Whatever you may have thought or expected to happen heading into the NFL’s “Championship Sunday,” we are now exactly where we are supposed to be with the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles due to meet the AFC Champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
The Eagles and Patriots were the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences because they were the best teams all season long.
Listen, guys, there’s a reason David only beat Goliath once, and while I’m not great with my Bible study, as near as I can tell that was about 3,000 years ago.
The NFL’s David’s from Jacksonville comported themselves much better than almost anyone expected them to, and Blake Bortles — who was supposed to be the biggest reason they couldn’t win — actually played one of the best games of his career.
Almost everyone’s favorite whipping boy was 23-of-36 for 293 yards with a touchdown and 98.5 passer rating. The problem for Bortles and the Jaguars was the guy on the other side of the field is the greatest of all time, and Tom Brady, as he almost always is, was just a little bit better, finishing 26-of-38 for 290 yards, 2 TDs and a 108.4 rating.
Sure, when the Jaguars went up 20-10 to start the fourth quarter with Rob Gronkowski concussed and stuck in the locker room since the end of the first half, it seemed David had a chance. But in the end the difference was the Patriots know how to win games like this, and the Jaguars don’t — yet.
I’m not buying that the Jaguars choked, folded or couldn’t handle the moment — they just weren’t ready.
From the moment Jacksonville completed its 11-play, 66-yard drive to go up 20-10 with 14:52 to play, the Jaguars managed 17 plays for 62 yards on four possessions —two of them three-an-outs — while New England fumbled on its third play after the field goal but then ran 22 plays for 167 yards and two touchdowns on four possessions, including six plays to run out the clock at the end of the game.
The Jaguars did very little wrong; the Patriots were just too good.
The Eagles' 38-7 victory over the Vikings was different, as Minnesota was the one club that didn’t show up Sunday.
After opening the game with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that was almost perfect to take a 7-0 lead, Case Keenum became the old Case Keenum, and the Vikings for the most part disappeared.
Do not take that as any slight of the Eagles whatsoever, as they were the reason the Vikings folded.
Philly could have wilted under the Vikings early pressure. Instead, after punting to wrap a four play, 17-yard drive of their own, on the Vikings' second possession Keenum threw an awful pass to the right sideline that may have been disrupted by Chris Long’s pass rush, and it was picked off for a 50-yard pick six by Patrick Robinson.
The score was 7-7, but the game was over.
The Vikings immediately went three-and-out, and Nick Foles led Philadelphia on a 12-play, 75-yard drive to a 14-7 lead.
The difficult reality for the Vikings is that from the final minute of the third quarter vs. New Orleans over the next five quarters of football, their top-ranked defense allowed 62 points.
Over that same stretch, the Eagles' fourth ranked defense allowed just seven points, and that’s why they’re going to the Super Bowl.
That and because Nick Foles, who, like Bortles was supposed to be the reason the Eagles couldn’t win, was brilliant vs. the Vikings, throwing for 352 yards, 3 TDs and a 141.4 passer rating against that supposedly impenetrable defense.
So, with no David and no home team at the Super Bowl, what do we have to look forward to now?
The Patriots will be significant favorites because they should be, and as a result thousands of Eagles fans will show up in Minneapolis with their silly dog masks and walk around barking all weekend.
But we also clearly will have the two best teams in football in a battle that, unlike the AFC Title game, either team truly could win, and isn’t that what the Super Bowl should be?