- Alex Hand
Eagles show what we already know in win over Vikings
In the volleyed, turnover-driven 21-10 beating of the league’s last undefeated team and number one ranked defense, the Philadelphia Eagles showed that Carson Wentz is mortal, the defense – even as a whole – is capable of making extraordinary plays, and that this team could do some real damage if their key is consistency. The coaches displayed a terrific game in regards to play calling, and the dominant statistical numbers are finally beginning to appear for certain positional players on this team, even when they have to blitz more in order reach that status.
Starting with the HBIC’s of the offense and defense, Doug Pederson called a terrific game that resulted in zero sacks for Wentz featuring Halapoulivaati Vaitai stationed at right tackle for the entirety of the game with minimal help from twin tight end sets and Jim Schwartz was able to sack the former-starting quarterback for the Eagles a total of six times without sacrificing efficiency in the secondary.
Some say the ‘secret’ defensively was that the Birds blitzed an extra 6.8 percent versus their first five games. While the extra linebacker and DB rushes did help to a degree, the real reason the defense was successful – on top of their increased blitzes – was the carousel of an offensive line that was supposed to protect Sam Bradford. The Vikings have lost a total of three linemen and had only signed tackle Jake Long 12 days prior to their meeting with the Eagles. With the league’s 31st ranked rushing attack combined with that offensive line and a Schwartz-led unit that knew of Bradford’s deficiencies, the resulting victory should have come as an absolute beat down.
Still, the Eagles D ate that day. Players Connor Barwin, Nigel Bradham, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks, Rodney McLeod, and Steven Means each recorded a sack, along with a team total of four forced fumbles and a combined 54 tackles. Quote the Malcolm Jenkins, “We think we’re the number one defense in the league.”
The key to the previous undefeated success of the Vikings is due to their own defense. The same defense that has “statistically” surpassed the likes of the 1985 Chicago Bears; we’ll allow the writers and readers to formulate their own opinions on the matter. While it is still a stout defense programmed by a stellar defensive mind in head coach Mike Zimmer, it’s a unit that didn’t record a single sack against Philly, did not contain the running aspect of Wentz’s game, and was not able to turn the Birds into a one-dimensional football team.
But the Vikes did tie the Eagles for forcing four turnovers and were successful in exposing another chapter in the rookie quarterback’s style: faith in his offense. Wentz might be on par with Andrew Luck as far as who the nicest QB in the NFL is, and it’s really a double-edge sword in that every franchise would adore a quarterback that blames himself before throwing his team under the bus and pushes his skill position teammates for bigger and better plays, but it also results in interceptions when the 6’0”, 190 lbs. receiver cannot fight a 6’1”, 210 lbs. cornerback and a 5’11”, 200+ safety in double coverage for the rock.
Pederson, however, does not think his quarterback is doing too much and that his game should be changed, and nor should it. Despite the two interceptions and a misaligned handoff to Darren Sproles, Wentz held a perfect QBR of 158.3 in the 3rd quarter. He inevitably finished with a 52.4, but this writer will still attribute that more toward the production of the receiving core.
In regards to injuries, Jason Peters who was seen on the sidelines toward the end of the game had a bicep injury, but claims that he will be ready to play against the Dallas Cowboys this coming Sunday. Cornerback Ron Brooks suffered a torn ligament in his quadriceps muscle and will likely be out the rest of the season along with most of the new year. This injury leaves Jenkins as the new slot corner that could either end really well or go horribly wrong. Jenkins has not played particularly well when asked to play man in the box against slot receiving options and can be smoked by small, twitchy receivers, i.e. for next week, Cole Beasley.