Playoffs II: Highlights, Lowlights And Notes

Donovan McNabb had more time to look over the field than Daunte Culpepper, as McNabb clearly outplayed his counterpart. But Culpepper's struggles were far from the only reason the Vikings fell 27-14 to Philadelphia. They had many gaffes that led to their troubles.

CULPEPPER OR McNABB?

Eagles QB Donavan McNabb and Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper were often compared to each other this week — and for good reason. Both are among the league leaders in most QB statistics this year. The biggest difference between the two, McNabb said last week, is that he is 240 pounds and Culpepper is 260.

A look at their impressive statistics:

MCNABB: A five-time Pro Bowler and one of the NFL's all-time winningest quarterbacks in percentage (.709). Was the NFC offensive player of the month in September, had 300 completions, 3,875 passing yards, 31 TDs, eight interceptions and a 104.7 passer rating. He was the only QB in league history to have 30-plus TD passes with fewer than 10 interceptions.

CULPEPPER: A three-time Pro Bowler. Was the NFC offensive player of the week three times in 2004, had 379 completions, 4,717 passing yards, 39 TDs, 11 interceptions and a 110.9 passer rating, and his marks for passing yards, TDs, passer rating and completion percentage (69.2) are Vikings season records.

As it turned out, McNabb had all kinds of protection in this game and was able to take advantage, having the clear advantage over Culpepper. He completed 21 of 33 passes for 285 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions while putting up a 111.4 rating.

Culpepper faced much more pressure. He finished 24-for-46 for 316 yards, two interceptions, one touchdown passing and one rushing. He was also sacked three times and managed only a 63.3 passer rating.

KEARSE OR CULPEPPER?

In their first meeting, Philadelphia defensive end Jevon Kearse pressured Culpepper often (registering a career-high five hurries), but he didn't register a sack. At that time, Mike Rosenthal started at right tackle and Adam Haayer replaced Rosenthal when he broke a bone in his foot. The following week, Kearse registered three sacks on Detroit's Joey Harrington.

This time, the assignment of blocking Kearse fell on Adam Goldberg, the Vikings' starter at right tackle during the last month of the season.

"I feel for the other quarterbacks when they play us," McNabb said of Kearse earlier this year.

Kearse registered only 7.5 sacks in his first season with the Eagles, but he led the team with 21 hurries. Sunday, Goldberg limited Kearse to one sack, and a half of that came on a missed block by Michael Bennett.

MOSS' DROPS

Wide receiver Randy Moss looked focused going into Green Bay. He didn't appear as intense in Philadelphia.

Moss finished with three catches for 51 yards and was thrown to many more times. But he also dropped three passes, an uncharacteristic game for the talented receiver. Head coach Mike Tice he thought Moss' sprained ankle got a little sore as the game wore on.

TROTTER'S BIG DAY

The Vikings had a chance to obtain linebacker Jeremiah Trotter in the offseason, and they considered making that move. Eventually, Trotter signed with Philadelphia for a minimum contract and made the Pro Bowl. The Vikings elected to sign former Ted Cottrell disciple Keith Newman instead.

Trotter's Pro Bowl-like ways continued against the Vikings, where he had seven tackles, a half sack, an interception and two passes defensed. Even beyond those stats, Trotter was an extremely disruptive force against the Vikings offense.

LITTLE WIGGINS

Tight end Jermaine Wiggins led the Vikings with 71 receptions in 2004. In the first half in Philly, he was shut out despite having the opening a few times. Culpepper didn't throw for Wiggins until late in the third quarter, when he hit Wiggins for 20 yards to start the Vikings' final drive of the third quarter.

Wiggins had only one more reception and ended the game with 26 receiving yards.

WILD, WACKY WAYS

In their regular-season meeting, a 27-16 loss in Philadelphia, the Vikings knew they left points on the board. They didn't challenge a touchdown reception by Terrell Owens when he was out of bounds, and Culpepper was stripped of the ball just before crossing the goal line. Those two plays alone could have changed the result.

In this divisional playoff matchup, there were far more plays that could have made for a very different outcome than the 27-14 final. To wit:

The turnover on downs: Late in third quarter, trailing 21-7, the Vikings were facing third-and-10 on the Philadelphia 19-yard line. Safety Brian Dawkins came on a blitz and sacked Culpepper for a 12-yard loss. On fourth-and-22 from the 31-yard line, the Vikings elected to go for the touchdown. Culpepper was forced to throw the ball into double coverage to Moss, and the secondary knocked the ball away.

The interceptions: Culpepper had gone 132 pass attempts without an interception, but, trailing 21-7, he ended the Vikings' first two drives of the second half with interceptions. One came on a tipped pass and interception by Ike Reese and another when it appeared Onterrio Smith stopped his route short and Jeremiah Trotter had the ball lodged into his gut.

The botched fake: Midway through the second quarter, trailing 21-7, the Vikings tried to execute a fake field goal from the 3-yard line. Gus Frerotte stood up from the hold and looked to the left, where he thought Randy Moss would be. Instead, Moss was on the sideline and an extra offensive lineman was on the field. It was clearly a botched personnel grouping, and Frerotte was forced to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone.

"I think we left a nice little seven (points) there," Tice said.

The non-fumble recovery: Late in the second quarter, Philly fullback Josh Parry caught a pass near the sideline and fumbled as he hit the ground at the Vikings 41-yard. Linebacker Chris Claiborne came from out of bounds, got one foot down in bounds and picked up the ball. However, since Claiborne didn't have two feet established in bounds before gaining possession of the ball, the Eagles maintained possession until halftime.

The dropped INTs: Safety Brian Russell had two interceptions that he touched but couldn't hold onto.

The Eagles also had a number of opportunities to make their lead even bigger, but they, too, were not exempt from mistakes.

TALE OF TWO QUARTERS

The weather wasn't expected to be a big factor Sunday in Philadelphia, but instead of bitter cold, the Vikings appeared to be stymied by the wind.

The Vikings received the ball to start the game, but on three first-quarter drives they picked up only two first downs — both on the third drive. Culpepper connected on only 2 of 7 first-quarter passes for 8 yards.

Meanwhile, the Eagles had only four incompletions in 13 pass attempts in their first three drives, which allowed them to take a 14-0 lead.

Once the Vikings switched directions in the second quarter, they scored a touchdown on their first possession of the second quarter and only that botched fake field goal attempt kept more points off the board. In the second quarter, Culpepper was 6-for-9 for 88 yards and a touchdown run.

NO PLAYOFF PRESSURE

The Vikings were admittedly concerned with containing McNabb in the first half and rarely touched him, going 30 minutes without a sack.

In the second half, cornerback Antoine Winfield registered a sack, but it came when McNabb was scrambling and decided to just step out of bound for no gain. It was the only sack of the game for the Vikings.

ZIPPER UP

After the Eagles' first touchdown of the game, a 2-yard pass to Freddie Mitchell, the wide receiver stood up and did his best "reverse Moss" imitation, doing a mock of pulling up his pants several times.

NO MOE, NO SIMONEAU

On Monday, Vikings coach Mike Tice said Moe Williams was "questionable at best" coming off an ankle injury in Green Bay. Then, as last week progressed, the tune changed.

For most of the week, Tice had been saying he expected to have Williams available for third down and pass-protecting situations. Reality struck an hour before gametime, when the Vikings deactivated Williams.

The Eagles were less coy about their deactivation of linebacker Mark Simoneau, who was expected to miss the game much of the week.

MORE OF MOORE

With Williams deactivated, Mewelde Moore played a bigger role on offense. His first touch resulted in the Vikings' initial first down of the game with an 8-yard screen on third-and-7 on the team's third drive. However, Moore also missed a block on Kearse on the next third down. Kearse hit Culpepper as he threw, resulting in an incompletion and bringing on the punt team.

While Moore finished the game with 20 yards on two receptions, his biggest contribution came on special teams, where he returned two kickoffs for 71 yards and gave the Vikings good field position on both of those returns.

ALL SERIES SIGNS POINTED TO EAGLES

Going into the game, the Eagles had the marks to prove their edge over the Vikings. Head coach Andy Reid had a .657 winning percentage to Tice's .480 percentage with the Vikings. Under Reid, the Eagles had nine playoff games under their belt; under Tice, the Vikings had only last weekend's win over Green Bay.

Philadelphia led in the playoff series, 1-0, and were on a two-game winning streak over the Vikings. Reid was 2-0 against the Vikings, 1-0 against Tice. The only previous playoff matchup was in the 1980 season divisional playoffs, when the Eagles won 31-6 and went on to appear in Super Bowl XV.

The statistic that mattered most was the Eagles' 13-3 record, compared to the Vikings 9-8 record (including the playoff opener against Green Bay) in the regular season.

With their win, the Eagles are in the NFC Championship game for the fourth consecutive season.

RANKINGS COMPARISON

The Vikings ranked sixth in points scored in 2004, the Eagles eighth.

The Vikings ranked fourth in total offense, the Eagles ninth. The Vikings ranked 18th in rushing offense, the Eagles 24th. The Vikings ranked second in passing offense, the Eagles seventh.

On defense, the Vikings ranked 26th in points allowed, the Eagles tied for second. The Vikings ranked 28th in total defense, 21st in rushing defense, tied for 27th in passing defense. The Eagles ranked 10th in total defense, 16th in rushing defense and 12th in passing defense.



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