The Philadelphia Eagles overcame costly penalties and numerous mistakes on both sides of the ball to defeat the Minnesota Vikings 34-28 in their home opener at a festive Lincoln Financial Field in what can be described as ideal weather conditions.
Whoever said going back to a Super Bowl is never easy; obviously knew what they were talking about.
The Eagles (2-0) overcame two notable penalties: One with 13:04 left in the fourth quarter when Rashaad Penney was called for offensive holding. The penalty negated a 25-yard, on-the-run touchdown throw from Jalen Hurts to A.J. Brown.
Four plays, including two sacks later, the Arryn Siposs punted.
With 1:55 left in the fourth and the Birds holding a 34-21 lead, the Vikings were driving. On first and ten from the Eagles 30-yard line, Kirk Cousins hit on a short pass to Alexander Mattison for a ten-yard gain.
But Mario Goodrich and Nicholas Morrow hit Mattison and force a fumble that Justin Evans recovers. Game over, right?
Defensive lineman Kentavius Street was called for defensive off sides and the Vikings scored a touchdown just three plays later to make the score too-close-for-comfort 34-28.
The offensive rushed for 259 yards on 48 carries and three touchdowns, but Hurts was sacked four times and the line again committed too many penalties.
Pro Bowl left guard Landon Dickerson was asked if it was a positive the Birds did not fall apart after these mistakes.
“It’s a good thing that we were able to overcome obviously,” said Dickerson, who committed a holding penalty that nullified a D’Andre Swift nine-yard gain and may have impacted the drive that ended with a punt. “Anytime you get penalties like that…that takes away key plays …touchdowns called back…it’s a tough situation. It can really stop the momentum of a drive. But I think for us, its things like that we’ve got to clean up. Pre-snap penalties, really any penalties…we should be playing a clean game.
“I’m included in that. I had a holding call that was on a big play for us, it really messes up the rhythm of the drive. That’s something I have to work on and fix.”
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni was asked if he felt fortunate to be 2-0 after all the mistakes his team has made over the first two weeks.
“It’s way easier to correct when you are 2-0 and no one’s feelings are in it,” Sirianni said after the game. “So, we can really press in this meeting tomorrow that we are going to have with the players and hold ourselves accountable as coaches and hold them accountable as players, and that’s what we’ll do.
“Obviously, we didn’t play our cleanest game. I think the first week was a cleaner game for the defense and not as clean for the offense and vice versa with tonight. You are right, we are 2-0. A lot of teams would like to be sitting 2-0. Like I said, when you are in this position, and guys don’t know that we aren’t playing to the best of our abilities, that’s when you can make a lot of growth.”
While the Eagles defense held the Vikings to just 28 yards rushing on nine carries, Cousins was able to carve up the Birds depleted secondary for 364 yards on 31 for 44 passing. He was sacked four times.
Jefferson would finish 159 yards on 11 receptions.
He talked about being able to throw despite missing center Garrett Bradbury.
“Well, yeah, I think it is a combination of, we’re still getting protection to be able to get through progressions,” Cousins said. “I think guys did a good job of winning in their man coverage match ups and match coverages. [Vikings Head Coach] Kevin [O’Connell] and the staff did a good job of getting number one and number two open so I wasn’t having to sit in there too long.
"It’s just a combination, the o-line did a good job mixing up the snap count and trying to stay disciplined there, there are a lot of moving parts when you are going on the road. Outside of the turnovers I feel like we did a lot of good things.”
FIRST QUARTER TO FORGET
The first quarter was shaky by both teams. Canton will not be call for any game film on this fiasco. The “highlights” include:
* A fumble by Britain Covey on the first punt return of the game – the ball was recovered by Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo.
* There was a fumble on a punt return by Vikings Brandon Powell. Nicholas Morrow, who was just called up from the practice squad to take the place of linebacker Nakobe Dean, recovered the fumble.
* The Eagles next possession ended with an interception by Jalen Hurts to Vikings safety Theo Jackson.
* On the Vikings ensuring drive, running back Alexander Mattison fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. That turnover was recovered by safety Justin Evans at the Minnesota 39-yard line.
* On the Eagles ensuing drive, it fizzed after a net of two-yard. It ended with Elliott missing a 55-yard field goal
In addition to his interception, Hurts was sacked twice.
Kirk Cousins was sacked once. He was 2 of 4 for 16 yards.
IT DID GET BETTER…SORT OF
The second quarter was not much better if you are an Eagles fan.
Cousins led the Vikings (0-2) on a nine-play, 55-yard touchdown drive. Cousins passed to T.J. Hockenson to the left for five-yard score.
That seemed like a wakeup call for the Birds as Hurts drove the Eagles on a 16-play, 75-yard segment, ending with a Hurts scoring on one-yard “tush push” dive up the middle for one-yard touchdown making the score 10-7.
Swift was the workhouse on the drive with seven carries for 34 yards and a catch for one yard.
The Vikings took over at the Eagles 25-yard line, drove the length of the field, Cousins completed a spectacular 30-yard catch to Justin Jefferson, who fumbled at the one-inch line…the ball crossed the plane of the goal line and - in what most NFL fans believe is a horrible rule - it was Eagles possession.
Jefferson had five first-half catches for 57 yards but was the goat of the first half. It ended up a 10-point swing as Elliott’s 61-yard field goal was good at the buzzer. The Birds led 13-7 at the half.
The Vikings got the ball first to start the third quarter. On the second play from scrimmage, Cousins was strip-sacked. Fletcher Cox, who picked up the ball and rambled to the six-yard line.
Swift ran for five yards, just short of the end zone. Hurts and the Eagles line went “tush push” again and the Birds grabbed a 20-7 lead 13:53 left in the third quarter.
The Vikings have four lost fumbles at this point.
The Eagles made it 27-7 on a bomb to Smith for a 63-yard touchdown strike. It was a perfect throw by Hurts who caught Smith right in stride at the edge of the red zone.
Just when Eagles fans were thinking, blowout; Jordan Addison hauled in a 62-yard, Cousins TD pass to make the score 27-14.
Were the Eagles done scoring?
It seemed that way early in the fourth quarter when the Eagles had that touchdown pass to A.J. Brown called back on a holding call running back Rashaed Penny.
The Eagles did not recover from the call on that drive.
Cousins took over at the Vikings 14-yard line. The 12-year veteran out of Michigan State drove his team 86 yards, finishing the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open K.J. Osborn to the left of the end zone to make the score 27-21 with 7:41 left in the fourth.
O-LINE, SWIFT TAKE OVER
The Birds turned to their offensive line and Swift, who was enjoying a career night in front of a hometown crowd. The drive went eight plays, 75 yards ending with a two-yard score by Swift.
Swift finished the game with 175 yards on 28 carries. He scored on a two-yard run with 4:13 left in the fourth quarter that ended being the winning score.
“The offensive line was ready,” Swift said. “They made it a little bit easy. I was just trying to make the most out of any opportunity I was given out there tonight.”
When Swift heard he rushed for 175 yards, a career high, he seemed to be humbled. “175? That’s amazing,” said Swift, who caught three passes for six yards. “It’s a blessing. Especially…home opener, first time playing in this stadium, first game playing in this stadium. I just thank God.”
Hurts talked about the Birds defensive and offensive line-play that gave up a lot of yards in the passing game, but held the Vikings to 28 yards on nine carries. The rushing game was back on top once again.
“You’re talking about four turnovers,” Hurts said. “And you have 255 rushing yards. That’s
Hurts was asked if felt the need to take over the game himself when the offense was struggling to move the ball in the second quarter.
“For us, we found a way to get it done,” said Hurts, who finished 18 of 23 for 193 yards, one touchdown pass, one interception, four sacks and 35 yards rushing on 12 carries. “The reality is that the league is different from moment to moment. For us, we just continue to grow.
"Obviously, there are a ton of guys that made plays out there, not just myself. But there are a lot more plays out there for us to make.” *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org