Good morning, Eagles fans. Isn't football amazing? That was my reaction watching the last week of games, capped off by the Minnesota Vikings' miraculous victory. It set up Eagles vs. Vikings in the NFC championship game at Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday. Doug Pederson will hold a news conference at noon Monday as the Eagles kick off championship week.
The Vikings have the NFL's best defense and one of the best receiving duos, but I still thought it would be better for the Eagles to play Minnesota in the NFC championship game than New Orleans. I'd rather play Case Keenum with the Super Bowl on the line than Drew Brees. Obviously, the game is about more than the quarterbacks — and frankly, the matchup of the defenses is more compelling than the matchup of the quarterbacks. You need to respect what Keenum has done this year after taking over for Sam Bradford — his production has been impressive. But if someone said to you back in September that the Eagles would have a home game against a Keenum-led team for a chance to play in the Super Bowl, wouldn't you take it?
Sometimes, there's a search for story lines. Other times, they seem too good to be true. Consider the quarterback connections in this game: The Eagles traded Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams in March 2015 in a deal for Bradford. Foles lost his job in St. Louis to Keenum. A few months later, the Eagles drafted Carson Wentz and eventually traded Bradford to Minnesota. This past offseason, Keenum signed with the Vikings, and Foles returned to the Eagles. Keenum replaced an injured Bradford and Foles replaced an injured Wentz. Now, it's Foles vs. Keenum in the NFC championship game. You couldn't make that up.
What stood out about the Eagles' playing-time distribution in Saturday's game? First of all, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham both played 90 percent of the defensive snaps. They only missed six plays on defense. It's the playoffs, and they didn't want to come off the field. Also, Dannell Ellerbe played 37 percent of the defensive snaps. The Eagles were in the base defense often because of the Falcons' personnel groupings. I thought Jay Ajayi would play more than 43 percent of the snaps. There still isn't an explanation why he missed 14 consecutive snaps in the second quarter.
If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here to receive the newsletter in your inbox every weekday. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
What you need to know about the Eagles
Nick Foles played as the Eagles hoped and gave them what they needed in Saturday's win.
Nigel Bradham was one of the heroes on defense, Les Bowen writes.
David Murphy writes about the identity of this team and why that matters.
The Eagles are underdogs again, Ed Barkowitz writes.
Mike Sielski looks at how the season could have been different.
Bob Brookover was on site for the Miracle in Minneapolis.
What did Jeff McLane learn in the Eagles-Falcons game?
Paul Domowitch gives you five reasons the Eagles beat the Falcons.
If you missed Sunday's newsletter, it looked at the defense's dominance and much more.
From the mailbag
I don't think it will have any effect. The Eagles, by the way, had an emotional ending to their game, too — albeit not nearly as dramatic as the way the Vikings won. If anything, I think it will help Minnesota. They'll be inspired and energized this week about heading to Philadelphia with a chance to play the Super Bowl at home. I don't see an emotional letdown related to the ending of the game. Both teams have been similarly resilient this season, and their divisional-round wins are a testament to that. It's a fascinating game. If there's anything to come out of the ending, it's likely that the Eagles will emphasize what to do if up one point with 10 seconds remaining and the Vikings are in their own territory …