Five takeaways from Sunday's 23-21 Vikings victory over the Eagles.
1. Cousins nearly flawless on first down
Kirk Cousins used five different targets to complete 13 of 14 first-down passes for 203 yards and four first downs in Sunday’s 23-21 win over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. No pass was more impressive than the 68-yard completion to Adam Thielen early in the third quarter. Cousins was walloped as he launched the deep ball. “They blitzed on that play,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s a great deep-ball thrower. That showed. He’s done that through the course of the year so far. This kid is tough. He’s physical. He studies like crazy. He wants to be really good, and I’m glad to have him.” The Vikings were running the ball on first down only 29.4 percent of the time entering the game. They ended up a 50-50 split on Sunday. The 14 runs netted only 30 yards, but kept the Eagles off balance.
2. Fail, Eagles, Fail! In the red zone
The Eagles offense was off-the-charts good in the red zone and on third down during last year’s Super Bowl run. They led the league in red-zone touchdown scoring at 65.5 percent. They were second in third-down conversions during the regular season before Carson Wentz was injured. Then, in the postseason, backup Nick Foles was 26-for-32 for 398 yards and four touchdowns on third downs. That’s a passer rating of 158.1, for gosh sakes. Sunday, the Eagles went 2-for-5 (40 percent) with a turnover in the red zone. They also converted only two of nine third downs (22 percent) but did convert their only fourth down. “The red zone was a big difference-maker for us,” said defensive end Danielle Hunter. “They can be dangerous down there. We were ready for them.” Wentz was sacked once on third down and completed just three of seven passes for 40 yards.
3. Sloppy Eagles have three false starts
The raucous fans as Lincoln Financial Field are supposed to make life – and hearing – miserable for the opposition. Sunday, the Eagles beat the Vikings in false-start penalties 3-0. The Vikings had only four penalties total, while the Eagles had eight. Philly’s first two false starts came at a point when the Eagles really needed to answer a 64-yard fumble return for a touchdown by nose tackle Linval Joseph. The Vikings led 10-3 in the second quarter. Wentz scrambled for 8 yards on first down. But on second down, tackle Jason Peters false-started. Second-and-2 became second-and-7. Following an incompletion, tight end Zach Ertz false-started. Third-and-7 became third-and-12 and a deflating three-and-out. Receiver Nelson Agholor had the other false start in the third quarter. Another sloppy, drive-stalling penalty came earlier in the third quarter when Alshon Jeffery was flagged for illegal motion on second-and-1.
4. Backward pass to Roc Thomas?
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo deserves a game ball for the game he called against his former team. There were 37 passes and 23 runs even with No. 1 running back Dalvin Cook sidelined with a hamstring injury for the second time in three games. The early commitment to the run – evidenced by seven first-down runs for 22 yards in the first half – didn’t produce much, but did keep the Eagles from selling out to get to Cousins. The one play DeFilippo probably wants back is the backward pass to Roc Thomas with a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Thomas is a rookie. An undrafted rookie. He has one NFL catch. He didn’t catch this one. And because the ball was thrown backward, it was a fumble the Eagles recovered. The rookie shouldn’t have been put in that situation. Not with so many other weapons to go to.
5. Roughing calls impact another game
The league’s controversial application of its roughing the passer penalty helped the Vikings twice in the final 1:18 of the first half. One Eagles defensive end drew a penalty, while the other appeared to soften his rush to avoid one. With 1:18 left and the Vikings facing third-and-1, Chris Long broke through on the right side, raised his arms and seemed to pull up slightly to avoid hitting Cousins in the helmet. Cousins threw for the first down. Four plays later, Michael Bennett tackled Cousins around the lower legs and was flagged. Instead of third-and-14 at the Eagles 31, the Vikings got first down at the 11 en route to a touchdown. Said referee Walt Coleman: “He went low into the quarterback’s knees with his shoulder, with force. And the rule is you cannot hit the quarterback low at the knee area or below with force.”