1. Tempo trick a Shurmur-ism
Kevin Stefanski showed early in Sunday’s 38-20 win over the visiting Eagles that he learned a thing or two from Pat Shurmur, the only offensive coordinator in Vikings history never to be booed. Shurmur is adept at changing the pace of the game to control rhythm, tempo and a defense’s ability to substitute. The eighth play of Sunday’s game was a 20-yard completion to Adam Thielen on third-and-13. While the Eagles were trying to get their base defense back on the field, Stefanski, the current offensive coordinator, went no-huddle and got a 14-yard run by Dalvin Cook down to the 15-yard line. After four possessions, the Vikings had 12 passes for 173 yards, 12 runs for 53 yards and a 24-3 lead.
2. No more taking on MLBs, Kirk
No offense to Sean Mannion, but Kirk Cousins needs to remember the Vikings had no money left to sign an experienced backup quarterback this year. So when it’s third-and-6 and no one is open, it’s OK to run but definitely not OK to take on linebackers who are stronger, faster and 40 pounds heavier. Philly’s Nigel Bradham walloped Cousins with a helmet blow to the chest at the end of a wild scramble for 1 yard. Cousins was lucky Bradham played it clean. The play didn’t count — although the soreness is sure to arrive Monday morning — because the Eagles were called for defensive holding. Remember, Kirk, Mannion is a five-year QB with 11 games, one start and 53 passes on his résumé. When it’s time to get down, get down!
3. Save Zim the trouble next time
The last thing this space wants to ask for is the potential for more stoppages in NFL play. But the rule that limits coaching challenges to a maximum of three doesn’t seem right. Especially when one must be used on a mistake as obvious as the one that worked against the Vikings on their first possession Sunday. Cook clearly made the 5-yard line on third-and-2 from the 7. But he was marked short. There was no pile of bodies blocking the down-the-line view for the line judge. Zimmer had to challenge to get the bad call reversed. There were 54 minutes left. In order to get the maximum of three challenges, Zimmer would have needed to be right one more time. It seems like a coach should keep getting them as long as he keeps getting them right.
4. Most underrated Viking? Mattison
The most underrated Viking? How about rookie running back Alexander Mattison? Cook is one of the best backs in the league. The Vikings won by 18 points and Cook had to touch the ball only 18 times. It could have been fewer because Mattison is a powerful, versatile back who could start for many teams. He had a game-high 63 yards and a 4.5-yard average while Cook averaged 2.6 yards on two more carries. Mattison’s first touch was a 13-yard run around left end. On the next play, Stefon Diggs lined up wide left. The cornerback to that side, Rasul Douglas, was overmatched. He also got no help from the single-high safety. And he appeared to hesitate and peek into the backfield as Diggs blew by him. Perhaps he was making sure it wasn’t another run to his side.
5. Quite the cornerback crisis
Former Gopher Craig James was cut by the Vikings on Aug. 31. Since then, the Eagles have: signed James to their practice squad Sept. 2; promoted him Sept. 11; waived him Sept. 17; signed him to the practice squad Sept. 18; promoted him Sept. 24; and started him Sept. 29. With starters Ronald Darby (hamstring) and Avonte Maddox (concussion compliments of Andrew Sendejo’s friendly-fire hit at Green Bay) still sidelined, James played in the sub packages Sunday. Diggs’ 11-yard touchdown catch came against James. The Eagles started a pair of 2017 draft picks in Douglas (third round) and Sidney Jones (second). Three of Philly’s corners on Sunday — James, Orlando Scandrick and Ryan Lewis — weren’t on the roster 20 days ago.