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McFeely: No miracle, only more disappointment for Vikings fans; 'We ... let them down,' Thielen says

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum (7) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field. Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports1 / 2
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett (96) causes Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum (7) to fumble during the second quarter in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field. Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports2 / 2

Philadelphia

Miracles are fleeting, apparently, easily crushed by the weight of history and the overcooked expectations of a long-suffering fan base.

That, and a better team.

Give the Philadelphia Eagles credit. They outplayed the Minnesota Vikings in every aspect of Sunday night’s NFC Championship -- and they waited until they had an insurmountable lead in the fourth quarter before leading their fans in a mocking Skol chant.

The final score at a rocking, rolling and mostly drunk Lincoln Financial Field was 38-7 as the Eagles reached their third Super Bowl, to be tauntingly played in Minneapolis, while ensuring the Vikings’ four-decade drought in the big game will continue.

There weren’t enough miracle touchdown catches in the world to save Minnesota in this one.

Maybe, it turns out, quarterback Case Keenum’s last-play touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs that carried the Vikings past New Orleans in last week’s playoff game was just lucky and not divine intervention.

Chalk it up as another in a long line of big-game disappointments for the Vikings. They’ve now lost four long-ago Super Bowls and five NFC Championship games since 1987.

There was no single defining moment to this loss, nothing like a missed field goal like 1999 or a late-game interception like 2010. That didn’t change the outcome, or the sense this franchise somehow angered the football gods and will never reach the Super Bowl again. Much less win it.

The Eagles dominated offensively, defensively and every other way after the Vikings took a 7-0 lead early in the game. Keenum’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph on Minnesota’s first drive provided a brief moment for backers of the Purple to get their hopes up, only to be squashed by the realization of same old, same old.

“That’s probably the toughest part for me. I feel like individually I let the fans down. I feel like we as a team let them down,” said receiver Adam Thielen, the Detroit Lakes, Minn., native. “They supported us a lot and we really fed off it. The support from them the last couple of weeks has been unbelievable. That’s what makes it extra tough, to really feel like we disappointed them.”

If it’s any consolation -- and it isn’t to Minnesota fans -- the team to which the Vikings lost should offer hope. The Eagles were every bit as star-crossed as the Vikings, without a Super Bowl victory in franchise history and a long string of crushing playoff losses

Yet there were the die-hard Eagles fans partying all night inside the Linc after partying in the tailgating lots all day. It began when Patrick Robinson intercepted a Keenum pass and returned it for a touchdown in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7.

It continued as the Eagles dominated the game for the rest of the first half -- from Derek Barnett’s strip-sack of Keenum to Nick Foles’ 53-yard TD bomb to Alshon Jeffrey with 1:09 left in the second quarter that gave Philadelphia a 21-7 lead.

Maybe it was just imaginary, but it felt like the stadium moved when Jeffrey caught Foles’ high-arching pass in stride and galloped into the end zone.

The wait was worth it, judging by the volume inside the Linc.

“It was all worth it,” Eagles tight end Brent Celek said. “I love this city. This city deserves it, man. We’re going to have so much fun. We just have to finish this thing. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. We have to finish it.”

The city of Philadelphia was readying for the postgame celebration in the days leading up to the game, from warning its hard-core fans that there would be extra police presence in the streets Sunday night to smearing grease on light poles around the city to keep people from climbing them.

Judging by the tens of thousands of Eagles fans draining beers and taking shots for nine hours before the game in the parking lots surrounding the stadium, Philly cops were going to have their hands full overnight.

The Vikings were unrecognizable. A team built on stout defense and good-enough offense was shredded by Foles, the journeyman quarterback who was filling in for injured Eagles star Carson Wentz. Foles was supposed to be another Christian Ponder and instead looked like Joe Montana, carving up Minnesota’s defense at will.

After taking a 17-0 halftime lead against New Orleans, the Vikings were outscored 62-19 in their final six quarters of the season. A team and its fan base can talk all they want about destiny, but it takes more than alleged miracles to overcome the lack of a pass rush and an offense that can’t move the ball.

Sports fans are fond of saying “there’s always next year.” In Philadelphia, next year finally arrived.

In Minnesota, after what transpired against the Eagles, there is no reason to believe next year will bring anything other than what’s happened since the franchise was born in 1961. Disappointment, defeat and despair. Again and again and again. Lacking a miracle, if those even exist in football, why would we expect anything else?

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