After looking like a formidable opponent in Week 1, the Minnesota Vikings found they still have a lot to work on after a 24-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2.
Arif Hasan of The Athletic recently looked at what went wrong on both sides of the ball for the Vikings during Monday night's loss and what they can do to get back on track going into Week 3 against Detroit.
Offensively, Hasan said part of the Vikings struggles were from quarterback Kirk Cousins' ability to handle the defensive pressure of the Eagles front. He wrote:
Cousins had the worst PFF grade against the blitz among quarterbacks in Week 2, which was a big reason the game went sour for the Vikings. Two of his three interceptions occurred on blitz looks, while the other came on a poor route by receiver Justin Jefferson. Cousins completed 4-of-12 attempts when blitzed, averaging 1.8 yards per attempt.
Hasan wrote a typical solution to the blitz for a quarterback is to throw the ball toward the space previously occupied by the rushing defender. He said:
While it can be more complicated than that with tricky defenses that replace the blitzing defender with an enterprising defensive lineman or a trap coverage, that should be on the menu of options for any pro quarterback.
Hasan added the blame can't fall on Cousins entirely. Hasan said that the Vikings didn't make enough in-game adjustments to solve the issues against Philadelphia's blitz.
Hasan also said Head Coach Kevin O'Connell leaned away from putting Cousins in more play-action scenarios, something that's worked well for the Vikings quarterback throughout his career.
Of all of Cousins' dropbacks on Monday, Minnesota only used play action 12 percent of the time. When Cousins did use play action, Hasan said he averaged more yards per throw, higher completion and success rates, a lower turnover rate and threw the Vikings only touchdown.
Defensively, the Vikings had a difficult time slowing down Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and the rest of Philadelphia's offensive playmakers. But Minnesota was able step up in the second half, not allowing any points.
Hasan said part of the Vikings success in the second half was because of the adjustments they made at halftime. He wrote:
The Vikings chose not to blitz until midway through the third quarter, ending the night with five blitzes on 39 dropbacks. On those five blitzes, the Eagles completed two passes, gained zero first downs, threw one interception and took one sack. They averaged 3.2 yards per play and minus-5.8 adjusted yards per play after accounting for the interception.
Hasan noted that NFL defenses today play more of a match-zone style that helps determine which receiver a defender will follow and provide tight coverage. He said by using this approach, it's harder for opposing quarterbacks to "attack the seams" of a zone defense.
But where Hurts and the Eagles found repeated success on offense was "attacking the seams" of the traditional zone the Vikings and Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell were using in an effort to not allow Hurts to showcase his dual-threat capabilities.
Traditional zone defenses are not doomed to fail against modern quarterbacks, and a failure to execute at all levels on defense was more to blame. But Ed Donatell's unit also didn't practice that as much during training camp, and relying on a setup they don't have much experience with was going to make failure much more likely.
View photos from the Vikings-Eagles Monday Night Football game on Sept. 19 at Lincoln Financial Field.
CBS Sports Gives Out Grades for Week 2
The Vikings closed out a roller-coaster Week 2 in the NFL with a 24-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
John Breech of CBS Sports recently analyzed every game from Week 2 and provided grades for each team. Breech gave the Vikings a grade of D- for their game. He wrote:
The Vikings could have kept this game interesting in the second half, but Kirk Cousins threw that chance away with three interceptions over the final two quarters of play. Cousins has historically been a bad quarterback whenever he's forced to play on a Monday, but he took that to another level against the Eagles.
_The Vikings came up with several big plays in the second half (blocked field goal, interception), but Cousins killed all the momentum by throwing a pick a few plays later each time. Even with the big plays, the Vikings had no chance to win this game with the way Cousins was playing. Cousins is now 2-10 all-time in Monday games, which is the worst record in NFL history for any QB who has started at least 10 Monday night games. _