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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson

DEFENSE DOMINATES IN WIN OVER VIKINGS

Jalen Hurts had a monstrous first half that should cement his status as the Eagles franchise quarterback



Eagles CB Darius Slay storms out of the end zone with one of his two interceptions against Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings. Photo by Andy Lewis.

A lot of people thought the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota at Lincoln Financial Field was going to be close, that it would be a competitive home opener.


The Vikings handled a talented Green Bay Packers team last week 23-7. The Eagles held on to defeat the Detroit Lions 38-35.


The Birds defense looked vulnerable in the season opener.


Last year, any good quarterback was able carve up the Birds pass defense at a historical level.


The Vikings came to South Philadelphia with a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback in Kirk Cousins who has had success against the Eagles in the past.


Many thought, with defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon pulling the strings, it was going to be another long night for the Eagles.


But in front of a national audience on network TV, it was the Eagles who did the carving, beating up on the visitors 24-7 in a game not nearly as close as the score might indicate.


The Eagles (2-0) defense allowed 35 points against Detroit. The unit looked gassed in the fourth quarter when they were outscored 14-0.


After Monday’s win, nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox said the players knew they were better than that.


“We knew that wasn’t us,” said Maddox, who finished with eight total tackles (four solo) and an interception. “But it was the first game. There were a lot of things moving around and moving fast. Me personally, I didn’t tackle well. I made it my goal that I would tackle better this game. We really settled down.”


Kirk Cousins was 27 of 46 for 221 yards, (58.7 percentage), one touchdown and three interceptions. Cousins was sacked three times.


Eagles Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay picked off Cousins twice and should have had four or more picks.


After one of the interceptions, Slay spotted Sixers guard James Harden in a front row field seat and presented him with the ball.


“Honestly, I didn’t even know he was at the game until they put him on the [videoboard],” Slay said after the game. “He is one of my favorite players. I am like why not? I get a chance to meet James Harden, a Hall of Fame basketball player. If I make a play tonight, definitely a pick, I have to give him the ball because he is well respected in the league and my favorite. I thought it was a good opportunity.”



Jalen Hurts ran for two touchdowns and passed for another during the Eagles 24-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. Photo by Andy Lewis.

HURTS SILENCES CRITICS ON SEVERAL LEVELS

Jalen Hurts turning what may have been his best overall game in an Eagles uniform.


On the opening drive, Hurts was 5-of-5 for 63 yards. He scored on a three-yard run.


The 11-play, 82-yard drive featured a completion that is becoming common for Hurts.


On third and 13 at midfield, Hurts hit wide receiver A.J Brown over the middle for 19-yard gain and a first down.


It was the kind of play Hurts was criticized for not being able to make in 2021. Over the first two games, it is now a routine throw for the 24-year-old.

The Eagles defense came up with a three-and-out on the Vikings first drive. Darius Slay broke up a pass to Justin Jefferson on third down. The tone had been set.


By the 6:09 mark of the first quarter, Hurts Shane Steichen and head coach Nick Sirianni made amends to all the receivers ignored in the season opener against Detroit.


Hurts hit DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins with their first receptions of the season and was able to hit receiver Zach Pascal and tight end Dallas Goedert with key passes. These guys seemed to be forgotten in the Motor City.

On the first play of the second quarter, Watkins finally fulfilled his destiny as speedster.

The sixth round draft pick in 2020 out of Mississippi State caught a 53-yard TD pass from

Hurts to give the Eagles 14-0 lead they would not give up.


The Vikings did cut the score in half after Irv Smith scored on a two-yard touchdown.


But Hurts’ 26-yard touchdown run with 1:58 left in the first half will no doubt be etched in his career highlight reel.


After that run, the Eagles stopped Minnesota and got the ball back to Hurts with 1:21 left in the half.


Hurts drove the ball to Vikings 20-yard line to set up a Jake Elliott 38-yard field goal.


The drive was highlighted by a brilliant pass over the middle in traffic to Goedert for a 24-yard gain that set up the three-point attempt.


Sirianni was asked if the game is slowing down for his quarterback.


“He's put in so much work,” Sirianni said. “Of course it has, it's slowing down. But it should, right, at this point. He is further into his process, and we're talking about getting better every day and he lives that. He's one of our captains, one of our leaders, and he lives the theory of getting better every day.


“That's why you're seeing major improvements, it's because of the type of person and the type of player he is.”


Eagles lead 24-7 at the half. Neither team scored in the second half.


HURTS NOT HAPPY WITH THE OFFENSE IN THE SECOND HALF

The plays that seems to have stuck out in Hurts’ mind weren’t his touchdown runs and big throws, but the fourth-quarter interception he threw to former Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks from his own 24-yard line and the third quarter drive that stalled at the Minnesota 22-yard-line setting up an easy field goal that was blocked by Vikings Patrick Peterson.


Hurts did what leaders do. He didn’t want to talk about how well everyone thought he played.


“I guess when you watch a game you kind of get a sense of how it’s going, he said after the game. “When you’re in the midst of the game, I’m so locked in on just trying to do my job. Executing my assignments. Get the ball where it’s supposed to be. Execute the technique of the play. It was very efficient tonight. That’s the type of football we want to play consistently.

“We want to be that way consistently.


"Like I said, I’m still thinking about how we finished the game. How we finished the game is not a reflection on how we started the game. That’s something we have to learn from and build off of and be better moving forward.”


Hurts was 26 of 31 (83.9 percent) for 333 yards, a touchdown pass and one interception.


The third-year signal caller was sacked three times, rushed 11 times for 57 yards and two touchdowns.


Miles Sanders rushed 17 times for 80 yards and Boston Scott got the rock four times for 19 yards.


Smith caught all seven passes thrown his way for 80 yards. Goedert finished with five catches for 82 yards.


Brown was a factor with five receptions for 69 yards.


IN THE END, IT WAS THE DEFENSE

The Eagles defense was the definition of dominance. Gannon’s crew knocked down 11 passes, four tackles for loss, three sacks, three interceptions, seven quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.


Fletcher Cox looked more like the Pro Bowl player that was last seen a few years ago. The 31-year-old three total tackles, a sack, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble.


Kirk Cousins was 27 of 46 for 221 yards, (58.7 percentage), one touchdown and three interceptions. Cousins was sacked three times.


Linebacker T.J. Edwards led the Eagles with 10 total tackles (seven solo) Cornerback Avonte Maddox recorded eight total tackles (four solo), an interception and a a defended pass.


Darius “Big play” Slay was the star of the night intercepting Cousins twice (should have been at least four) and knocked down five passes, most were targeted Vikings All Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson.


After a career night the week before against the Green Bay Packers, Jefferson looked pedestrian with six receptions for 48 yards. He was targeted 12 times.


“We come out here, we watch the film, we put everything together, so we just have to come out here and execute,” Maddox said at his locker after the game. “That was the main thing, just coming out here and execute our job. And we did that tonight.”


Maddox swears the Eagles didn’t obsess over stopping Jefferson.


“We don’t worry about nobody else, it’s about us,” Maddox said. “We can just be ourselves and that’s how we play.”


Play they did. *


Email Al Thompson at al.thompson@footballstories.com


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