Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Behind Enemy Lines: Kelly, Foles, McCoy and more

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: December 13, 2013 - 8:29 AM

For this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines,” we reached out to Zach Berman, Eagles beat writer for the Inquirer. Here are five questions we posed to Berman in advance of Sunday’s Vikings-Eagles game at the Metrodome.

1. Some were quick to write off head coach Chip Kelly’s offense, but the Eagles are now third in total offense. What has been the reason for his success transitioning from college?

ZB: The key has definitely been the stability at quarterback. In that rough patch they had, two games without scoring an offensive touchdown, during that span they played three quarterbacks. Two quarterbacks essentially got knocked out of games. When Nick Foles came in and played well to stabilize that position that was the key. 

Also all the other pieces around the quarterback started working together and working well together, particularly the defense. In the last nine games, the defense has held the opponent to 21 points or fewer. That’s the only team in the league that’s done that.

2. Is the philosophy on defense similar to what Kelly did at Oregon?

ZB: That’d be fair to say. One of the similarities is the fact that it’s such a fast pace offense that the defense is on the field more than some other teams so some of those yardage statistics are higher (30th in total defensive averaging 398.3 yards a game, three yards fewer than the Vikings). But the number they care about is scoring defense and if you look at the last nine games, their scoring defense has been very good (13th in the NFL allowing 23.2 points a game). They’re a very opportunistic defense. They force turnovers. When Chip was at Oregon, they were very good at forcing turnovers, and it’s the same thing here.

3. Where has Foles improved the most over the last month?

ZB: The decision making. That directly ties into everything. He knows where to go with the ball, keeping the ball out of harm’s way. He seldom makes throws where you look at it and you say, “Why did he throw that?” The other thing is he’s running the ball more effectively than you would think. That’s important to note because teams can’t just key on [running back] LeSean McCoy on some of their read plays. They’re able to have Nick hold on to the ball and run for first downs. You saw that in the Green Bay especially when Nick was able to tuck the ball away and grab first downs. They’re not going to treat him like [quarterback] Michael Vick, nor should they, but they should at least keep an eye on him.

4. In his fifth season, McCoy is four yards away from his career high in rushing yards (currently at 1,309) with three games to play. What has led to his best season in the NFL this year?

ZB: He’s a dynamic player. You watch the way he runs and the moves he has, he’s a better downhill runner than he gets credit for. A lot of it is just his natural talent, but the other thing you need to look at is his offensive line. The offensive line, this is a group where three of those guys had season ending injuries last year (tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and guard Todd Herremans) and one is a rookie (tackle Lane Johnson). The continuity they’ve had is remarkable. They started all 13 games and aside for a few in-game injuries, they’ve all been on the field together. That’s been the key more than anything else.

5. The Eagles (8-5) hold a one game lead on the Cowboys (7-6) in the NFC East. How will this division play out three weeks from now?

ZB: I think their most realistic scenario [to make the playoffs] is through the division. I think after Dallas lost the other night, it’s looking much better. If they can beat Minnesota then the path looks a little better because worst case scenario at that point is you have a chance to clinch in Week 17 [against the Cowboys]. You don’t want to be in a situation where you lose to Minnesota, then you beat Chicago and you need to hope that Dallas is losing games. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Boston 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Toronto 1 Top 1st Inning
Baltimore 0
Washington 0 Top 1st Inning
Atlanta 0
Miami 0 Bottom 1st Inning
NY Mets 0
NY Yankees - M. Pineda 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cincinnati - J. Cueto 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Arrieta
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 7:10 PM
Kansas City - L. Hendriks
Cleveland - C. Kluber 7:10 PM
Houston - N. Tropeano
Detroit - R. Porcello 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 7:15 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
Los Angeles - D. Haren 7:40 PM
Colorado - T. Matzek
San Francisco - J. Peavy 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Seattle - R. Elias 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Texas - N. Tepesch 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 9:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How do you feel about the decision to reinstate Adrian Peterson?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT