MINNEAPOLIS - All but forgotten as a postseason contender just one month earlier, Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles have a playoff victory.
Next up: the Super Bowl champions.
Brian Westbrook caught a short pass out of the backfield and zigzagged through the Minnesota defense for a devastating, 71-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and the Eagles spoiled the Vikings' first home playoff game in eight years with a 26-14 victory Sunday.
"I've seen this team have confidence in each other and try to have one another's back," McNabb said. "What you're seeing is a team playing with a lot of energy, playing with emotion, and just having fun."
Asante Samuel's 44-yard interception return of Tarvaris Jackson's errant pass in the second quarter set a tone for the kind of game most Vikings fans feared from the unpolished quarterback.
Reid improved his playoff coaching record to 9-6, including at least one victory each time the Eagles have qualified in his 10 years. He bested his buddy and former offensive coordinator, Brad Childress, in this one, and they spoke for several moments on the field after the game while maybe a thousand Eagles fans cheered around the tunnel entrance and began a derogatory chant toward the Giants.
Philadelphia will play next Sunday in New Jersey against the top-seeded defending champs, sending Arizona to play Carolina in the other NFC semifinal on Saturday.
Jackson, who lost his job in September but got it back when Gus Frerotte was hurt, went 15-of-35 for 164 yards. Adrian Peterson's two touchdown runs weren't nearly enough for NFC North champion Minnesota, which will head to yet another offseason with burning questions about the quarterbacks.
Westbrook couldn't find any room to run, finishing with 38 yards on 20 carries even with two starters (Ray Edwards and Pat Williams) missing on Minnesota's defensive line. But McNabb, who went 23-of-34 for 300 yards, kept the offense from derailing.
He tossed a ball toward his always-reliable running back at just the right time, with the Eagles clinging to a two-point lead after a scoreless third quarter. Westbrook received a slew of well-timed blocks as he slalomed downfield for the clinching touchdown.
"Anytime that you get an opportunity to give the ball to a guy like Westbrook, give him an opportunity in space or against any other defenders, you feel confident about that matchup," McNabb said.
Stability at quarterback almost certainly would have given the Vikings another victory or two, and perhaps a first-round bye. And despite a drastically better December, Jackson showed he's still quite raw and in need of a lot more experience.