Eagles-Vikings, Day After: Staking Their Claim

How the Eagles' defense turned things around and dominated the previously undefeated Vikings.

Rodney McLeod. (Jeff Fusco)

Rodney McLeod. (Jeff Fusco)

Jalen Mills stood in the middle of a circle made up of the Eagles’ defensive backs before their game against the Vikings. Located in the tunnel just before running out onto Lincoln Financial Field, the rookie raised his voice.

“How the f-ck they going to say they’re the best defense in this f-cking league, and we sitting right here?” Mills said. “How the f-ck they going say that?”

Perhaps Minnesota said that because they visited Philadelphia ranked first in the NFL in points per game allowed. Or perhaps Minnesota said that because it was a practically unanimous view point among those who followed football. But regardless of the reason, the Eagles’ defense dismissed it as they staked a claim of their own Sunday by dominating in their 21-10 win over the Vikings.

Minnesota entered the game with zero turnovers on offense, but Philadelphia’s defense took the ball away three times. The Eagles also held the Vikings, who were averaging 24 points per game, to just 10.

“We haven’t played how we wanted to the last two weeks, but if you ask anybody on our defense, they’d all say we think we’re the No. 1 defense in this league. We think we can be that and should be that if we play how we’re supposed to,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “A lot of us were looking to compete with (the Vikings’ defense). We got a lot of respect for that team and that defense and what they do, so this was an opportunity for us to throw our name out there.”

Much of the talk in the week leading up to the matchup was about Sam Bradford’s familiarity with the Eagles’ defense and how it could help him, something Philadelphia was very cognizant of. They knew Bradford had a good understanding of their pressure schemes, so Jim Schwartz rolled out zone blitzes with “trap” coverages the Eagles had never used before.

After blitzing just 13 times in their previous three games combined, the Eagles blitzed 12 times against the Vikings, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The result? Bradford was pressured on a season-high 36 percent of his dropbacks, in which he committed three turnovers as the Vikings gained just 11 yards on 17 such plays, per ESPN Stats & Info.

“We knew traps would give him trouble,” Connor Barwin said. “Jim called a great game. He was really kind of a step ahead of what they were doing every series. … They were more on the reactionary side. We were dictating the game, so to speak, from the start.”

According to Rodney McLeod, the Eagles’ familiarity with Bradford “definitely” helped the defense as they figured out how to make the quarterback stare at his intended targets and have his eyes on the pass rush more than his receivers down field. Jenkins added that the Eagles “shocked” Bradford a few times with their disguised coverages and new looks.

Bradford finished the game with his season-low 71.6 passer rating, nearly 40 points lower than the average he entered the game with. He threw one interception, fumbled twice, was sacked six times and was hit 16 times. The Eagles also stopped the run as the Vikings picked up just 3.4 yards per carry.

According to Jenkins, a large part of that success was also a product of the team re-adjusting their mindset to what it was in the first three weeks of the season before they dropped off against Detroit and Washington.

“You win three straight, you go on a bye, everybody’s telling you how good you are and then all of a sudden you got guys that come back and you want to make plays and keep it going, but you forget what got you there,” Jenkins said. “And that wasn’t anybody doing anything spectacular; it’s just guys making plays when their number is called. Be in your spot when you’re supposed to be there and if the ball comes, make a play. If not, it’s for somebody else to make the play. That’s all we did today, nothing really spectacular. Guys got pressure, guys did their jobs [and] held their gaps, so we had success.”



Sam Bradford on his return to Philadelphia:

“I don’t really have any bitter feelings towards Philly. So, it’s not like I was harboring any of that and trying to come out here and prove them wrong. I was just trying to help the guys in this locker room go and get a win.”

Carson Wentz on playing against the Vikings, who he grew up rooting for:

“It was just different. I got a chance to talk to [defensive end] Brian Robison. I was like, ‘Hey Brian, I’ve been watching you since forever. You’ve been a Viking for a long time.’ I had a chance to talk to [linebacker] Chad Greenway as well. Obviously being a Vikings fan growing up and seeing some of those guys, it was really cool and pretty special to go out there and play them and get a chance to talk to them.”

Doug Pederson on how much help he gave Halapoulivaati Vaitai this week:

“Quite honestly, this game, probably not as much as I did last week. I felt like he kind of settled in this week, did a nice job. You know, the run game obviously helps when you can come off the ball and run the ball. We were in some two tight end sets a little bit more today, and that obviously helped him a little bit. We’ll evaluate the film tomorrow, but I thought overall he did a nice job today.”

—Pederson on going for fourth-and-2 near the end of the second quarter:

“Listen, it was kind of, again, a no-brainer, almost like the two-point conversion. I had it in my mind at that point that I was going to go for it, and we were just right at midfield, really just had crossed it. I felt comfortable with the play-call, and, again, put it in our quarterback’s hands. For me, it was an easy situation. I just trusted in the guys, had belief in our guys that we were going to get the job done. I think we even dropped the snap and then ended up making the first down. It was a great play by Carson.”

—Pederson on going for the two-point conversion after a penalty gave them the point-after attempt at the 1-yard-line:

“It’s kind of a no brainer because you get the ball at the one, half the distance from there. That’s a good football team and a team that’s been scoring some points. So we felt at that time just take advantage of that and go for two. It was really kind of a no-brainer situation for myself to make that call.”

—Pederson on the end of the first half when he took the offense out to attempt a field goal, before changing his mind and putting the offense back on the field:

“There’s about 15 seconds around the 15-yard-line. I did run the field goal team out in time and then quickly just made the decision to pull them off, put the offense back up there, take one more shot. Max the protection. It’s a two-man route. It’s either a completion, or it’s an incomplete pass. You knock a few more seconds off the clock. I think five seconds came off. And then an opportunity to kick off or kick the field goal in that situation. So something we work on, OTAs, training camp, and you just never know when it’s going to come up. Our guys did a great job being prepared for that.”



Player# of snaps% of snaps
Allen Barbre58100%
Jason Kelce58100%
Halapoulivaati Vaitai58100%
Carson Wentz58100%
Brandon Brooks5391%
Zach Ertz4883%
Jordan Matthews4578%
Jason Peters4374%
Nelson Agholor4374%
Brent Celek2848%
Dorial Green-Beckham2848%
Ryan Mathews2645%
Darren Sproles2645%
Josh Huff2034%
Matt Tobin2034%
Trey Burton1322%
Wendell Smallwood59%
Stefen Wisniewski59%
Kenjon Barner35%
  • Jason Peters (74 percent) missed snaps for the first time this season, as he exited the game in the second half with a bicep injury. With Peters out, Matt Tobin (34 percent) played left tackle. However, Peters told reporters after the game he was fine and he would’ve re-entered the game late if it was closer.
  • Brandon Brooks (91 percent) also missed a few snaps, so Stefen Wisniewski (9 percent) played five snaps at right guard. However, Brooks (ankle) was cleared to return as he also appears to be fine going forward.
  • The Eagles used more two tight end sets this week, so Dorial Green-Beckham’s (48 percent) snaps dropped as Doug Pederson played Nelson Agholor (74 percent) more in those situations.
  • Both Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles played just under 50 percent of the snaps, but Mathews got 14 of the running backs’ 21 carries. He ran for 56 yards, averaging four yards per rush, but he once again fumbled the ball with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Wendell Smallwood (9 percent) carried the ball four times for 13 yards, while Sproles totaled 26 yards off of three rushes.


Player# of snaps% of snaps
Nigel Bradham76100%
Jordan Hicks76100%
Malcolm Jenkins76100%
Nolan Carroll7599%
Rodney McLeod7599%
Brandon Graham5775%
Fletcher Cox5471%
Beau Allen5167%
Connor Barwin4964%
Jaylen Watkins4661%
Leodis McKelvin4458%
Vinny Curry4154%
Destiny Vaeao3039%
Jalen Mills2736%
Mychal Kendricks2432%
Marcus Smith1824%
Ron Brooks79%
Steven Means57%
Stephen Tulloch57%
  • Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks once again played 100 percent of the snaps, while Mychal Kendricks was at just 32 percent. Hicks dominated as he led both teams with 11 tackles, including two tackles-for-loss, in addition to two pass deflections. Bradham was tied for second on the Eagles in tackles (seven), adding one sack and two quarterback hits. Kendricks also tallied two quarterback hits.
  • Jim Schwartz noted last week that he was thinking about cutting Connor Barwin’s (64 percent) snaps, and Barwin did play less than Brandon Graham (75 percent). Vinny Curry (54 percent) also got a small boost as he played the majority of the defense’s snaps for the first time this season.
  • Beau Allen (67 percent) tallied a season-high 51 snaps as he filled in for the injured Bennie Logan, while Destiny Vaeao (39 percent) played the most snaps of his young career as the primary backup defensive tackle.
  • Leodis McKelvin (58 percent) was active for just the third time in six games, and similar to his previous two appearances, he played a slight majority of the snaps as his hamstring injury limited his play. Ron Brooks (9 percent) played just seven snaps due to injury, while Jalen Mills (36 percent) was on the field for 27 snaps.