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Lunchbreak: Screen Game Could 'Boost' Vikings Against Eagles

The Vikings had success in both the passing and run game in their road win against the Giants last week, and Dalvin Cook proved a valuable asset in each.

Minnesota implemented a handful of well-executed screen plays at MetLife Stadium, and the Star Tribune's Andrew Krammer believes a similar game plan could “boost” the Vikings against the Eagles on Sunday. He wrote:

The Vikings screen game created big gains against the Giants, and the approach could help find room Sunday against an "attacking" Eagles defense recently serving as kryptonite to running backs.

Running back Dalvin Cook's first 200-yard game from scrimmage last Sunday was boosted by screens, producing plays of 15, 22 and 24 yards in New York. [Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer wants to see more after emphasizing the concept "extremely hard" in Vikings practices.

"The more we can do that, it helps the overall part of the offense," Zimmer said. "It can possibly slow down some of the rushers."

The Eagles run defense ranks No. 1, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry. Added incentive for the Vikings screen game is the fact [that] running backs, from Atlanta's Devonta Freeman to New York [Jets] Le'Veon Bell, have compiled more receiving yards (151) than rushing yards (140) against the Eagles.

Krammer quoted Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who spoke to Twin Cities media members Thursday and emphasized the talent of Philadelphia's defense.

"It's an attacking syle. They get off the ball. They tackle well," Stefanski said. "Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, what they bring to the table is a really special group."

ESPN's Berry expects Vikings defense to shut down Eagles RBs

Through the first five games of the season, Eagles running backs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders have combined for 441 yards and four touchdowns on 107 carries.

ESPN's Matthew Berry doesn't expect either part of the duo to gain much ground against Minnesota on Sunday, however. In his weekly "Love, Hate" article, Berry projects fantasy football performances (positive or negative) or players across the league based on their opponent and other factors.

Looking ahead at the Week 6 matchup between the Vikings and Eagles, Berry said he "hates" Sanders or Howard in a fantasy lineup, meaning he’s not expecting much production. He wrote:

Despite word out of Philly that Howard will get more touches (he has certainly earned it), the fact is [Eagles Head Coach] Doug Pederson is and always has been a running back by committee (RBBC) coach. Only once this season has an Eagles RB gotten more than 15 touches in a game. Meanwhile, you want "Minnesota is awesome against the run" stats? I got "Minnesota is awesome against the run" stats: top five in terms of red zone defense, yards per carry allowed, lowest completion percentage to running backs and fewest running back receptions. And the Vikings have allowed just one – count it, one – rushing touchdown this season.

Mattison demonstrating 'strong play' to start rookie season

Cook has been a force to be reckoned with through the first part of the season, and the third-year running back has handled a majority of the carries.

When Cook does come out, though, the Vikings are pleased with the production they've received from rookie back Alexander Mattison.

Tom Dierberger of FOX Sports North wrote about Mattison’s “strong play” to start his NFL career.

Selected in the third round out of Boise State, Mattison was brought in to shoulder the load that backup Latavius Murray left behind when he departed to New Orleans in free agency. Like Murray, Mattison brings something different to the running backs room.


Mattison is coming off the best game of his young career. During a 28-10 win over the New York Giants, Mattison turned seven carries into 52 yards, an average of 7.4 yards per touch.

He's already gained the trust of Stefanksi, who is now carving out a role for the back in the weekly game plan.

Stefanski said that Mattison "provides a similar but different running style" than Cook.

"Ultimately, we have a number [of carries] that we're looking [at] for both of those guys," Stefanksi said. "But as you know during a series, Dalvin rips one off and he needs a blow, so very quickly Mattison jumps in there, and we don't really change what we're doing or change our mindset."