The Minnesota Vikings started off strong against the Philadelphia Eagles, despite their season-long struggles. With injuries to a number of starters, including their best player—Adrian Peterson—fans entered this game with more pessimism than hope.
A quick score while sustaining the lead flipped the script on the game and NFL fans are left scratching their heads as the Vikings get the win.
Philadelphia Eagles: 30
Minnesota Vikings: 48
|Minnesota Vikings Grades|
|Positional Unit||First-Half Analysis||Final Game Analysis|
|Week 15 againts the Eagles|
Final Game Analysis
Passing Offense: It was too much to expect Matt Cassel's stellar performance from the first half to continue, but finishing 26-of-35 with 382 yards isn't bad by any means. Pass protection wavered in the second half but remained consistent enough for Cassel to find his receivers against an injured Philadelphia secondary. With those passes, they were able to put the game away late, something they've had far too much trouble doing over the course of the season. In one of the better passing performances of the week, Cassel averaged 10.9 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and an interception .
Rushing Offense: Matt Asiata's three touchdowns are hardly a credit to him, but they are a credit to situational play-calling, as he rarely managed more than four yards on any single run (his longest gain was 10 yards). He ended up with 51 yards on 30 carries, for 1.7 yards per attempt—an abysmal performance from which the Vikings had to overcome. The run blocking degraded over the course of the game and also deserves its fair share of blame, but the entire unit was sub-optimal—not something they can afford to be on a consistent basis.
Passing Defense: The Vikings defense allowed Nick Foles to have a good day: 8.9 yards per attempt and 428 passing yards on 48 throws with three touchdowns and an interception. Foles himself was not that impressive. He was slow to go through reads and was errant on a number of passes. It's unfortunate, then, that the Vikings made Foles look like a Pro Bowler when he was merely average and merely "poor" at the moments when he was abysmal.
The Vikings defense doesn't deserve credit for the times Foles threw the ball 10 yards away from any eligible receiver, but it does deserve blame for late touchdowns and blown coverages. Pass pressure was inconsistent (although well-timed) and Robert Blanton bestowed "free yards" instead of providing any facsimile of a defensive back.
Run Defense: Hard to grade with so few rushing attempts on the Eagles part, but what the Vikings did provide in the run game was unspectacular. The Eagles averaged 6.1 yards per carry and LeSean McCoy had 4.8 yards per attempt on his carries alone. Fortunately, that just meant 38 yards, as the Eagles were too busy playing catch-up to give the ball to their running back. That's not a credit to the run defense, however, which gave up big, gashing plays.
Special Teams: The Eagles didn't feel confident enough to kick the ball to Patterson, but the punt return and kickoff coverage units did a good job in the limited number of times they were called upon. Jerome Simpson's onside kick recovery may have been the most important play of the game. Jeff Locke's only punts were long, had excellent hangtime and incisive accuracy. Blair Walsh's field-goal miss early on seems irrelevant now, and the other kicks (touchbacks, extra points and other field goals) were more than enough to make up for a missed long field-goal attempt.
Coaching: There was a limit to how poor the defensive coordinator could have been graded given the talent he had to work with, but for the most part the game was well-called. Mixed coverages and creative schemes designed to stop the somewhat unique Eagles offense could have been effective had the talent executed. Even without it, limiting the Eagles to 30 points given their relative field position throughout the game is no small feat when missing all three primary cornerbacks.
On offense, there were serious problems, especially when calling plays for the run game—far too much was asked of Asiata—but the passing plays were called excellently and Musgrave deserves a small pass for the fact that he didn't have some of his best players on the field (Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Brandon Fusco). The only big mistake that was easy to identify was the decision to punt from 4th-and-inches at midfield.
Passing Offense: The Vikings couldn't have asked for a passing offense more in sync. While
the offensive line could do a better job in pass protection, Matt Cassel has been in an excellent rhythm with his receivers and has been driving downfield. Bold throws into tight windows with excellent arm strength have enabled Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Cordarrelle Patterson to shine against a weak Eagles secondary. After starting with nine consecutive completions, Cassel finished the half going 14-of-20 with 202 yards.
Running Offense: As expected, the Vikings running offense isn't nearly as useful, dynamic or
explosive without the first or second running back on the depth chart available to play.
Asiata has had a few successful runs, but the vast majority of his play has been in short-yardage situations, so the criteria for those runs is not difficult to meet. He should still be averaging more than 2.2 yards a carry (on 13 carries) even in those conditions, but at least he has a touchdown to his name.
Patterson and Cassel have been efficient and excellent as runners, but they are hardly the feature. Needless to say, the running game has been both unimportant and unspectacular, even with good run blocking.
Passing Defense: Though they are performing far better than their contemporaries on the Eagles, there are still significant concerns, especially where Robert Blanton is concerned. Nick Foles is actually performing well, with 8.5 yards per attempt, and is completing 64.7 percent of his passes. In high-leverage situations, there have been significant misses, but the Vikings secondary is not performing as well as a cursory look would imply. They are exceeding expectations, but if they continue to play like this, it is unlikely that the Eagles will continue to be held out of the end zone.
Running Defense: The Vikings running defense is performing well in small-sample, unsustainable situations (like third down) but overall has been abysmal. Aside from missing Nick Foles on the read-option (5 carries for 41 yards), LeSean McCoy's four attempts have been quite productive (4.8 yards a carry). Missing gap assignments is not the primary issue here. Instead, McCoy in space and the athleticism of the Eagles offensive line, as well as missing cues, are keeping the Vikings behind in run defense.
Special Teams: There has not been much opportunity for the Vikings return game to make an impact, as the Eagles have chosen to pooch kicks well short of Cordarrelle Patterson. In addition, punter Jeff Locke has not received any work. Nevertheless, the special teams unit comes away with a poor grade despite good kickoffs because of a missed long field goal from Blair Walsh
Coaching: There are clear coaching miscues, which include how Asiata is being used, but they are minimal and largely irrelevant. They have been calling smart plays with dynamic options on offense and are creative enough to find ways to use playmakers like Patterson, Simpson and Jennings, but they have had massive issues on defense. Still, the defensive performance has more to do with talent than scheme or coaching and Alan Williams gets a pass.