Philadelphia Eagles 21, Minnesota Vikings 10, Sunday, October 23, 2016
But the real winners are the research assistants for ESPN's Monday Night Countdown "C'mon Man!" segment, who just have to play the not even 3 minutes of game time in the first quarter that saw a total of FOUR turnovers and a recovered fumble, and they're done for the day. It's Miller Time! Fellow Eagles Maniac and I were pretty much watching the game through our fingers at that point.
Stud of the Week: Making his first appearance of the year, Josh Huff. After a mess of a first quarterin which both teams were scoreless, the Vikings had finally managed to get in range to kick a field goal. On the ensuing kick-off, Huff fielded the ball at the Philly 2 yard line (generally a very bad idea), and streaked 98 yards for a touchdown (assisted by excellent blocks from tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, which BGN breaks down very nicely). The Eagles never again surrendered the lead to what had been the only remaining undefeated team, and in fact gave up no more points aside from a garbage-time TD. (Also, Dave Fipp's work with special teams continues to be quietly excellent. Caleb Sturgis made all his attempts and Donnie Long Ball Jones had another solid punting day.)
After last week, I was worried about the O-line. The Vikings have a VERY good defense, and the o-line (Halapoulivaati Vaitai in particular), was not brilliant last week. Stefan Wisniewski even took the uncharacteristic (at least in the Birds' locker room) step of calling Vaitai and the coaching staff out publicly after his dreadful performance against the Washington Football Team (admittedly, Wisniewski is not exactly a disinterested party here). Mercifully,Vaitai was better this week. The whole line was better this week.
Another encouraging sign: Carson Wentz threw two picks that were 100% his fault. They didn't get tipped, or bounce out of a receiver's hands, and nobody zigged when he should've zagged. Nope. Wentz just threw it to a Vikings defender. Twice. So why is that encouraging? Because he didn't lose his shit over it. One of the key things rookies, particularly rookie QBs, need to learn is how to let bad plays go and move on to the next snap. And he did. And when the Birds' got the penalty on the extra point and decided "what the hell, let's go for 2!" he executed an excellent QB keeper for the score.
The real story of the game, though, was the defense. Great moments included:
The entire defense escorting Malcolm Jenkins down the field after his pick, even if the TD was called back because he was touched down.
Connor Barwin stripping the ball from Sam Bradford and Beau Allen picking it up. A fat boy defensive TD would've been great, but on a day when his breast cancer survivor mom was there and he was wearing a pink ribbon in his increasingly long ponytail (that he's growing out to donate to Locks of Love), it was still pretty sweet.
FOUR FORCED FUMBLES. FOUR.
SIX SACKS. SIX.
Jordan Hicks had EIGHT SOLO TACKLES. EIGHT (plus three assists). Good to see him worthy of his #58 again. Proud tradition to uphold there, sophomore.
Stopping the Vikings on 3-1 and 4-1 from the Birds' 6 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. NO POINTS FOR YOU.
The Birds' have a top-ranked defense. The last two weeks, they haven't played like that. This week, they did. And hey! Look at the score!
A not-so-great moment? Ryan Matthews can't hold on to the damn ball. I don't care how his ankle is feeling if he keeps putting the ball on the turf in critical situations.
This now sets up a HUGE contest in prime time against the Cowboys next Sunday night about which I'm sure the NFL schedulers are giggling with glee. Eagles/Cowboys pretty much always merits one prime time slot - both teams have passionate nation-wide fan bases - but the NFL has to be particularly pleased with their luck this year, with a matchup of two hot rookie quarterbacks in Wentz and Prescott and two well-ranked defenses (the Eagles currently coming in at #5, and the Cowboys in the mid-teens). So we all enjoy the win for, like, 10 more minutes and then start freaking out, right?