It’s not often that we see the complete collapse of a player or unit like we witnessed with the Philadelphia Eagles secondary on Sunday. After the Eagles had held nine consecutive opponents to 21 points or fewer, the Minnesota Vikings went off for 48, as Matt Cassel of all people picked the Birds apart.
Cassel completed 26 of 35 attempts for 382 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked three times and threw an interception, but those were only minor impediments. Most of the time, the ninth-year veteran was having his way with the Eagles’ coverages.
Yet as poorly as Philly’s defense played, you have to give the opponent credit. Cassel came out of the gate hot, hitting on his first nine passes, including a 57-yard bomb to Greg Jennings. The quarterback stepped up in the pocket to avoid a sack and unleashed a perfect throw, hitting the wide receiver in stride over the top of two defensive backs.
It was just that kind of day. Eagles boss Chip Kelly told reporters after the game that his staff recognized the Vikings had the capability to go vertical, and while the defense certainly could’ve done a better job, part of the problem was Cassel was feeling it. Via Alex Smith of PhiladelphiaEagles.com:
We knew going in that it was going to be an issue, in terms of (Minnesota) being very talented at the receiver position, and right from the get-go I thought that Cassel was on fire and throwing the ball a little bit. I know that Billy (Davis) tried to mix things up a little bit with changing coverages. We needed to generate a little more pressure on him and make sure that he can't set his feet when he throws, but we needed to be a little bit closer in coverage too.
In my weekly report card grades, I score each individual position on some fairly simple criteria. “A” is virtually mistake-free, “B” is good, “C” is average, “D” is passable and “F” is a complete failure to carry out basic tasks. I don’t dish out that last mark very often, but it might be appropriate for this performance.
After all, no matter how well he played on Sunday, that was still Matt Cassel in the backfield for 4-9-1 Minnesota. The offense was even without its best player in running back Adrian Peterson. Surely the Birds defense should have been able to prevent some of what happened.