LET me be honest with you. I’ve been afraid of this game since QB Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota. Either we’d beat a so-so QB, or we’d lose to trash. Like winning a fight against a girl, there was never going to be an upside to this game for Philadelphia. Then something weird happened. The Vikings went 5-0.
So NOW it’s a big deal if we win, right? RIGHT? Wrong.
Though the Vikings (5-0) are undefeated, they are by no means a complete team. While their defense does get after QB’s, they have yet to be seriously challenged vs the run. Speaking of running the ball, Minnesota can’t. The cop-out answer is that it’s because RB Adrian Peterson is injured. However, prior to being hurt, he’d run for 50 yards on 31 carries. That’s a whopping 1.6 yards per tote. So the issue isn’t his injury.
Just like our win over the Steelers came with lame media excuses on Pittsburgh’s behalf (“Yeah, but there was no LeVeon Bell!” , “Ryan Shazier got hurt during the game!”, “Nooooo! They wasn’t ready!”, etc.), you can bet that a win over the Vikings would include similar lame excuses. For example: “Kyle Rudolph’s new twins won’t let him sleep!”, “The Vikings are a cold weather team.”, “LeVeon Bell didn’t play in this game either!”. Etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam.
We either get to lose this game and get talked about like idiots for “giving away” Sam Bradford; or when we win, it’ll get spun as us beating a team that isn’t as good as their record. Nothing less than utterly dismantling the Vikings will earn the Eagles any form of acknowledgement nationally. This is a pitfall game.
Still though, a win beats a loss.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to look for, Week 7 versus the Minnesota Vikings :
1) Use less 12 personnel and more 21. If RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai is going to start, we have to find him effective help. Call me crazy, but I’d like to see us make an attempt at not getting Carson Wentz murdered during his rookie season. (I’m weird that way.) Vaitai is heavy-footed, so he lacks the ability to recover. That’s why last week’s attempt at using an in-line TE to help him, fell flat. Going from 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE 2 WR) to 21 personnel (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR), would leave a RB blocking to delay a defender, and give Wentz a chance to use his legs to run, or use his eyes and dump off the ball to a close RB.
2) Shorten the strong-side read time. This has to be said: A couple of the sacks from last week came from Wentz just holding the ball too damned long. This is our fault because we don’t throw enough short passes along the hash marks to the TE. That kind of pass forces Safeties to declare early whether they’re going outside to help with the WR, or staying in the middle to take away the TE. Using this pass will get our strong-side WR clearer one-on-one match-ups, and help Wentz can get the ball out quicker.
3) Get QB Sam Bradford running. Bradford is completing 70.4% of his passes, which tells you right away that he’s not airing it out. Take away Captain Checkdown’s short options, and force him to throw on the move. We’ve seen firsthand what it looks like when defenses do that to him.
“Minnesota is that way!”
4) Don’t fall into the trap, and run the damned ball! The Vikings have the NFL’s 4th best run defense. Sounds impressive until you realize that it’s because they are DEAD LAST in rushing attempts against. They allow 3.7 yards per attempt, but teams just don’t test them much. Given that they aren’t a very big defense on the ends, punishing them with the run is clearly be the best way to de-fang a unit where 4 players have at least 3 sacks apiece. We didn’t do this last week, and we got BUTCHERED for it. Let’s learn a lesson.
Executing quickly is the name of the game this week. If we get the ball from Wentz to other skill players quickly, we’ll own the game. Anything else plays into Minnesota’s hands.