Almost nothing went right for the Eagles on Sunday. They may have scored 30 points, but they gave up 48, more than twice the amount that they were giving up at a maximum in the past eight games. Their defense was pathetic from the start, reverting back to the way they played in the first few games of the season. The cornerbacks were especially bad, making Matt Cassel look like a Hall of Fame player. The referees were terrible, calling penalty after penalty that left pretty much everyone scratching their heads. But the thing that really led to the loss was countless bad decisions by Chip Kelly, especially dealing with special teams. There was just no way that they deserved to win this game.
This was supposed to be the easy game left on the schedule. In fact, not only were the Vikings missing their top three cornerbacks due to injury, but they were missing their franchise player, Adrian Peterson! What more could the Eagles have needed to defeat this team? The Vikings were just too good at capitalizing on the Eagles’ mistakes and it allowed them to keep control of the game the whole time. The Vikings were even missing backup RB Toby Gerhart, meaning that Matt Asiata needed to start at RB. This is a guy who had 3 carries in his career going into this game. Sounds easy, right? Well, the Eagles screwed up big time.
Asiata came into the game with 3 carries, and left with 3 TDs. That’s just ridiculous. He had more TDs than yards per carry, getting only 51 yards on 30 carries. That shows that the Eagles were able to stop him from pretty much going anywhere, but his trio of TDs were pretty easy considering the pass defense was continuously failing, giving the Vikings impeccable field position on most drives. Cassel threw for 382 yards after looking like he didn’t even know how to throw the football the past few weeks. CBs Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, and Roc Carmichael just failed at every opportunity, letting sub-par receivers such as Jarius Wright and Cordarrelle Patterson handle them. And they made Greg Jennings look like a superstar again, letting him reach a career high in catches in a game.
It’s a shame that these cornerbacks played so poorly in such an easy game to win because they had been playing well up until this point. In fact, Williams was looking like one of the best CBs in the game, and Fletcher was looking like a steal from the Rams. The loss of Brandon Boykin to injury in this game had no effect on it either; they played poorly with and without him. And not only did they let receivers walk all over them, but they continued to get “penalties” drive after drive. Penalties is in quotation marks because the referees were making some extremely questionable calls, especially on pass interference situations. Many of these allowed the Vikings to get in even better field position or keep the drive alive. While the refs were making a few bad calls for both teams, 80% of them were on the Eagles, and they finished with 9 penalties for 94 yards. That’s unacceptable no matter what the circumstances were.
But even worse than the play of the CBs and the referees was the coaching of Chip Kelly. He’s been a very good coach up until this point, but this game made me wonder what he was thinking when writing up the game plan the week leading up to it. On pretty much every kick, he refused to kick deep to Cordarrelle Patterson, choosing instead to squib kick it or kick it short, allowing the Vikings to start every single drive with great field position. Patterson is nowhere near good enough to spend an entire game trying to kick away from him, and it came back to haunt the Eagles. Asiata didn’t need to break big runs because they were already really close to scoring. And Cassel was making the defense look silly, so there was no hope anyway. But giving up good field position over and over again would ruin the momentum that the Eagles would build up since it was so easy for the Vikings to score right after it.
I’d be okay with this if they tried it a couple times, but the fact that they kept doing it even when they knew it was hurting them proves they neglected to make adjustments at halftime. Another terrible coaching decision was to go for it on fourth down inside their own 30 yard line. Sure, this would be a no-brainer if they were losing late in the fourth quarter, but it was still the middle of the third quarter. There’s just no reason to do that, and it allowed the Vikings to once again have good enough field position to get more points on the board and prevent the Eagles from ever taking the lead. Another bad coaching decision is that LeSean McCoy only got 8 carries. 8 carries for the league-leading rusher? What the heck were they thinking? I know they were losing for the whole game, but they still should’ve worked some runs into the play-calling better. And McCoy was still efficient in those 8 carries, getting 4.8 YPC, so there was no glaring reason not to run him.
Unfortunately, all of these bad things that happened overshadowed some of the good things that happened for the Eagles, because despite failing miserably in most areas of the game, they did do some things right. Nick Foles threw for a career high 428 yards and had another 3 TDs; he’s now tied for 9th in the league in passing TDs despite not even playing the whole season (he has the same amount of passing TDs as Tom Brady), and still leads the league in passer rating. Also, DeSean Jackson had 195 yards and a TD, by far one of the best games of his career. He continues to prove that he’s a top WR in the league whether they win or lose. And oh, Zach Ertz had a very nice game, getting 6 catches for 57 yards and a TD. He’s going to be a very good player for years to come with the Eagles.
And even after this travesty, the Eagles are still leading the NFC East because the Cowboys lost to the Packers yesterday in typical Dallas fashion. With only two games remaining and one of them being against the Cowboys, they control their own destiny in clinching a spot in the playoffs. If they win next week and the Cowboys lose to the Redskins (which seems unlikely), then they’d clinch a playoff spot automatically, no matter who won the head-to-head matchup the next week. But, if the Cowboys win and the Eagles lose next week, the Eagles are not eliminated; the winner of the NFC East would be determined by the Week 17 matchup between the two teams. Because of how strong the NFC Wild Card race is, the Eagles must win the division at this point to make the playoffs, and they can only be the 3rd or 4th seed (mainly determined based on whether the Eagles beat the Bears, assuming they win the division, but that’s looking too far ahead). Basically, the Eagles need to win one of the next two games to get in, thanks to the failure of the Cowboys. Thank you Dallas.