bunch that lost its top three offensive players, its defensive hub, its special teams heartbeat, led by an unwanted coach who was harshly criticized by outliers as the primary reason why the Eagles wouldn’t get where they are: NFC champions, Super Bowl bound for the third time in franchise history, and now “America’s Team,” charged with the daunting task of pulling down the evil empire of the north, the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and “The First Man of Football,” Tom Brady.

Regardless of what happens two weeks from now, the 2017 Eagles will go down in Philadelphia sports lore as one of the greatest, most beloved teams that embodied an esprit de corps like no other.

They logged another chapter in their implausible journey by beating the Minnesota Vikings—yet another team the pundits favored over the Eagles—by a rather easy 38-7 victory, scoring 38 unanswered points. No one even saw that kind of demolition coming.

These Eagles now join the 1980 and 2004 Eagles as the only NFC champions in Eagles’ history during the Super Bowl era. This team, however, had to deal with far greater obstacles, and far greater story twists than their two predecessors combined.

The 1980 Eagles of Dick Vermeil had been making a steady climb and were primed to break through in 1980 over an aging Dallas Cowboys’ team. The 2004 Andy Reid Eagles were a perennial playoff team that added superstar receiver Terrell Owens.

 

 

This Eagles team was believed to be at least a season away from what it did Sunday night. Carson Wentz was going to be the face of the team and carry the Eagles to greater heights in the ending years of the decade—not now. The Eagles lost future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters, who was having one of the best years of his career, young playmaking middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, offensive do-everything Darren Sproles and special teams’ demon Chris Maragos.

Then they lost Wentz. When Wentz went, the Eagles’ hopes of getting to the Super Bowl were zero.

Or so everyone outside the NovaCare Complex thought.

Inside, the team’s stubborn, wrought-iron tensile strength grew 10 fold. They played on a theme. They beat it to death. There was a line of candor to their “world-is-against-us” bromide. It wasn’t “just a line.”

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“We didn’t stop believing, we never stopped believing, regardless of everything that happened to us,” said Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the Eagles’ beating hearts and team leaders. “The doubters made us stronger. They pushed us together. This is a team I always envisioned. I saw this in New Orleans my rookie year [in 2009, when the Saints won the Super Bowl beating Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44].

“If you have a whole group that thinks the same, acts the same, believes the same things, and believes in themselves and each other, that’s a tough team to beat.”

This was supposed to be a close game. It wasn’t. It was over by halftime. The Eagles held a 24-7 lead, and with the exception of the Vikings’ first drive, they did everything well. A blaring stat bore that out: Eagles total yards for the first half: 242 yards. The vaunted Vikings’ defense gave up an NFL average low of 275.9 a game during the regular season.

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Nick Foles outplayed his former teammate, Vikings’ starting quarterback Case Keenum. By halftime, Foles had completed 15 of 21 for 208 yards and a touchdown. He had a quarterback rating of 113.4. Foles looked even better than the vintage “Nicky Six” of 2013 when he tossed 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions. At one point, with just over 10:00 to play, the Eagles had converted nine of 11 third downs. Foles finished completing 26 of 33 for 352 yards and three touchdowns—and was 11-for-11 for 144 yards in the second half.

Peterson and the Eagles offense torched the Vikings for 456 yards from scrimmage—the most Minnesota gave up this season

The defense made Keenum look like, well, Case Keenum, a serviceable back-up who could win some games, but not a game on the scale of the NFC championship. A Keenum interception turned into a Patrick Robinson 50-yard pick-six, and Derek Barnett’s forced fumble resulted in Foles hitting Alshon Jeffery with a 53-yard TD strike with 1:09 left in the half.

It was the breaking point. The swing gave the Eagles a 21-7 lead and absolute control of the game. From there, Minnesota withered away.

Savor this moment. Relish it. It’s a special time orchestrated by a special group of players, coaches and prescient management.

Because soon, these “Underdog Eagles” will be going to a place where an artic wind will be blowing, and reality will seep in. The coldblooded beast is out there, it wears No. 12 and it’s hungry for No. 6.

 (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Philadelphia’s mayor Jim Kenney had this to say Sunday following the Eagles victory over the Vikings in the NFC Championship:

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“I would like to offer my congratulations to Jeffrey Lurie, Christina Weiss Lurie, Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson, and all the coaches, players and staff of the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles! It’s been an amazing season, and we are thrilled beyond words that there is still one very big game to go. I know fans of all ages, from all corners of this great city, are bursting with excitement, and I ask Philadelphians to enjoy the team’s Super Bowl berth in a safe and respectful way. Let’s celebrate with the same pride in our City that the players have shown throughout this astonishing season.”