By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) handed the Minnesota Vikings (5-1) their first loss of the 2016 NFL season and made sure not to give former teammate and starting quarterback Sam Bradford much of a chance to hurt them. The Eagles’ 21-10 victory was anything but pretty on the offensive side of the football, but the defense was locked in and ready to show-up the NFL’s top-rated defense coming in to the week from Minnesota.
The Eagles only managed to put together 239 yards of offense and turned the football over four times. The Birds also converted only four of 11 third down attempts, but they did make up for it with one fourth-down conversion.
Carson Wentz had a rough afternoon with a pair of interceptions in the first half and completing just 16 of his 28 pass attempts for 138 yards. But he was given solid protection from the offensive line, which did not allow a sack all afternoon. The running game combined for 101 rushing yards, with Ryan Mathews leading the team with 56 rushing yards. Josh Huff had a productive afternoon as well with four receptions on all four of the passes intended for him, gathering 39 yards to lead the Eagles. Nelson Agholor caught just two of the six passes his way for 10 yards, and Dorial Green-Beckham had two catches for eight yards, with one touchdown. Jordan Matthews caught three passes for 10 yards.
It wasn’t a sexy day for the offense against a very tough Minnesota defense, but it was enough to skate by on Sunday.
In a game the Eagles needed the defense to keep the game within reach, Jim Schwartz’s defense prevailed. The Eagles forced four turnovers with three fumble recoveries and an interception of Sam Bradford. The Eagles defense also sacked their former quarterback six times for a combined loss of 35 yards. The Vikings were held to fewer than 100 rushing yards.
Jordan Hicks led all players with 11 tackles, including eight solo tackles and three for a loss. Rodney McLeod had a key interception in the end zone to bail out the Eagles offense. Connor Barwin and company were in swarm mode from start to finish and made plays when needed. The Eagles prevailed in the red zone, with the Vikings leaving points off the scoreboard on three of their four trips inside the Philadelphia 20-yard line.
Special Teams: A
The key play of the game for the Eagles may have been a 98-yard kickoff return by Josh Huff for a touchdown. Immediately after the Vikings took a 3-0 lead in the first half, Huff’s special teams touchdown (the second Eagles kickoff return touchdown in as many weeks) gave the Eagles an 8-3 lead after a two-point conversion try from the one-yard line.
Caleb Sturgis remained a reliable asset with two converted field goals out of two and an extra-point attempt. Punter Donnie Jones showed off what he can do as well, punting four times for an average of 50.5 yards, with one punt landing inside the 20-yard line and another reaching the end zone for a touchback.
Yes, the Eagles looked sloppy at the start of the game, but Doug Pederson deserves praise for not allowing a rough start to rattle rookie quarterback Carson Wentz or the rest of the team. Pederson also showed some guts by deciding to go for a two-point conversion on the first touchdown and he did have a solid game plan. Jim Schwartz was dialed in with the defense as well.
Up Next: Dallas Cowboys
And here… we… go. It’s Cowboys week in Philadelphia as the Eagles take to the road to face Dak Prescott (or Tony Romo?), Ezekiel Elliot and the Dallas Cowboys in AT&T Stadium next Sunday night. First place in the NFC East will be on the line (the Eagles would own a head-to-head advantage with a win, Dallas would own sole possession).