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Kendricks, Vikings Defense Rise Up in 4th Quarter Against Philadelphia

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings and Eagles had played a seesaw three quarters Sunday, with momentum swings and big plays on both sides.

But once the fourth quarter rolled around, the Vikings defense put an end to the nonsense.

Led by a standout game from Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, Minnesota's defense held serve in the final quarter by recording a pair of sacks and forcing a pair of turnovers to keep Minnesota undefeated at home in 2019 thanks to a 38-20 win over Philadelphia.

"We know they're going to make runs and things like that," Kendricks said. "It was good to see us respond to that run they made and hit them in the mouth.

"That's a good team. We persevered," Kendricks added. "There's a lot of stuff that happened through the course of the game … momentum swings and stuff like that. But we stuck to it and stuck to our roots."

Added Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr: "They're a good football team. They're well-coached and have a lot of great players. They're not going to go down without a fight. We weathered the storm there and we're able to come out on top."

Minnesota's defense allowed a season-high 400 yards, but made crucial plays when it counted most, particularly on the fourth play of the fourth quarter, when Kendricks raced up the middle to sack Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz for the Vikings first sack of the game.

The Vikings had come close numerous times before, but the agile Wentz had eluded the pressure.

"He's strong in the pocket, but he can get out of the pocket and make throws and stuff like that," Kendricks said. "We did a good job."

That forced an Eagles punt as the Vikings offense extended Minnesota's lead to 38-20. Once the Eagles got the ball back, this time it was Danielle Hunter's turn to get to Wentz.

Hunter recorded his sixth sack of the season and 46th of his career, which sets an NFL record by a player before his 25th birthday (sacks became an official statistic in 1982). Hunter turns 25 on Oct. 29.

"Man, that dude, Danielle … I could talk all day about him," Kendricks said. "He deserves it, and deserves everything he gets, all the accolades. He works hard and is a humble guy. He's great. That boy is a freak."

Just three plays later, Kendricks helped put the game on ice as he stripped Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, causing a fumble that Barr recovered and returned near midfield.

"He's been playing at a high level all year, just getting to the ball, whether it's disrupting the ball with a PBU or tackling guys in the backfield," Barr said. "He's doing a great job playing football right now."

The Vikings offense forced Philadelphia to burn all of its timeouts, but the defense wasn't ready for the party to end.

Wentz was then picked off by Mackensie Alexander — his second career interception — giving the Vikings multiple takeaways for the third time this season.

At one point, the Vikings led 24-3. But near the end of the third quarter, the cushion had been trimmed to 24-20.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he was proud of how his defense stayed the course in an up-and-down game.

"I thought defensively we played for the most part pretty well," Zimmer said. "We had a couple miscues in there, but overall I was pleased with the way we came out and fought.

"You know, got close there for a little bit, and defensively we came out and fought like crazy," Zimmer added.

As usual, Minnesota's defense — and Kendricks — were stellar on third down.

Philadelphia entered the game with the league's second-best offense on third downs, as the Eagles had converted 37 of 70 tries (52.86 percent) so far in 2019.

The Vikings defense allowed just four conversions on 12 tries (33.3 percent), by far the worst performance of the season for Philadelphia's offense.

Philadelphia had nine different third-down plays where they needed five yards or less to convert. The Eagles only converted four of them.

"We work really hard on the third downs. They are very, very good on third-and-up-to-about-4-or-5. They're really good," Zimmer said. "So, we had to change a few things up today to try to eliminate some of those.

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

"But Eric is a really good football player," Zimmer added. "He understands what we're trying to do defensively, and the guys were trying to take away and the guys were trying to add extra coverage to."

The clutch performance on third downs — plus a shutout fourth quarter — helped the Vikings move to 4-2 and get their first win streak of the season.

Minnesota now travels to Detroit for a pivotal NFC North battle in Week 7. The Lions will play the Packers in Green Bay on Monday.

"We're starting to click right now. We just have to keep this momentum going, especially with a big division game on the road next week," Barr said. "We'll regroup and correct our mistakes and get ready for the Lions."

Added Kendricks: "We won two games in a row and are not going to get too big on ourselves. We're still humble for the Ls we took earlier. But we're excited about playing against Detroit."