Eagles vs. Vikings Final Score: 10 Things We Learned From Philadelphia’s Win
The Philadelphia Eagles are now 4-2 after beating the previously undefeated Minnesota Vikings on Sunday by a final score of 21 to 10. Here’s a look at ten things to be learned from this game.
1 – The Eagles’ defense bounced back
A week after giving up 27 points and 493 yards of offense to Washington, the Eagles’ defense held the Vikings to 10 points and 282 yards. Minnesota’s only touchdown game in garbage time.
A week after failing to sack Kirk Cousins and only hitting him twice, the Eagles’ defense sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him 12 times.
Jim Schwartz’s defense looked a lot more like the unit it did through the first three games of the 2016 season than it did the last two. Of course, it helps that the Vikings have a worse offense than Detroit and Washington. Minnesota was only averaging offensive 18 points per game heading into this week. It also helped that the Vikings were missing their two starting offensive tackles.
Still, Schwartz did a great job of dialing up blitzes, which is something we haven’t seen a lot this season. The Eagles defensive coordinator deserves a lot of credit for helping the team win despite four offensive turnovers.
2 – The Eagles don’t miss Sam Bradford
Bradford played well in the Vikings’ first five games this year. He did not play well on Sunday. In fairness, he had to face a lot of pressure. But this performance was a reminder of why the Eagles didn’t believe in Bradford as their long-term answer. He’s not the kind of player who will succeed in the face of adversity.
The former Eagles quarterback finished the game with a 58.5 completion percentage for 224 yards (5.5 yards per attempt), one touchdown, one interception, and a 71.6 passer rating. He also fumbled four times and lost two of them. Not to mention that some of Bradford’s stats, including his sole score of the day, were accumulated in garbage time. Bradford was lucky to not have thrown more than one interception on Sunday. He threw some truly terrible passes.
Getting a 2017 first-round pick (along with a conditional 2018 fourth-round selection) was still a no-brainer. Speaking of that first-round pick, the Eagles’ win over the Vikings increases the chances of the selection being better for Philadelphia.
3 – Carson Wentz is coming back to Earth
After getting off to a sensational start this season, Wentz has shown some rookie struggles recently. He turned the ball over three times in under 10 minutes against Minnesota. His two interceptions were both bad decisions. His second pick was especially egregious considering he threw into an area with four defenders nearby. Wentz completed 57.1% of his attempts for 138 yards (4.9 yards per attempt), one touchdown, two interceptions, one fumble, and a 52.4 passer rating. He struggled with accuracy issues and he failed to find wide open receivers on certain plays. For example, Wentz had Brent Celek streaking down the middle of the field but instead targeted Zach Ertz. His pass was wide and off target.
In fairness to Wentz, he did go up against one of the NFL’s best defenses. The Vikings led the NFL in interceptions with seven heading into this game. Luckily for Wentz, the Eagles’ defense was able to bail him out today. But the Birds will need their rookie to be better moving forward.
4 – Rodney McLeod deserves Player of the Game
McLeod deserves the game ball this week after a great performance. The 26-year-old safety finished with seven tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one interception, and one pass defensed. He came up big in big moments. McLeod now leads all NFL safeties this season in interceptions with three. That’s a career-high for him.
McLeod was hardly the only Eagles defender who played well on Sunday. Jordan Hicks was fantastic. The second-year linebacker led the team in tackles with 11. He also had one sack, three tackles for loss, two passes defensed, one quarterback hit. Hicks is a beast.
Last, but not least, Brandon Graham deserves a ton of credit as well. Graham was the one who created pressure on McLeod’s interception. He only had one sack, which was a strip-sack, but he hit Bradford five times and forced the Vikings quarterback into back throws. Graham has had a very good season. The scheme change has really helped him.
Kudos to Connor Barwin as well for coming up with a strip-sack after the talk this week was that Schwartz was looking to decrease his playing time.
5 – Philadelphia’s offensive line was surprisingly good
There was ample reason to believe the Eagles’ offensive line would struggle this week. They allowed Wentz to get sacked five times and hit 11 times last weekend. Entering this week, the Vikings were averaging 3.8 sacks per game, most in the NFL, and 8.6 quarterback hits. Despite this, Wentz didn’t get sacked once on Sunday. And he only got hit two times.
What’s especially impressive about this is the Eagles were working with a make-shift line at times. Halapoulivaati Vaitai started at right tackle once again. Stefen Wisniewski got some playing time at right guard after Brandon Brooks had to leave for a bit before returning. Jason Peters left later in the game due to a biceps injury and was replaced by Matt Tobin.
Give credit to Doug Pederson for sticking with Vaitai at right tackle, by the way. Outside of a false start on the second play of the game, the rookie blocker didn’t stand out much. That was a good thing.
As for Peters, Eagles fans shouldn’t be concerned about his status based on what he had to say after the game. The veteran left tackle said he expects to play next week.
6 – The Eagles’ special teams unit is still awesome
Philadelphia’s special teams unit has been a bright spot for a few seasons now. Dave Fipp has done a really good job. For the first time in franchise history, the Eagles returned kickoffs for touchdowns in back-to-back games. As of this posting, the Eagles are actually the only team in the league to score on kickoff returns this season.
It wasn’t just the kickoff unit that had a great day. Trey Burton recovered a fumble from the Vikings’ punt returner after a shoddy punt from Donnie Jones.
7 – Josh Huff belongs on the team
Huff can be a frustrating player. He can make big plays but he can also make big mistakes. At the very least, he’s proved he belong on the team. He’s excelled a gunner on punt coverage and he obviously gave the team a big boost with his touchdown return today. Believe it or not, Huff lead the Eagles in receiving yards on Sunday with 39. That’s hardly a great performance, but the next closest Eagles receivers were Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor with 10 yards each.
Speaking of Agholor, he continues to struggle. The second-year receiver has been targeted 16 times in Philly’s last four games. He has 92 yards and zero touchdowns in that span. It looked like Agholor was responsible for failing to run the full extension of his route on one play where Wentz overthrew him deep. The 2015 first-round pick is the least valuable of the four receivers that the Eagles keep active on game day.
Dorial Green-Bechham could be in line to take away Agholor’s snaps. The big receiver scored Philadelphia’s only offensive touchdown of the day with a five-yard grab in the end zone.
8 – Ryan Mathews can’t be trusted
Mathews’ late game fumble didn’t cost the Eagles the game this week, but it certainly did when Philadelphia played in Detroit two weeks ago. He’s proving to be unreliable, especially in late game situations. I’ve written it multiple times this season but the Eagles seriously need to consider getting Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner more involved.
9 – Big Balls Doug strikes again
Pederson’s call to go for a two-point conversion after the Vikings were flagged for roughing the kicker was admirable. Why not try to get an extra point (no pun intended) against a good defense when you have the opportunity to run a play from the 1-yard line? Pederson also had the courage to go for a fourth-down conversion, which is something he’s done multiple times this season now. This was a well-coached game by Pederson for the most part.
10 – This win might not mean much
Don’t get me wrong, this was a big win for the Eagles. But Philadelphia’s next two games are huge. The Birds will face the Dallas Cowboys (5-1) next week and then New York Giants (4-3) the week after that. Both NFC East teams will be coming off their bye week.
Philadelphia is 0-1 in the division after losing to Washington last Sunday. Taking care of business against Dallas and New York will be key. The Eagles, who are 1-2 on the road this year, can’t afford to drop both of those games. How the Eagles follow up on this quality win over the Vikings will strongly impact the rest of their season.