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Lunchbreak: Vikings Defense ‘Stole the Show’ Against Eagles

There were plenty of takeaways to be had from the Vikings convincing win over the Eagles on Sunday.

NFL.com’s Andie Hagemann delved into the game in the site’s weekly “What We Learned” roundtable article that evaluates each matchup, saying the Vikings offense “picked apart a battered Philly defense” en route to the 38-20 victory. She wrote:

Cousins looked comfortable airing it out for once and had a near perfect outing (22-of-29, 333 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT). … The Vikings offense looked like a well-oiled machine as it cruised to 4-2. Sunday’s tilt showed the emergence of rookie running back Alexander Mattison, as well. The 2019 third-rounder galloped to 63 yards on 14 carries, proving he can be a solid option to spell Dalvin Cook, the league’s second-leading rusher.

Hagemann argued that “while the offense impressed, it was truly the Vikings defense that stole the show.”

A typically exciting Eagles offense was stifled by the stout [Minnesota defense]. Fueled by the performances of Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, the defense held Philly to 20 points along with 400 total yards and forced three turnovers. The top-10 pass defense forced Carson Wentz to get flustered, forcing a slew of incomplete passes. Sunday marked another history-making performance for Hunter, who earned his sixth sack of the 2019 season (leads the team). He set the record for the most sacks by an NFL player under 25 years old (stat became official in 1982).

Hagemann’s third observation from the game revolved around Philadelphia’s offensive performance. She pointed out that Wentz’s performance “wasn’t all poor.” He finished the day 26-of-40 passing for 306 yards, two touchdowns and one interception with a passer rating of 94.4.

He showed spurts of his previous self in tosses to Alshon Jeffery, including a TD pass. Eagles running back Jordan Howard, who has emerged as the team’s next prolific back, was held to 49 rushing yards, which is a far cry from his previous outing this season. Neither the ground or passing game could get momentum for [drives] down the field. Zach Ertz had nine targets with four receptions. Wentz’s passes were overthrown or were tossed hastily attempting to avoid the furious Vikings D.

Diggs ‘back on track’ in Vikings offense

It was quite the day for Stefon Diggs, who scored three receiving touchdowns in the Vikings win.

Sports Illustrated’s Alaa Abdeldaiem said that Diggs is “back on track” in Minnesota’s offense after the season-best performance. She wrote:

On his first two touchdowns of the game, Diggs took advantage of the Philadelphia safeties getting drawn up by the underneath routes, using his speed to burn through Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas for back-to-back 62 and 51-yard scores. His connection with Kirk Cousins helped give the Vikings an early 24–10 halftime lead.

[…]

The deep ball was Cousins’ weapon of choice against Philadelphia. After starting the season 1-of-5 with one touchdown on throws that traveled 30-plus yards down the field in the first five games of the season, Cousins was 2-of-4 passing with two touchdowns on such throws on Sunday.

Abdeldaiem said that Diggs’ involvement “didn’t just benefit the offense, either,” opining that the defense also fed off the offense’s spark. She added:

That’s not to say Diggs was perfect in the outing. He still had two drops, one of them a bobble that led to Cousins’ lone interception of the day. But the aerial attack was a staunch reversal from the unit’s fortunes through the first five weeks of the season.

Takeaways from Vikings win include ‘tempo trick’

Minnesota fielded a varied offense on Sunday that helped keep Philadelphia on its toes.

In his weekly postgame takeaways article, Mark Craig of the Star Tribune said the “tempo trick” used by Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski was a “Shurmur-ism,” referring to former coordinator Pat Shurmur, who now is coaching the Giants. Craig wrote:

Shurmur is adept at changing the pace of the game to control rhythm, tempo and a defense’s ability to substitute. The eighth play of Sunday’s game was a 20-yard completion to Adam Thielen on third-and-13. While the Eagles were trying to get their base defense back on the field, Stefanski, the current offensive coordinator, went no-huddle and got a 14-yard run by Dalvin Cook down to the 15-yard line. After four possessions, the Vikings had 12 passes for 173 yards, 12 runs for 53 yards and a 24-3 lead.

Craig also made an argument against the NFL’s limit of three challenges per coach per game. He believes a coach should “keep getting them as long as he keeps getting them right.”

Especially when one must be used on a mistake as obvious as the one that worked against the Vikings on their first possession Sunday. Cook clearly made the 5-yard line on third-and-2 from the 7. But he was marked short. There was no pile of bodies blocking the down-the-line view for the line judge. Zimmer had to challenge to get the bad call reversed. There were 54 minutes left. In order to get the maximum of three challenges, Zimmer would have needed to be right one more time.

Another of Craig’s observations centered on Mattison. He wasn’t the only one to highlight Mattison, but he went a step beyond highlighting and said the rookie running back is “the most underrated” player on Minnesota’s roster.

Cook is one of the best backs in the league. The Vikings won by 18 points, and Cook had to touch the ball only 18 times. It could have been fewer because Mattison is a powerful, versatile back who could start for many teams.

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