A look at the stat sheet shows the Vikings offense preferred to pass in Sunday’s win against the Eagles.
Minnesota threw the ball 37 times in comparison to just 23 rushing plays, but the numbers aren’t as lopsided as one would think.
ESPN Vikings beat writer Courtney Cronin recently wrote that although the Vikings had quarterback Kirk Cousins drop back to pass more often than not, creative play calling from Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo helped keep Philadelphia’s defense off balance.
DeFilippo decided that the best way to mitigate the Eagles' pass rush was by getting around it, forcing runs outside designed to attack the perimeter and utilizing quick screens to generate early production.
Stefon Diggs picked up 18 yards off three short passes from Cousins on the Vikings' opening drive, a concept the receiver said “kept them on their toes.” The receiver also accounted for the longest run of the day, taking a 20-yard handoff from Cousins parallel to the Vikings' sideline.
Philadelphia entered the game with the NFL’s top rushing defense at 63.8 yards per game.
And while the 77 rushing yards posted by the Vikings were the most allowed by the Eagles this season, quick passes that attacked the perimeter of the field were almost used as running plays by DeFilippo.
DeFilippo’s intentions in Philly were clear: The Vikings are going to continue to rely on Cousins heavily and support him with the run when they can. Minnesota is still towards the bottom in rushing, up one spot to 31st, but showed it can better achieve that balance and take pressure off Cousins.
That philosophy is rooted in DeFilippo’s approach to continually get the ball to his best players. Cousins was 17-of-21 passing for 207 yards and a touchdown targeting both Diggs and Thielen on Sunday. He has completed 70 percent of his passes to that duo this season for 991 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions, per ESPN Stats and Information.
DeFilippo is in his first season in Minnesota after being the Eagles quarterbacks coach for the past two seasons. He received a game ball from Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer after Sunday’s win.
Rand: Zimmer had right message after 1st quarter of season
With the Vikings reaching the quarter pole of the season last week, Zimmer put out a word of caution to those who wanted to write off the Vikings.
Although his team then stood at 1-2-1, Zimmer said that both hot and mild starts in the first four games of the season in recent years haven’t led to seasonal success.
Michael Rand of the Star-Tribune said that Minnesota’s win in Philadelphia helps back up Zimmer’s notion that the Vikings were buried after four games.
Zimmer’s quote had all the facts right about what happened the previous three seasons. The Vikings were sputtering in 2015 through four games, then took off with a five-game win streak starting in Game 5. They were an early Super Bowl favorite in 2016 after starting 4-0 (and eventually 5-0) before offensive line woes contributed mightily to a 3-8 stretch to end the year. And last year, the Vikings were again 2-2 and looked headed for a dead-end year with Sam Bradford injured and Dalvin Cook out for the year. Then Case Keenum took them on an improbable journey to 13-3.
This year, of course, the Vikings had big issues in all three phases of the game — with defensive woes being the most surprising and troubling. They got much of it sorted out Sunday and got a wonderful performance under pressure from Kirk Cousins. Now their record is all square after playing three of their first five on the road against presumed NFC contenders.
The bizarre 27-6 loss to Buffalo still feels like it could negatively impact the season, but turning a potential “L” into a “W” in Philly helps square that. At the very least, it added credence to what Zimmer said last week about judging his teams after four games.
The Vikings, who are now 2-2-1, will host Arizona (1-4) on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.