As the entire city of Philadelphia knows, the Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Despite the Vikings undefeated record coming into the contest, the Eagles were able to keep them in check on offense all day, holding Minnesota to just 10 points on the afternoon. Thus, the Vikings were dealt their first loss of the season, while Eagles’ fans were able to view their franchise’s best win of 2016.
What was perhaps most impressive about the Philadelphia victory is how poorly the Eagles’ offense was on the afternoon. Carson Wentz, who just a few weeks ago was billed as the savior of Philadelphia, was downright abysmal against the Vikings. He completed 16 of his 28 pass attempts for 138 yards, including one touchdown and two interceptions. Much of his yardage came on screen passes or short routes, with virtually nothing over ten yards available to the rookie.
Additionally, the Eagles’ running game wasn’t much better. Running backs Ryan Matthews, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood combined for just 95 yards on 21 carries, which is hardly the impact the team wants to have in the ground game.
However, without a potent offense, the Eagles looked to their defense to help them win the game, and Jim Schwartz’s unit came through in a big way.
Sam Bradford has exceeded all expectations this season for the Vikings, but against his former team in Philadelphia, he struggled mightily. While Bradford was able to manage 224 yards and a touchdown on 24 of 41 passing, his three turnovers are what really hurt the Vikings. Bradford threw a pick to Eagles’ defensive back Rodney McLeod, and fumbled the ball a whopping four times, losing two of them. Of course, the fact that the defense got to Bradford six times on the afternoon didn’t help him regain composure, but from the outset it was clear that Bradford was over his head going against the Eagles’ front.
It's impressive how quickly Brandon Graham beat the Vikings' right tackle yesterday. Here he is on Rodney McLeod's end zone interception: pic.twitter.com/Ba1tDB4ILc
— Josh Paunil (@JoshPaunil) October 24, 2016
What Eagles fans may not realize is, this is exactly how they’ll have to play all season in order to win.
With the suspension of Lane Johnson, it appears Wentz will have very little time in the pocket to allows plays to develop. Considering how pedestrian the Philadelphia receiving core has looked this season, it seems unlikely that the shaky line play would improve the passing game. Additionally, with the run game struggling this season as well, it’s going to be hard for the Eagles’ offense to help the team win games.
However, with the strength of this defense, Philadelphia certainly has a chance to make the playoffs this season. In their four wins this season, the Eagles’ defense has been able to force ten turnovers, four interceptions and six fumbles. In their two losses, they have only forced two. Additionally, the Eagles have 16 sacks in the four wins, compared to just four in their two losses.
In order to win, the Eagles’ defense needs to dominate, and for the most part, that involves forcing turnovers and pressuring the quarterback. If Philly can continue to do that, it will challenge for the NFC East crown.
At the outset of this season, the Eagles appeared to be one of the most balanced teams in the NFL. They had a solid rookie quarterback, a vicious defense, and an offense that could control the clock. However, since the Johnson suspension, virtually everything positive about the offense has gone out the window, leaving the defense as the bedrock of what could be a very good Eagles team. P
hiladelphia fans had high hopes early on in this season, and they could easily still realize those hopes, but they will need a monumental effort from their defense in order to do so.