Wake-Up Call: Defense Loses Its Grip

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Minneapolis — Puzzling how a defense that had performed so consistently well for the last two-plus months could be ripped up so suddenly by a depleted Minnesota offense.

Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were sidelined because of injury. Their replacement, Matt Asiata, entered the game with three career carries. He exited with three touchdowns. Matt Cassel racked up 382 yards and two touchdowns, and finished with a 116.6 quarterback rating. A unit that hadn’t allowed more than 21 points in a game since September was gashed for 48.

The most convenient explanation is that Billy Davis‘ unit overlooked its opponent; that the Peterson-less Vikings didn’t have the Eagles’ full attention with bigger games against the Bears and Cowboys on the horizon. Not so, says the defensive coordinator.

“This is the NFL. We went into this game knowing full well it doesn’t matter who’s playing, we’re getting their best. NFL ball is NFL ball. Anybody can beat you on any given Sunday. We knew that going in,” said Davis. “It’s not like we’re in here saying ‘We fell into a trap’ because we didn’t. We practiced as hard if not harder — we had some of our best numbers in practice that we’ve had in a long time. This one caught us all off-guard defensively; I did not see us playing this poorly after the week of practice we had.”

What happened, then?

For one, Minnesota’s game-plan may have caught the Eagles by surprise. Mychal Kendricks noted that the Vikings are typically more of a run-first team but, with Peterson out, turned to Cassel and the passing attack in early downs more than perhaps they were anticipating.

The secondary, which was down Brandon Boykin (head) for a good part of the game, had trouble matching up with Minnesota’s receivers. Greg Jennings erupted for 163 yards on 11 catches. Jarius Wright had four for 95. Cordarrelle Patterson had five for 35 with a touchdown, and drew a pass interference from Bradley Fletcher in the fourth quarter.

“I know when he got that (pass interference) call late in the game on that defensive back he came back to the sidelines and said, ‘You guys should just thrown me nines all day, go routes all day. They can’t cover me,’ ” said Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier.

A defense that prides itself in being sure tacklers let too many Vikings loose. A group that has limited the amount of big plays against them gave up four pass plays of 30-plus yards.

“I said, we’re going to find out how we are being the favorites and how we respond to that,” said Davis, “and we didn’t respond well. I don’t think it was because we were flat. I’m not on the field so it’s tough to see the energy or feel the energy and how it compares to any other week, but I know mentally and physically we have to be better than we were today. I don’t have a lot of excuses or explanations for you.

“It’s a bad day. We’ve gotta regroup and try to find some confidence out there in practice and get ready for a real good Chicago team.”

The hope is that this was a blip, a down day for a sound defense and nothing more. With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery coming to town Sunday, they better hope so.

“Believe it or not we got better today because we learned from a lot of the mistakes that were made,” said Kendricks.

“I don’t doubt our guys’ effort, I don’t doubt it at all. Our effort was there. We wanted to win, but like you said…sometimes people get complacent. We’ve just got to get back to work and pick up where we left off.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

So Dallas lost. What does that mean for the Eagles’ playoff chances? Sheil takes a look.

The Eagles lost their cool in the second half.

Chip Kelly addressed several issues following Sunday’s loss, from LeSean McCoy‘s limited carries to the decision to squib kick.

Kapadia offers his observations from Eagles-Vikings. 

Adrian Peterson sang the praises of McCoy before the game.

What to make of the Kelly/Texas report?

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jimmy Kempski writes about the Eagles’ decision to roll with the squib kicks.

Patterson is a great young player, but he’s not so great that the Eagles should have been willing to sacrifice drive starts at the 40 yard line.

And furthermore, how many kickers in the NFL routinely kick the ball out of the end zone in domes? I guess Alex Henery is incapable of that?

The Snow Bowl was a lot more fun than the Squib Kick Bowl.

Domo gives the Eagles an “F” for their performance Sunday.

Some really questionable decisions by Chip Kelly and his staff, including the pooch kickoffs, giving the ball to LeSean McCoy just eight times, going for it on fourth-and-1 at their own 24 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter and the Charmin coverage against the Vikings’ receivers. Against a three-win team, they opened the door for the Cowboys.

COMING UP

We’ll speak to Kelly at 1. Plenty to dive into.

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