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Eagles Defense Dominant In Win Over Vikings

Rodney McLeod #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Rich Schultz / Getty Images)

Rodney McLeod #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Rich Schultz / Getty Images)

 

Sam Bradford’s undefeated Minnesota Vikings came in to town this weekend and are leaving with a loss, somehow. The Philadelphia Eagles started off strong this season, but a losing streak shook the confidence of a fan base curious about the identity of this year’s team. Who are they? Well on Sunday, they again proved they weren’t who we thought they were (RIP Dennis Green).  On a day that seemed like an obvious date with .500, the Eagles (4-2) continue to protect their home turf (3-0) as they downed the Vikings 21-10 in a sloppy game at Lincoln Financial Field.

The teams struggled to settle into the game in the first quarter with an insane five turnovers in 11 plays. Neither quarterback (or offense) looked particularly sharp, with quarterback Carson Wentz struggling against the NFL’s best defense, throwing for 138 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Chances for a win looked incredibly bleak until WR Josh Huff took a kickoff back for a 98-yard touchdown, the Eagles second straight week with a return for a touchdown. Huff also had a team-high four receptions for 39 yards.

“They’re really beginning to click,” Coach Doug Pederson said.  “Great blocks. Josh did a great job on the return. [Special teams coach] Dave Fipp really has those guys ready every week. You need those things. You need special team scores. You need defensive scores. All that helps you especially late down the stretch, and its just great to see again two weeks in a row.”

The Eagles defense had a major bounce back game, and were clearly fired up to face their old teammate in Bradford. The unit hassled him early and often, with six sacks, four forced fumbles (two of which were recovered), and 12 hits. They also set the tone early. After an early Wentz interception put them at their own two-yard line, safety Rodney McLeod came up with an interception of his own.

Add this to a long list of disappointing starts at Lincoln Financial Field for Bradford, who finished with 224 yards with one touchdown and an interception. DE Brandon Graham, responsible for one of the two strip sacks and five hits on Bradford, said the defense wanted to send a message to the Vikings and the rest of the NFL. Both teams were dreadful in the red zone, with the Eagles shutting the Vikings out three straight times deep in their own end zone.

“We knew Sam doesn’t like to get hit, and we tried to hit him within the rules as much as we could,” Graham said. “I think it kind of got to him a little bit so, I mean that’s just much respect to them because man, we really wanted this one. We wanted to make sure we send a statement and let them know, we may have lost the last two weeks but we aint out of this thing. Having [Bradford] in camp, a lot of stuff held true what we kind of knew. I think Coach Schwartz drew up a great game plan this week. Everything he was calling, we pretty much knew and I think our preparation helped a lot.”

Wentz looked like a rookie again today with two interceptions and tons of missed throws, but eventually settled in and managed the game. He stayed calm and within himself, coolly shrugging off a botched snap, scooped it up and threw it to RB Darren Sproles for a 19-yard gain. Later on in that drive, he connected with WR Dorial Green-Beckham on a 5-yard touchdown pass that sealed the game for the good guys. Granted, facing the league’s best defensive unit will make even a grizzled veteran look foolish. The Vikings have fared well against both Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton so far this season. Growing up, Wentz idolized Brett Favre but may have been watching too much of older Brett Favre footage. There’s a major difference between being a gunslinger and closing your eyes, throwing into triple coverage and hoping for the best.

“For starters, this is a good defense that we played,” Wentz said. “Hats off to them, they made some plays and made it tough on us. I gotta be smarter with the football, but for me it’s short time memory. You just gotta move on, and go make the next throw. You can’t dwell on it. If you dwell on it in this league, it’s gonna bite you in the rear.”

The blockbuster trade sending Bradford to Minnesota may be working out for both teams, but on this day the Eagles get the last laugh. The Vikings travel to the Chicago next week for a cupcake of a game against probable QB Matt Barkley and the Bears. The second place Eagles head to Arlington to do battle with the division leading Cowboys in what will be the first of many Wentz-Prescott duels. Cowboys vs. Eagles tickets start at $212 for the SUnday night meeting, the highest priced ticket remaining on the Cowboys schedule, according to NFL ticket data from Razorgator.

 

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