Dec 15, 2013, 5:38 PM EDT
This had “trap game” written all over it. Shades of Joe Webb some fans even lamented in the lead-up to Sunday. Whether this loss will be remembered similarly in Philadelphia Eagles lore probably depends on how they finish the season, but today, it feels devastating.
After holding nine straight opponents to 21 points or fewer, the Eagles were absolutely smoked by a shorthanded Minnesota Vikings squad missing its best player. No Adrian Peterson? No problem. Leave it to Matt Cassel, the veteran quarterback who led the purple and gold to a 48-30 win over the Birds in Minneapolis, snapping Philly’s five-game winning streak.
The Eagles had absolutely no answer for the Vikings’ passing attack from the opening kickoff. Named the starting signal-caller earlier this week, Cassel completed 26 of 35 passes for 382 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also ran one in for a score.
That was without the benefit of a productive running game, mind you. Third-string back Matt Asiata, who entered the game with three career carries, wound up punching the ball into the end zone three times, but ran 30 times for just 51 yards filling in for the injured AP. That’s less than two yards per attempt.
The bulk of the blame for this debacle lies with Philly’s secondary, obviously. Patrick Chung was torched on a 57-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings in the first quarter—Jennings finished with 11 catches for 163 yards. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were beaten repeatedly on the outside by the likes of Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson.
The Eagles’ front seven was stifled for much of the afternoon too, which didn’t help the defensive backs. Cassel was also on point though, getting rid of the football quickly and making precise throws. Give him credit for playing a smart game. His only turnover was deflected at the line of scrimmage by Bennie Logan.
Chip Kelly’s game plan didn’t do his defense many favors, either. The Eagles didn’t want to kick it deep to dangerous Cordarrelle Patterson, the NFL leader in kick returns, so they squibbed numerous times instead, which often resulted with the Vikings starting near midfield anyway.
Nor was it the greatest of play-calling days on offense for the Birds head coach. For some reason, LeSean McCoy only carried the ball eight times coming off of a franchise-record 217 yards the week before. McCoy finished with 38 yards for a 4.8 average to go with 68 yards through the air.
Shady’s lack of involvement might’ve been mitigated had Nick Foles been sharp, but it was another up-and-down performance for the third week in a row for the second-year passer.
Foles threw for 428 yards and three touchdowns and completed 62.5 percent of his 48 attempts, but the big numbers are a little deceiving. He missed several receivers badly, quite a few of them wide open. He threw his second interception of the year, a terrible decision. Plus, he was sacked four times, several of them drive-killers, all of them avoidable.
The pass-heavy approach was undoubtedly meant to expose a Vikings secondary that was missing its top three players on the depth chart due to injury, and it did to a degree. DeSean Jackson in particular had a big day, hauling in 10 receptions for 195 yards and a score.
Unfortunately, Foles was too inconsistent from series to series. The Eagles also were not proficient in the red zone, converting just two of their five trips into six points. Running the ball a bit more might’ve helped.
Clearly, the defense finally falling apart was the biggest factor in the loss however. Minnesota racked up 455 yards of total offense, and went 8 for 13 on third downs. In fact, the Eagles forced just two punts all day.
In many respects, it was the defense’s worst game of the season. Take away Denver’s two special teams scores, and 48 is the most points the unit has allowed in 2013.
It will be an issue to watch going forward as well. Earl Wolff is nearing a return, but missed his fourth-consecutive game. Kurt Coleman replaced Chung at one point, but then Coleman got hurt. So did Colt Anderson. Cary Williams was benched at the end of the game, and Brandon Boykin was injured as well on a kick return.
Suddenly, an area that has been one of the club’s most consistent strengths the last two-and-a-half months will face loads of scrutiny for at least the next week. So will the Eagles as a team, as they drop to 8-6 on the year and still have Dallas hot on their heels in the NFC East.
Was this a collapse in the vein of the one the Birds suffered in 2010, when they were vying for a postseason bye and a moribund Vikings team with Joe Webb under center upended Philly on a Tuesday night? That remains to be seen. The Eagles did make the playoffs, but lost to the eventual champion Green Bay Packers in the first round.
It should also be noted Minnesota has posted a record of 3-2-1 over its last six games, so while the loss is still disappointing given all the absences, the perception that this team was a pushover was flawed to begin with. That said, they were without Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player and a host of other starters.
As of now, the Eagles are far from a lock to make the tournament. If they don’t, this one will loom large. Hard to look at this as anything other than a missed opportunity in Minnesota.
- Another big reason the Eagles lost was penalties. Philadelphia was flagged nine times for 94 yards.
- I get kicking away from Cordarrelle Patterson, but notice Vikings kicker Blair Walsh just booted most of his right out of the end zone. Is Alex Henery really unable to do the same?
- Nick Foles finished with more run yards (41) than LeSean McCoy (38).
- Zach Ertz and Jason Avant had the Eagles’ other touchdowns. Mychal Kendricks came up with the interception. Kendricks, Connor Barwin, and DeMeco Ryans had sacks. Kendricks and Cole each had three tackles for loss.
- Did anyone else feel like this was an Andy Reid coached game? Got away from running the ball. Timeout wasted before a two-point conversion. General undisciplined play. Definitely had that feel.
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