Joe Webb weaved his way through myriad potential pitfalls over the last week.
He survived a three-night stay in Philadelphia and a two-day delay of game, thrived against an aggressive Eagles defense, and led the Vikings to a 10-point win in a game they entered as 14-point underdogs. It was Webb's first start after being a sixth-round draft pick eight months earlier, and he became the first NFL quarterback to win on a Tuesday night since 1946 (the last time an NFL game was played on a Tuesday).
Not a bad night for a guy who was drafted to be a wide receiver from the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
But Webb wasn't alone in the upset over the Eagles. Adrian Peterson rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, and Minnesota's defenders may have been the collective MVPs of the game. The Vikings rushed potential league MVP Michael Vick hard in the first half, bring blitzes from all over the field and sacking him six times. Two of those sacks came from cornerback Antoine Winfield, who blitzed often in the first half from the slot position, coming up with the biggest play of the night when he knocked the ball out of Vick's hands, recovered the fumble and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown to send the Vikings to halftime tied.
From there, Webb looked increasing comfortable as the game wore on, completing 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, and he used his legs effectively as well. He scrambled six times for 31 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown. He found Percy Harvin seven times for 100 yards, easily his favorite target after Sidney Rice left the game with a head injury.
Meanwhile, the ever-dangerous Vick rushed eight times for 63 yards and a touchdown and completed 25 of 43 passes for 263 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The Vikings were intent on pressuring Vick early in the game, but he made them pay on a strange second series for the Eagles. The Vikings got Philadelphia in third-and-10, but the play was stopped before the third-down snap as an official apparently thought the Eagles were trying to call a timeout. With the advantage of seeing the Vikings' defensive set on the previous play, Vick stepped up in the pocket and lofted a pass in the zone down the left sideline that drew a pass interference penalty by cornerback Asher Allen who had a late push on receiver Jeremy Maclin. Three plays later, on third-and-15, Vick connected with Maclin down the left sideline again at the 3-yard line. The Vikings challenged – but too late for the officials to see it down by the goal line – and one play later Vick hit tight end Clay Harbor in the back of the end zone, another play that the Vikings challenged and lost, giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
While Webb went three-and-out on his first series, he settled in on Minnesota's second drive, connecting on 3 of 5 passes, but after driving to the 27-yard line, a facemask penalty on Phil Loadholt took the Vikings out of scoring position.
The Vikings continued to bring pressure drive after drive, and eventually it paid off. Their third sack of the game produced points, as Winfield came from the slot, knocked the ball out of Vick's hand for a sack and forced fumble, then got up and recovered the fumble and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, 7-7, with 44 seconds left in the half, and when David Akers came up short on a 54-yard field goal as time expired the two-touchdown underdog Vikings were tied with a team that had already clinched a playoff spot.
Webb continued to build on his first-half momentum and went to the air on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, connecting with Harvin down the left sideline for 46 yards. The rookie quarterback went right back to the air for a 23-yard pass to a wide open Visanthe Shiancoe in the middle zone, getting the ball to the 5-yard line, but the offense wasn't rewarded with a touchdown when a second-down pass to Rice in the end zone was ruled a touchdown and then overturned on a Philadelphia challenge. The Vikings had to settle for a 30-yard Ryan Longwell field goal for a 10-7 lead, but it would get better as the third quarter progressed.
After another strong defensive series, the Vikings offense was back on the field and moving it with their most effective drive of the night. Peterson started with three straight runs for a combined 30 yards before getting an 11-yard pass for another first down. On the next play, Webb hit Rice for 15 yards and cornerback Asante Samuel hit Rice in a defenseless position for 15 more yards, putting the ball on the 9-yard line. One play later, Webb weaved his way through traffic for a 9-yard touchdown run and a 17-7 Vikings lead midway through the third quarter.
The Eagles answered with a drive into Vikings territory as Vick got hot in the passing game, but on a scramble just outside the red zone, Kevin Williams stripped Vick of the ball as he was making the tackle and Jared Allen got into the pile for the recovery. That thwarted one Eagles drive, but Vick returned to the field and found a rhythm on Philadelphia's next series. The longest play was a 15-yard pass to Maclin inside the red zone and Vick capped the drive with a 10-yard quarterback draw for a touchdown to put the Eagles right back in the game, trailing 17-14 about a third of the way through the fourth quarter.
But the Vikings didn't just try to protect a three-point lead against the Eagles. They threw on the first three plays to pick up a first down and, three plays later, facing third-and-11, Webb fired a bullet to Harvin for 19 yards. On the next play, Peterson sprinted 27 yards to the 1-yard line and capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown dive for the final score of the game and a 24-14 lead.
When Eagles coach Andy Reid decided to punt on fourth-and-18 with 4:23 to play and the ball at midfield, the Vikings were able to take enough time off the clock to prevent the Eagles from scoring on their final hurried drive of the game.
The Eagles still clinched the NFC East, but the Vikings battered Vick with six sacks and pulled off a 10-point win in a game they entered as two-touchdown underdogs, injecting some life into the franchise's future with one game left and a short week of preparation.
Webb directs a gem, Vikings upset Eagles
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