Eagles come up small in loss to Vikings

Posted: December 17, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS - There were no snow angels to make after Sunday's game. There will be no magazine covers to grace this week. Party planning for the first weekend in January can be put on hold.

Last week's euphoria dissipated during a 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, replaced by the realization for the Eagles that they had missed an opportunity against one of the NFL's worst teams.

But the loss and the collapse of the Eagles' five-game winning streak could turn out to be a minor setback in the team's postseason hopes.

The Eagles still control their playoff chances after falling to 8-6, and the Dallas Cowboys' second-half implosion against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon means the playoff picture in the division doesn't change. But with a different result in Minnesota the Eagles could have a guaranteed a win-and-in scenario next week against the Chicago Bears.

"I said we're going to find out how we are being the favorites and how we respond to that," Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "And we didn't respond to it."

The Vikings entered Sunday with only three wins. They deactivated five injured starters, including Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson. Their starting running back had not carried the ball this season before Sunday. Their starting cornerbacks were both backups, including one who had not lasted on the Eagles' roster.

Coach Chip Kelly did not think the Vikings' situation affected the team's thinking, adding: "It shouldn't." Throughout the week, Kelly insisted the Eagles possessed the mental toughness to avoid a letdown game after an emotional victory. Kelly said the Eagles "don't make excuses," and simply did not play well enough to win.

"They scored [48] points," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "I don't know if it was overlooking or [not] taking them seriously or what happened, but whatever we did wasn't good enough going into this game."

No one on the Eagles saw any warning signs of a letdown. The coaching staff reported it was a sharp week of practice. The defense entered the game with a nine-game streak of holding opponents to 21 points or fewer, which was the best mark in the NFL. The Vikings scored 21 in the third quarter.

Playing without Peterson, the Vikings ran a pass-heavy offense that dominated an overmatched Eagles secondary. Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns.

The Vikings' average starting field position was the 39-yard line because of a decision to kick the ball short of returner Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings took advantage of the short fields and scored points on four of the Eagles' six kickoffs.

Despite 475 total yards, Kelly said the Eagles offense lacked the rhythm of recent weeks. Nick Foles passed for a career-high 428 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception but said he struggled with accuracy. Kelly said Foles could have played better.

One week after setting the franchise record for running yards in a game, LeSean McCoy had just eight carries on Sunday. The Eagles had 10 called running plays and 55 called passing plays. Kelly attributed it to playing from behind and the matchups in the receiving game.

"The type of competitor I am, I want the ball at all costs," McCoy said. "But times like this when we have to throw the ball it really kind of eliminates the running back."

The Vikings entered halftime with a 17-9 lead that could have been 17-13 if a touchdown run by DeSean Jackson off of a fourth-down double reverse was not called back because of an illegal block by Foles. Both Foles and Kelly said it was the right call, and it turned seven points into three points.

The Eagles struggled to get going in the second half, and the Vikings scored the first 10 points. The Minnesota field goal came after the Eagles missed a controversial fourth-and-1 on their own 24-yard line.

"If you can't get half a yard," Kelly said, "maybe it tells you what the day is all about."

Trailing by 27-9, the Eagles scored two touchdowns in a three-minute span at the end of the third quarter to cut Minnesota's lead to five points. The first TD came on a 30-yard pass to Jackson, who finished with a career-high 10 catches for 195 yards. Jackson needed to be restrained during a sideline dispute after Foles threw his interception.

The second touchdown was a 3-yard pass that Zach Ertz caught one-handed in the back corner of the end zone. But the Eagles could not maintain momentum. Minnesota scored consecutive touchdowns to begin the fourth quarter, and the Eagles could not recover. They were charged with two personal fouls and a taunting penalty in the fourth quarter, part of an undisciplined performance that Kelly said will be addressed.

Because of the Cowboys loss, the Eagles landed in Philadelphia Sunday night in the same situation they were in when they awoke Sunday. But they no longer have the momentum of a winning streak. Kelly's message to the team was the same as it was when the team fell to 3-5 after its last loss.

"We didn't play well enough to win today, but we need to stick together," Kelly said. "That's what we did at 3-5, and that's what we'll continue to do if we're going to finish this off the right way."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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