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Scoggins postgame: Diggs' fingerprints all over Vikings' victory over Eagles

Call it a hunch, but nobody will be wondering or asking if Stefon Diggs is happy this week.

 

 

Diggs’ fingerprints were all over an eventful 38-20 win against the Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

Diggs caught three touchdown passes, dropped two passes (including one that resulted in an interception) and ran two reverses (including one that looked straight out of a backyard football game).

Diggs finished with seven catches for 167 yards on 11 targets.

The Eagles’ depleted secondary couldn’t contain Diggs, who outran their cornerbacks on back-to-back deep shots that ended with Diggs celebrating in the end zone.

Diggs’ renewed involvement in the offense and Kirk Cousins’ pinpoint accuracy were the two most promising developments in a game where the Vikings offense displayed real creativity.

Cousins cut it loose, Diggs got loose in the secondary and the Vikings showed that they don’t need a run-first approach to have success.

Here are key moments that stood out for the win:

Scenario 1: Getting Diggs involved early

Decision: The Vikings first play of the game was a quick pass to Diggs. The opening possession also included a reverse to Diggs (which gained 10 yards) and a deep pass that went incomplete. Cousins hit Diggs with a screen pass that resulted in an 18-yard gain on the second series. And then a 62-yard bomb on a go route by Diggs for a TD, followed by a 51-yard bomb to Diggs.

Reaction: Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski had a smart plan that picked on the Eagles injury-depleted secondary. I liked the idea of getting the ball to Diggs in a variety of ways - screens, deep shots, reverses -- to maximize his talent as a playmaker.

Scenario 2: Change of pace

Decision: Stefanski called for quick tempo after a 20-yard catch by Adam Thielen on third down on the first possession. The Eagles defense was scrambling to get subs onto the field and weren’t ready at the snap. Dalvin Cook ripped off a 14-yard run during their confusion.

Reaction: Again, nice idea by Stefanski to build that change of pace into the game plan.

Scenario 3: One challenge, one non-challenge

Decision: Mike Zimmer used a challenge on the first drive after officials ruled that Cook was stopped short of the 5-yard line on third down. Replays showed that Cook stretched the ball to the line as his knee touched. Zimmer won the challenge, giving the Vikings a first down at the 5.

Zimmer opted not to challenge a potential touchdown catch by Adam Thielen, who was ruled out of bounds on the second drive.

Reaction: Two wise decisions by Zimmer. The Cook play looked like an obvious first down. And replays showed that Thielen’s left foot didn’t get down inbounds as he fell to the ground. I don’t think that one would have been overturned.

Scenario 4: Doug Pederson gets cute

Decision: Eagles coach Doug Pederson made two decisions in the first that were either risky or plain foolish.

First, trailing 17-3, Pederson went for it on 4th and 2 from the Minnesota 49-yard line with nearly 10 minutes left in the second quarter. Mike Hughes caused an incomplete pass with tight coverage.

Then, with 20 seconds left in the half, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-4 from the Vikings’ 21. The Eagles trailed 24-10 after a disastrous defensive half. This was chance to get three points entering halftime.

Pederson called for a fake. Kicker Jake Elliott scrambled trying to find a receiver and his pass was tipped and intercepted by Everson Griffen.

Reaction: Pederson is known for being aggressive, but the fake made no sense to me. Why turn down points in that situation? The Eagles were out of timeouts so even if they got a first down on the fake, they probably would have ended up kicking a field goal anyway. And they were getting the ball to start the second half.

Scenario 5: Zimmer times blitz call perfectly

Decision: Trailing 31-20 early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles faced a third-and-4 at the Vikings’ 43. The crowd noise was raucous, which helped cause a delay of game penalty. On third-and-9, Zimmer called a blitz that gave Carson Wentz no time to do anything. Linebacker Eric Kendricks smothered Wentz for a sack.

Reaction: Zimmer used the crowd noise and his blitz specialty to kill a drive at a critical time.

Stefon Diggs photo by Elizabeth Flores/liz.flores@startribune.com

Kirk Cousins has chance to alter big game narrative

CHICAGO -- Hello from Soldier Field where the tarp is coming off the field after intermittent rain Sunday morning.

A friend asked me for my thoughts about the Vikings-Bears game today and I said this feels like a "Kirk Cousins game."

Defining "big games" is open to interpretation, but this one feels like it belongs in that category. Two good teams. Division game. Two terrific defenses.

My colleague Andrew Krammer wrote a piece this week about the Vikings' struggles and often bizarre trips to Soldier Field since 2001.

In today's game-day advance, colleague Ben Goessling took a deep-dive look at the run-pass balance from a historical perspective as it relates to the Vikings' emphasis on the running game.

The Vikings running game behind Dalvin Cook has been masterful the first three games. Maybe that continues today, but odds are the Bears defense will at least slow down the ground game, although that task becomes more difficult if star defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is unable to play because of a knee injury.

That's why I called this a Kirk Cousins game. Lopsided scores in two of the first three games allowed him to basically serve as a game manager. He didn't have to do a whole lot. We all know what happened in the other game, at Green Bay.

The narrative surrounding Cousins' performance in big games is well-established. He owns a 5-26 career record against teams with a winning record. He needs to play well in a big game to ease concerns about his ability to flourish in big moments. Moments like Sunday on the road against one of the NFL's best defenses.