The Philadelphia Eagles were on a five-game winning streak, having defeated the Raiders, Packers, Redskins, Cardinals and Lions to take over the NFC East lead, and Nick Foles was the hottest quarterback in the league, having posted a 120.0 passer rating with 20 touchdowns to just one interception coming into Sunday’s game against the Vikings.
That’s why the Vegas oddsmakers had the Eagles as six-point favorites, and that was before the news came out definitively Sunday that the Vikings would be without both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, leaving third-string running back Matt Asiata to start his first professional game.
Most people had to believe there was no chance of this injury-riddled Vikings team defeating one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
And even coach Leslie Frazier couldn’t have expected a 48-30 victory over the Eagles, knowing he had to face one of the top teams in the NFL without Peterson and Gerhart, tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson and defensive backs Chris Cook, Jamarca Sanford and Xavier Rhodes. Then long snapper Cullen Loeffler got injured and Jared Allen had to fill in at long snapper.
The Vikings had to play the entire game with Marcus Sherels starting at one corner and a good part of the game with Shaun Prater, who was picked up on waivers from the Eagles earlier this year, at the other. Among the good things Prater did was make a key interception in the fourth quarter when it appeared that the Eagles were going to start a rally against the Vikings like the opponents had in four fourth-quarter losses this season.
They also had Chase Ford in at tight end for the most snaps he’s played all year by far. And Joe Berger substituted for injured right guard Brandon Fusco.
The only plus as far as personnel was the return at safety of Harrison Smith, the best defensive back on the team, who had missed eight games because of turf toe.
Frazier said that even though his team was depleted by injuries, he still felt like the Vikings had a chance against one of the best teams in the NFC, but even he acknowledged he knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“I always felt like we could win the game, I always look at that way,” Frazier said. “I knew it would be tough because of all the guys we had injured at running back and in the secondary and just not sure, but I felt like we would have a chance to win the game.”
Frazier detailed the enormous personnel losses facing the Vikings before the game.
“We lost our entire starting secondary, so that was three starters gone. We lost our current starting tight end in John Carlson, he was gone, then we lost both of our running backs, they were gone,” Frazier said. “We were playing a lot of backups in key positions, but we got through it and our players were awesome.
“[Marcus] Sherels played the whole game at cornerback, started and played well. Robert Blanton, Shaun Prater, those guys, it is incredible what they did. Matt Asiata, the way he played, I mean he came along and played well for us in the absence of Toby and Adrian. To see Chase Ford come in and play the way he played without John Carlson being on the field. We got big contributions from a lot of guys.”
First start for Asiata
Asiata had not played except for the preseason, and he wasn’t told until game time that he was going to start.
“I just came out with the same mentality as if they were out there,’’ Asiata said. ‘‘Just go out there and play hard and hope to get the win.”
After gaining 51 yards and on 30 carries to go along with three receptions for 15 yards and scoring three touchdowns, Asiata was asked if he felt like he established himself a little with the Vikings.
“Well, I hope so,’’ Asiata said. ‘‘I’m just lucky enough to play with that O-line, and they made those big gaps on the goal line. It sure is good to score a touchdown. That’s my main goal right now to score touchdowns and keep the ball moving.”
Peterson, who said not playing was tougher than he could express, sang the praises of Asiata.
“He did a good job, you know he was in there and was efficient and was able to help move the chains a lot, three TDs; he had a big day,” said Peterson, who missed his first full game of the season.
Did Peterson work with Asiata during the week?
“We take stuff from each other, and if there’s stuff that I see that he can do better, then I give him advice, or vice versa,” said Peterson, who added that he has no doubt he will play next week.
Despite all the injuries, General Manager Rick Spielman pointed out that the coaches and players never quit.
“It’s just a tribute to our coaches and the way they keep bringing these young players along,” Spielman said. “And when their number gets called, they get an opportunity to step up and you’re seeing all these guys that people probably have to look at the flip card to figure out who the heck they are, and they’ve stepped in and been key for us.
“[Sunday] was just like back in the Washington Redskins game [which the Vikings won 34-27 in Week 10] where we only had 44 active guys, and it’s a tribute to the coaches and the players for hanging in there. We have a lot of great, great character guys in our locker room.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org