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Action Reaction: Vikings Show Gritty Resolve in Philly

The Vikings expected Sunday's rematch of the 2017 NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia to be a gritty, action-packed drama.

No, not because of this guy, although he resides in the same neighborhood as Lincoln Financial Field.

But because this patch of grass had been a house of horrors for the Vikings in the past two seasons and was the home of the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Minnesota brought a 5-0 mark into Philadelphia in 2016, and the Eagles won a sloppy game by both teams. It was a cracking that led to a crumble as the Vikings dropped their next four games in a row.

Last season, the Vikings levitated into their first conference title game appearance since 2009 after the Minneapolis Miracle against the Saints.

A touchdown on the opening drive was undermined by a 50-yard interception return touchdown that swung momentum.

On Sunday, the Vikings were reeling a bit, having dropped two in a row, including a 27-6 no-show at home against Buffalo and falling 38-31 in a fast-break affair reminiscent of the "Showtime" Lakers era in Los Angeles.

The Vikings failed to play either of those games on their terms.

Head Coach Mike Zimmer didn't hit the panic button, despite the 1-2-1 start by a team that went 13-3 and won the NFC North last season.

He reminded media members during the week that last year's squad went 2-2 in its first quarter of the season and bristled at the notion that Philadelphia's performance a year ago unlocked the doors to beating Minnesota's vaunted defense.

Zimmer's Vikings left with a 23-21 victory in a game they never trailed.

Pregame question: Did the Vikings have enough grit and gumption to bounce back from the ropes?

This pregame speech by Kirk Cousins that was encouraged by Linval Joseph provided quite the amount of foreshadowing and gave Minnesota a nice jolt.

In-game action:

Getting fired up is one thing, but executing is another.

The Vikings offensive line did finish enough blocks, despite having to move Rashod Hill from right tackle to left tackle and bring in rookie Brian O'Neill at right tackle after Riley Reiff left with a foot injury.

Cousins hung tough in the pocket, standing in the face of adversity against blitzes and a talented Eagles front. He dropped dimes to Adam Thielen for a 3-yard touchdown and got a 68-yard completion out of his own end zone. He avoided the rush and found completions on 30 of 37 passes for 301 yards, connecting with Stefon Diggs 10 times for 91 yards. Cousins was knocked down but not until finishing the play.

The defense made dominant plays at important parts of the field.

In addition to Linval Joseph's 64-yard return of a fumble for a touchdown and the memes that have already begun…

… Danielle Hunter had an important sack of Carson Wentz to halt Philly's momentum after consecutive completions of 16, 31 and 20.

Hunter and Stephen Weatherly, who forced the fumble by Wentz during a sack, helped draw an intentional grounding penalty during a second-and-10 play from the Minnesota 30. The 10-yard mark-off and loss of down pushed the Eagles to the limits of where Head Coach Doug Pederson was willing to try a field goal. Philadelphia opted to punt on a fourth-and-25 with the Vikings up 20-14.

Special teams made plays at critical junctures, with Dan Bailey booting home a 52-yard field goal to give the Vikings a nine-point lead with less than three minutes remaining. Thielen stepped in for a fair catch at the 11 on a tricky punt and recovered a deceptive onside kick to ice the game.

But the biggest factor on the flow of the game in the first half, and then when it came time to put the game away, was the run game.

The Vikings entered averaging 63 rush yards per game. The Eagles through four weeks allowed 63.8 rushing yards per game.

The Vikings rushed 12 times for 58 yards in the first half, including 25 yards on two attempts by Diggs. Minnesota worked in a couple of laterals, although one resulted in a fumble, to circumnavigate a stout defensive front.

Latavius Murray led Minnesota with 42 rushing yards on 11 carries. He accounted for 27 (21 rushing, six receiving) of the 55 yards gained on the Vikings final scoring drive.

Postgame reaction:

Zimmer during his post-game speech in the locker room before presenting game balls to Joseph anf Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo:

"I am proud as hell of you guys," Zimmer said. "You came in there and fought your rear ends off. Everyone fought.

"No one thought we could come in here and win this game," he added. "It just shows if we continue to do these kinds of things, prepare like we did, fight like we do, like a team, like we talked about, we can do a lot of things."

DeFilippo, who coached Eagles QBs from 2016-17, after getting a game ball:

"Since the day I got here, fellas, you've done nothing but buy-in and believe," DeFilippo said. "I tell you, this is the best group of working guys I've ever been around. It's an honor to coach you guys every week and watch you guys get better every week. I can't wait — hey, a lot more after this, OK?"

Cousins on the Vikings first road win since he joined Minnesota:

"It is great to win on the road in the NFL. It is always a satisfying feeling because you know how hard it is and how challenging it is to come into an environment like this against a really good football team," Cousins said. "It took all of the guys that stepped out there today. We got a lot of contributions.

"I was proud of the offensive line to allow one sack with as many attempts as we had, and the pass rush that they have to go on the road with [Vikings LT] Riley Reiff having to go out and moving Rashod over to left tackle, Brian our rookie, stepping in at right tackle," he added. "I was very impressed by them to only give up one sack and the game that they played."

Thielen on Cousins hanging in the pocket during a 24-yard completion on Minnesota's third snap of the game:

"Yeah, I mean, shoot — you look at one of the first plays in the game when he's getting hit, and he just throws it out there and lets me go run to it, and I made a play," Thielen said.

"All day, he just continues to sit back there and trust us to get open," he added. "A lot of times he probably can't even see us, but he just trusts us as receivers to get open because that's our job, and he throws it and lets us, really, just go out there and make a play."

Diggs on finishing the game, despite the challenge from the Eagles:

"Just like with all games in battling adversity, moving forward from it," Diggs said. "Every game you're going to get adversity, you just have to bounce back and see how you're going to come back from it."

Hunter on finding enough energy:

"I get tired some plays, but I've just got to suck it up and keep playing," Hunter said.

Bailey on his impressions of the Vikings resolve:

"It's just a bunch of guys that fight, and that was apparent to me from the first day I got in here," Bailey said. "It didn't matter what the situation was — this locker room is a great locker room with a bunch of guys that just keep fighting no matter what the situation is."

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