Riding high after a big divisional win against the Packers, the Vikings flopped mightily in Philadelphia on Monday night. Neither the offense nor the defense looked good, and the Eagles won 24-7. New coach Kevin O’Connell has a rude awakening in his first away game, and the Vikings will look to bounce back in Week 3 against Detroit.
Worst Possible Start
There was no containment of Jalen Hurts in the first half on Monday Night Football. I wrote about the importance of this, but I will not claim to be a savant in predicting outcomes, as it should have been obvious to everyone what we needed to do.
We looked relatively disciplined on defense early on, but we were maybe a little too cautious. Hurts started the game 10/10 with a rushing touchdown. He then added a passing touchdown early in the second quarter. The Vikings were quickly down 14-0.
Momentum Shift In The Second?
Almost. The Vikings had a much-needed, expertly methodical drive on their first of the second quarter. Kirk Cousins spread the ball around; Jalen Reagor, Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, and Johnny Mundt all had key receptions for first downs.
Then, it was an Irv Smith sighting for a short touchdown! The Vikings would hold the Eagles to a three and-out on their ensuing possession, and it looked like the tides were turning. But the Vikings would also stall out, giving way to another Philadelphia scoring drive. Jalen Hurts fooled the Vikings on an RPO where he scampered for a long touchdown run.
With the Vikings down 21-7, they still had 1:58 on the clock to try and put more points on the board before halftime. Unfortunately, Irv Smith dropped an easy catch that would have given the Vikings a great chance to get some points. Kirk threw a dart under intense pressure that dropped right through Smith’s bread basket. This would lead to another Vikings punt, and eventually an Eagles field goal. It was 24-7 at the half.
Forgettable Second Half
Forgettable, but not without its moments of hope. The Vikings marched down the field on their opening drive of the 3rd. Justin Jefferson masterfully eeked out extra yards to cross the line-to-gain on multiple occasions, and Dalvin Cook even had some nice runs, a rarity on this Monday night. Cousins had consecutive plays where he called audibles at the line of scrimmage, and I thought this signaled an intelligence by he and Kevin O’Connell that would allow us to get back in the game. But then, an interception in the red zone. Jefferson faded behind Darius Slay, leaving Kirk’s pass headed right for the Eagles’ defender. It was Slay’s first of two INTs on the night.
And though the Eagles wouldn’t turn this into points, it didn’t matter. The Vikings defense was too cautious and predictable; they played with too much of a bend, don’t break, mentality. It seemed as if they wanted to stay home and be disciplined, but the Eagles were far too content given their 17-point lead. Even Troy Aikman was commenting on how much space A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith had coming off of the line of scrimmage. The Eagles ate up a ton of clock, and the Vikings only had two offensive drives in the third quarter.
But The Defense Did Not Break
They would go on to give up close to 500 total yards of offense to the Eagles, but they managed to hold them scoreless for the rest of the game. The special teams tried to help out as well, with Patrick Peterson blocking a FG attempt at about the 3:30 mark of the third quarter, giving us the ball on Philly’s 30 yard line. This would end with Kirk Cousins’ second pick, which meant both of their third quarter drives ended in INTs.
The Vikings had a decent drive going early in the fourth, but would have to punt. The game, at this point, felt like it was over. However, Eagles’ RB Kenneth Gainwell let a short pass bounce of his hands, and former Eagle Jordan Hicks intercepted the pass. Once again, Vikings fans were given a small amount of hope, only to see it dashed by yet another interception. Now, I am not saying the defense played well on Monday night, but they did enough to keep us in the game. It was primarily the offense that could not seem to figure out the Eagles’ blitzing.
The Offense Was Outcoached
I prefer to blame the entire offense in this one, rather than focus on individual players. That being said, Kirk Cousins did not have a good game. But neither did really anyone on this entire unit. I do not think the Vikings’ offense adapted well enough to the Philadelphia defense.
Especially on drives when the Vikings were close to scoring, we seemingly had no answer for the intense blitzing of the Eagles. I know that Kirk missed some open receivers, but this was due to him being flustered. He did not look comfortable trying to check each of his reads, and he rarely had time enough to do so. The offense never got into a rhythm, and they could not sustain success for very long. Conversely, Jalen Hurts seemingly had 10 minutes per dropback, and was able to pick and choose what he wanted to do.
Hurts Was Great, But His Offensive Line Was Better
I already mentioned I thought the Vikings defense played conservatively, but their pass rush was almost non-existent. They did earn three sacks on the evening, but for a total of 10 yards lost. They felt more like tackles on a runningback then a momentous loss of yardage by the quarterback. The Eagles’ offensive line looked fantastic.
It’s no secret they are a good unit, but they were on another level on Monday night. Jalen Hurts looked so relaxed that almost every play seemed effortless. Factoring in the fact that the secondary was allowing the Eagles’ receivers a bunch of open space before coverage, Hurts was able to pick his best possible option on every play. I’ll admit I was worried he would exploit us with his scrambling ability if we rushed too many, but now I would have much rather allowed a few big runs if it meant keeping him on his toes.
In a game where positives are nearly impossible to find, the Vikings punter is noteworthy once again. Ryan Wright continues to punt at the highest possible level, and remains a great boon to this Vikings squad. Even though the Vikings would give up a field goal right before halftime, he made it difficult by pinning the Eagles inside the five with a 61-yard bomb after Irv’s big drop.
Every time he punts, the punt returner needs to track back 15 yards to find the ball; he is going to be an unsung hero for us this year. It’s hard not to take punters for granted, so I’ll try not to; we have a great one.
Ok, It’s Not Time To Panic
The Vikings are still a playoff team. Monday night’s game looked bad at all levels, but if Philadelphia plays like that against other squads, we may have been underestimating them as a strong contender. Yes, the score was a lot closer against the Lions, but the Eagles had a big lead, and the Lions scored 14 in the fourth quarter while playing catch up.
This is not to excuse a pitiful performance by the Vikings. However, if we are going to lay an egg at any point in the season, let it be early on. We have a chance to go 2-0 in divisional matchups next week against Detroit, and I think this coaching staff will learn from this. They will have these players poised for a rebound win next week.
One Last Thing
We need to get Dalvin Cook going against Detroit. The offense was so bad as a whole against the Eagles, that it’s hard to pinpoint a singular reason why Dalvin Cook had only 6 carries for 17 yards. Though I have to believe it has something to do with getting dominated in time of possession by over 10 minutes.
Maybe it would be better to say that our offense simply needs to be on the field more against Detroit, and I think they will be.
Ok, Vikings fans, let’s look to Week 3. I have let this loss ruin my day, so now I’m casting it aside as a bad game. What do you think was the biggest issue against the Eagles? Let me know, @Jlime8 on Twitter, or reach out to all of us at The Daily Skol on Twitter. Then, stay on thedailyskol.com for your Vikings info all year long!