Eagles-Vikings Instant Observations
The Eagles beat the previously undefeated Vikings, 21-10, as Philadelphia’s defense and special teams dominated. Here’s what we saw:
*Carson Wentz had his worst first half of the season by far against Minnesota. He completed nine of his 20 pass attempts for 53 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He recorded a 12.5 passer rating and fumbled a handoff to Darren Sproles, although it’s unclear who was at fault for the fumble. On his first interception, Wentz made a bad throw to Celek; on his second interception, Wentz made both a bad throw and a bad decision as he threw the ball into triple-coverage.
*Wentz also missed a wide open Brent Celek for a potential touchdown deep down the middle of the field, but he may not have had enough time to see Celek. Wentz over-threw Nelson Agholor in the second quarter, too, and tossed the ball out of bounds after Agholor gained a few steps on the Vikings’ cornerback and was open for a potential touchdown catch.
*However, Wentz did play much better in the second half. He recorded a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the third quarter — although he only attempted four passes — and he finished the game with a 52.4 passer rating. Wentz’s final stat line: 16-of-28 for 138 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
*Doug Pederson made a couple of risky decisions in the first half, but I thought both were shrewd. The first was when he went for a two-point conversation after a Vikings penalty gave the Eagles the ball at the 1-yard-line on the point-after play. Teams have slightly less than a 50 percent chance of converting the two-point conversion from the 2-yard-line, so you don’t have to be a mathematician to know the odds are in your favor of converting if you attempt just one yard out. Pederson’s decision worked out as Wentz plowed into the end zone for two points on a designed quarterback run.
*Pederson’s other risky — but smart — decision was when the Eagles went for the first down on fourth-and-2 from Minnesota’s 44-yard-line. There was only 1:21 left in the first half, and the Eagles’ defense was dominating the Vikings, so it was reasonable to expect the Philadelphia defense to prevent Minnesota from scoring on a short field. The Birds were also close to field goal range, so they only needed about 10 more yards to send Caleb Sturgis out on the field. The Eagles ended up reaching Minnesota’s 17-yard-line, leading to an easy 35-yard field goal for Sturgis.
*On the ground, the Eagles rushed the ball 26 times for 101 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Mathews led the Birds on the ground with 14 carries for 56 yards, but he also fumbled the ball late in the fourth quarter. At this point, the Eagles clearly can’t trust Mathews with the ball in late-game situations.
*The Eagles’ defense responded in a big way to their play in the last two weeks with their performance today. They held the Vikings to 282 total yards, allowing only 3.8 yards per play. Philadelphia gave up just 10 points, even though Minnesota started one possession at the Eagles’ 6-yard-line and made four trips to the red zone. The Birds forced four turnovers and made life very rough for Sam Bradford, whose passer rating was 71.6. The Vikings had turned the ball over just once in their first five games.
*Brandon Graham had a heck of a first half, as he played a big role in preventing the Vikings from scoring 14 points. In Minnesota’s first drive, he recorded a hurry and a quarterback hit on Bradford’s long incompletion down the left side of the field to Charles Johnson. The Vikings receiver had a few steps on Nolan Carroll and could’ve scored a touchdown, but Bradford under-threw the pass because of the pressure.
*In Minnesota’s second drive, after Wentz’s first interception gave the Vikings the ball at the Eagles’ 6-yard-line, Graham quickly beat the right tackle with an inside move. Graham recorded another hurry and quarterback hit as he struck Bradford’s arm during the throw, leading to Rodney McLeod’s interception in the end zone.
*Just three days after Jim Schwartz suggested he’d cut Connor Barwin’s snaps, the defensive end responded by recording a strip-sack on Bradford. Wentz’s fumble gave the Vikings the ball on Philadelphia’s 17-yard-line, but Malcolm Jenkins fell on the ball on the next play, giving the Birds possession on their 39-yard-line.
*After intercepting Bradford in the end zone in the first quarter, McLeod blitzed near the end of the second quarter and got a strip-sack of his own. The Vikings had the ball in field goal range, but McLeod forced the ball out, which Beau Allen recovered and advanced 10 yards, leading to three points for the Eagles.
*Regardless of who was in, the Eagles’ left defensive end dominated the Vikings’ right tackle. Graham and Steven Means both recorded a strip-sack late in the fourth quarter.
*Josh Huff returned the Vikings’ second-quarter kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, his second score on a kickoff in his career. The Eagles’ return unit did a terrific job blocking and created a huge lane for Huff on the right side of the field. We didn’t get a good replay in the press box, but it looked like Jaylen Watkins and Brent Celek were among the Eagles with key blocks.
*Trey Burton came up with a big fumble recovery toward the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Vikings were ready to take over around midfield in a two-possession game, but their returner tried to catch the punt on the bounce before fumbling it away.