PHILADELPHIA – A couple of bloody plush toys still littered the locker room Friday as a reminder of the danger in the Vikings feeling too fat and happy.
Before dismissing his 5-0 team for the bye week, coach Mike Zimmer scattered stuffed animals of the feline variety throughout Winter Park. At some point, someone in the locker room cut their throats and splattered them with red paint.
Hanging on the larger cat in the locker room was a sign that read "Fat Cats Get Slaughtered."
Two days later, in a 21-10 horror-show loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings got manhandled up front by the Eagles, coughed up four turnovers and lost their first game of the season to a formidable but inferior opponent starting a rookie quarterback.
After the game, which Zimmer quickly called "embarrassing," he listed most, but not all, of the miscues that cost his lethargic Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
"I'm very disappointed," Zimmer said. "We turned the ball over offensively, we didn't block people, we dropped balls, we got the quarterback hit, we [need] 2 inches and we can't convert on third down or fourth down, we got three shots in the red zone in the first half, we throw an interception, we gave up a 98-yard kickoff return, we fumbled a punt. If you're going to do those things, you have no chance to win."
The loss, squandering another stifling performance from Zimmer's defense, exposed the plot of how the Vikings' Super Bowl hopes might ultimately get killed off in January.
Sam Bradford got sacked six times in his return to Philadelphia, and a dominant Eagles front was credited with a dozen total hits, many of them hard, on the quarterback. The pathetic pass protection played a part in all three of Bradford's turnovers and prevented the Vikings from mounting a comeback after falling behind by two scores.
The Vikings finally got into the end zone in the final minute, when a banged-up Bradford threw a garbage-time touchdown pass to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
"I want them to learn how to fight under pressure," Zimmer said about not sitting Bradford late in the loss. "Stay in there and fight. Get the guys to block for you and let's go."
A lack of blocking was the biggest issue for the Vikings, starting with a pair of squandered opportunities in the first quarter. Twice the offense started a drive inside the red zone after turnovers by Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.
After safety Andrew Sendejo intercepted Wentz and returned it to the Eagles 2-yard line, running back Matt Asiata was stuffed at the goal line on first down and two plays later Bradford was drilled as he threw and was intercepted in the end zone.
It was Bradford's first interception with the Vikings and the team's first giveaway on offense this season. Moments later, Bradford gave the ball away again.
Following a Wentz fumble that the Vikings recovered at the Eagles 17-yard line, Eagles defensive end Connor Barwin blew by left tackle Jake Long and swatted the ball out of Bradford's right hand as he cocked to throw. The Eagles recovered the fumble.
During the second quarter, Long, who rotated at offensive tackle with T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles, got beat for a second time for a strip-sack of Bradford.
"There were too many self-inflicted wounds today," the quarterback said.
In the fourth quarter, with the Vikings trailing 18-3 as they neared the Eagles goal line again, they needed 1 yard to move the chains but were stuffed on third and fourth down.
"We didn't block anybody. We were soft. We got overpowered," Zimmer said, later adding: "We need to do a better job. We're not going to go down the street and pick up a bunch of guys. We need to get these guys better, and we need to do it quickly."
The Vikings scored the first points of the game on Blair Walsh's 48-yard field goal in the second quarter. But the Eagles' Josh Huff took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. Walsh had a chance during the return to tackle Huff near midfield but missed left.
After taking an 11-3 lead into halftime, Philadelphia increased it when Wentz threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. That made Sunday's game the first time the Vikings given up more than 17 points since last December. An Eagles field goal, after punt returner Marcus Sherels lost a fumble, put it away.
Wentz finished with 138 passing yards. Bradford, whom the Eagles traded to the Vikings last month in order to start the No. 2 overall pick, threw for 224 in the beatdown.
The Vikings can probably throw those bloody stuffed animals in the trash. Sunday's game is the only thing they need to remind them that, despite sitting pretty at 5-1, they can't get complacent.
"You hate to say you have to be punched in the mouth," left guard Alex Boone said. "But at the end of the day, this better light a fire under some people."
Matt Vensel covers the Vikings for the Star Tribune. firstname.lastname@example.org