McMullen’s Quick Hits: Eagles dominate previously unbeaten Vikings
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Carson Wentz vs. Sam Bradford never really mattered Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field because Jim Schwartz was busy beating up Norv Turner all afternoon as the Eagles whipped the previously unbeaten Vikings 21-10.
While neither Wentz or Bradford played well, the Eagles’ rookie was the lesser of two evils as Bradford returned to Philadelphia to lay an egg, completing just 24 of 41 passes for 224 yards and an interception.
Bradford was under siege all day from a ferocious Philadelphia pass rush, magnified by his own porous offensive line and the Eagles turned a Minnesota offense which had not had a miscue in its previous five games into a hapless unit, which managed just 282 total yards.
“It was fun to watch our defense today,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “That's the defense we expect to see every week moving forward.”
Two Carson Wentz first-quarter turnovers deep in Eagles' territory put the team behind the 8-ball but both were erased by Schwartz’s defense as Rodney McLeod intercepted a Bradford pass in the end zone after the veteran quarterback by hurried by Brandon Graham, and then, after a Wentz fumble, Bradford gave it right back on the next play when Connor Barwin sacked and stripped the QB.
"We wanted to make sure we got hits on (Bradford) and make him have to hurry up and throw the ball," Graham said. "I think we did a great job as far as our red-zone defense."
Minnesota eventually took the lead with a 48-yard-goal by Blair Walsh early in the second quarter but things changed on the ensuing kickoff when Josh Huff took it back untouched for 98 yards.
If not for a garbage-time TD late in the game by the Vikings, that would have been all the points the Eagles needed in the game.
Bradford was sacked six times and fumbled four times in the game as Schwartz unveiled a blitz package that Turner and his QB were simply not ready for.
"There were some curveballs that Jim (Schwartz) put in, to get on the quarterback and blitz a little more," Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "I think we did a great job of timing the blitzes out."
Schwartz's defense finished with 12 hurries, 9 pass breakups and 4 forced fumbles.
Conversely, the Eagles offense was not spectacular by any means against the tough Vikings defense and Wentz finished 16 of 28 for just 138 yards and a TD to Dorial Green-Beckham with two interceptions.
Ryan Mathews paced the running attack with 56 yards on 14 carries and Huff was the top target, catching all four balls thrown his way for 39 yards.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, meanwhile, admitted his team was “whupped” and called its play “embarrassing.”
HOME SWEET HOME
Don’t look now but the Eagles are 3-0 at Lincoln Financial Field and have outscored their opponents by a gaudy margin of 84-20, two of which were perceived contenders, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Vikings.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE TACKLES
Much was made of the struggles of Halapoulivaati Vaiti against the Redskins last week and the rookie tackle held up pretty well in his second NFL start, certainly not excelling by any stretch of the imagination but playing well enough to win in a more comfortable environment where noise and silent counts weren’t an issue.
The Vikings’ tackles on the other hand -- T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles, with the recently-added Jake Long mixing in, were abused by the Philadelphia front.
Bradford will be seeing No. 55 in his sleep tonight as Graham tortured his former Philadelphia teammate as the Michigan product continues to his Pro-Bowl level play.
"We went out there and had a pitiful performance in the beginning and we tried to fight back but it just seemed like some things weren't going our way today," Sirles said. "It's no one's fault but our own."
MIXED BAG FOR WENTZ
Wentz was bad, especially early against a great defense, but he settled down a bit from there and made some plays in the second half.
What’s striking, though, is even against tough competition, the rookie makes sounds decisions and never really gets all that rattled.
His 52.4 passer rating was a career-low but remember opposing passers came in completing just 55.5 percent of their throws against the Vikings with a 65.3 passer ratings, numbers that made Minnesota No. 1 in each category
Just because something works out doesn’t mean the decision process that led to it was a prudent one and that’s how I felt about Doug Pederson’s decision to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the Minnesota 44-yard line with 1:21 remaining in the first half.
The Eagles were up 8-3 at the time and could have pinned the hopeless Minnesota offense deep. Had things gone awry, and remember Wentz bobbled the football before regaining control and finding his way to the first-down on a zone-read play, the Vikings would have had possession near midfield and could have changed momentum dramatically, particularly when you consider the Minnesota was getting the ball first in the second half.
The fact that Wentz made the play and Philadelphia went on to extend its lead with a Caleb Sturgis FG erases the specious decision for most but the thought behind the move remains poor strategy against the offense Pederson was facing today.
Ron Brooks isn’t a big name but his right-knee injury could be a big one.
The nickel corner was carted off and that set off a domino effect where Malcolm Jenkins went into the slot in the nickel with Jaylen Watkins replacing Jenkins at safety.
It didn’t show up today because the Vikings couldn’t keep Bradford clean but moving forward, losing the speedy option in the slot could be a difficult issue to overcome.
Brooks was on crutches after the game and will be getting an MRI on Monday with the hope that ACL are the three letters avoided.
The Eagles came in having committed 27 penalties in their prior two games and 37 dating back three. As predicted on The Sports Bash that would slow down at home and while not great, the Eagles finished on the better end of the ledger, committing seven penalties for 53 yards versus the seven for 56 for the Vikings.
WINNING SPECIAL TEAMS
No one has scored more special teams TDs than the Eagles and Vikings since 2011 and Philadelphia was the one which got it done in that matchup of strengths with Huff’s KR-TD. They also forced the normally reliable Marcus Sherels to fumble on a PR so give Dave Fipp another gold star.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen