The Vikings scored easily on their first drive, but the rest of the game was all Philadelphia. It was more than disappointing. It was inexplicable. The Vikings couldn’t even make a game of it with the top-ranked defense in the league.
VIKINGS BADLY OUT-COACHED
They were out-coached. On both sides of the ball. From after their first drive until the final buzzer. The Eagles had both a better game plan, and made better adjustments, while the Vikings coaching staff failed to address key issues that were clear early-on.
Going into the game, the Eagles had plenty of tape showing how their secondary could be exposed to the short passing game, rub routes, slants, crossing patterns. But Pat Shurmur, like OC Steve Sarkasian last week, chose not to focus on that. They focused on longer routes that allowed the Eagles defensive front to pressure Keenum, which led to two turnovers in the game, and other pressures, hits and hurries.
Meanwhile, the Eagles employed the short-passing game with success throughout the game, allowing Foles to make easy passes, avoid pressure, and get into a rhythm, converting 3rd downs, driving the field and scoring.
I don’t know that Mike Zimmer made any adjustments defensively to counter the Eagles game plan. The whole game. It was clear early that the Vikings defensive front wasn’t generating enough pressure on Foles, but Zimmer still blitzed sparingly, giving Foles the time to make some big passes down the field on 3rd down, when a blitz would have forced his hand or led to a sack. I don’t recall seeing Harrison Smith blitz once off the edge all day - something that could have been effective in getting to Foles and making him uncomfortable. But no, that wasn’t done.
And that’s how mediocre players are made to look good. Backup QB Nick Foles, who’s looked mediocre at best since taking over for Carson Wentz, was allowed to rack up the most yards, TDs and best passer rating the Vikings defense has allowed all season. Foles went 26/33 for 352 yards, 3 TDs, and a 141.4 passer rating. Inexplicable.
Offensively for the Vikings, it was a poor game plan that failed to adjust to the Eagles’ changes.
After the Vikings opening drive, the Eagles changed their coverages, blitzed Keenum more in key situations, and also made some adjustments to get more pressure off the edges, but Shurmur didn’t make the adjustments to help Keenum and the OTs.
And some of the more successful plays the Vikings ran last week, which would’ve worked well against the Eagles, I didn’t see once in Philadelphia- like the Diggs crossing route that worked so well on several occasions. Or the McKinnon pitch. Or the crossing routes to Theilen. I didn’t see a lot of double-moves deep either. Did Rudolph have a catch other than his TD reception? No.
The blocking call on the strip sack- which turned back what might have been an important scoring drive for the Vikings- was a poor call asking David Morgan to go across the line and make a block on an unblocked edge rusher on Keenum’s blind side already half-way home. That was just terrible play calling, especially given the Vikings were already having trouble with the Eagles edge rushers pressuring Keenum.
I got the sense that as the game wore on, the Vikings players knew they were being out-coached, and it was demoralizing, taking some of the fight out of them.
Several top players for the Vikings had one of their worst games of the season, but again, being out-coached had a lot to do with that. DBs like Harrison Smith, Trae Waynes and Terence Newman had to be wondering what was going on when they were out in coverage so long and then the ball is delivered so late in the down. Where was the pressure up front? Too often it was a vanilla rush against a good Eagles OL that allowed Foles plenty of time, and exposed DBs in coverage so long. Instead of blitzing a safety or linebacker to get the needed pressure on Foles- which should have been the goal from the get-go looking at Foles’ passer rating under pressure- Zimmer had them hanging out in coverage until eventually a receiver got open. Inexplicable.
Veteran coaches like Mike Zimmer and Pat Shurmur should not be out-coached like this. But they were. I’m at a loss for what to say in regard to how they came up with their game plan, and how they failed to make the necessary changes.
But at the end of the day, the Eagles coaching staff designed and used the game plan the Vikings should have used, but didn’t. And they made the adjustments needed as well, and the Vikings coaching staff didn’t. And that’s why it was such a blow-out.
Talent-wise, the Vikings and Eagles were fairly evenly matched, with the Vikings having the advantage in more position groups than not. That isn’t a recipe for losing 38-7.
Getting out-coached and squandering the talent you have on the field is.
Watching the Patriots-Jaguars game earlier makes you appreciate even more how making adjustments to your game plan can make all the difference. The Patriots were getting steamrolled by the Jags offense the first half, couldn’t stop the run. Offensively they struggled too. But they made adjustments to put their players in position to succeed.
The Vikings coaching staff not only failed in the game plan against the Eagles, they also failed to make the adjustments in the biggest game they’ve had as Vikings coaches today, and in both playoff games this post-season really.
That’s not encouraging.