It was a really rough day for narratives around the NFL on Sunday. There were a handful of surprising upsets that left supposed contenders searching for answers. (Hi, Chiefs, Cowboys, and Chargers!) But the biggest narrative busters of the week were in Minneapolis. Kirk Cousins had a career 5-27 record against teams with winning records; he threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns en route to a big win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Stefon Diggs was supposedly full of discontent and frustration; he certainly seemed to be enjoying himself en route to seven catches for 167 yards and three scores. The Vikings offensive line was supposed to be vastly over-matched by the vaunted Eagles defensive front; they allowed a grand total of nine pressures, two quarterback hits, and one sack. Kevin Stefanski was supposed to be the second best play caller in the building by quite a margin; he dialed up an amazing game plan that racked up 447 total yards and 38 points. Idiots that picked the Vikings to lose were left eating their words on Sunday afternoon.
Let’s take our weekly look back at the five most important plays that got the Vikings to 4-2.
Play 1: Vikings ball, 3rd & 13 at the Philadelphia 49. First quarter, 11:37 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass deep middle to A.Thielen to PHI 29 for 20 yards (A.Sendejo).
On the opening drive of the game, the Vikings faced third and long near midfield after Fletcher Cox was left unblocked to tackle Dalvin Cook for a loss. The fearsome Philadelphia pass rush could now pin their ears back while the Eagles dropped seven into coverage.
No biggie for Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen.
The offensive line created a perfect pocket for Cousins. Thielen beat bracket coverage and Cousins delivered a perfect throw into a tight window to keep the drive alive. Cousins found Thielen twice more on that drive, including the 6-yard touchdown that gave them a 7-0 lead. Cousins has connected with Thielen for a touchdown pass on all three opening drives of home games this season. That doesn’t happen without this crucial third down conversion.
Play 2: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Minnesota 38. Second quarter, 11:47 remaining. K.Cousins pass deep middle to S.Diggs for 62 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
The Eagles had just scored their first points of the game early in the second quarter, capping off a nine play drive with a 53-yard Jake Elliott field goal. The Vikings didn’t take long to answer. After Alexander Mattison ripped off a 13-yard run to start the drive, Cousins and Diggs ended the drive on the next play.
A perfectly thrown deep ball from Cousins found Diggs in stride, leaving Rasul Douglas with absolutely no chance. Diggs is a surgeon with his precise route running, but he didn’t have to do much on this play other than run faster than Douglas and wait for the ball.
The Vikings were up by two scores and in full control of the game. Scoring on two plays is always nice, but their next drive was even shorter.
Play 3: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Minnesota 49. Second quarter, 9:39 remaining. K.Cousins pass deep left to S.Diggs for 51 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
The defense had just held firm on fourth down, giving the offense great field position to start their fourth drive of the game. Since throwing deep to Diggs worked out so well the previous time, Stefanski decided to try it again.
The Eagles bit hard on the play action to Cook with the Vikings in 21 personnel (2 running backs, 1 tight end). Once again, Diggs roasted Douglas and Cousins found him with a perfect deep ball. Lather, rinse, repeat. The Vikings were cruising with a 24-3 first half lead. It looked like they were on their way to coasting to their third straight comfortable home win.
Unfortunately, the Eagles had other ideas. They scored on the ensuing drive to make it 24-10 at halftime. (They could have made it closer, but the Vikings sniffed out a fake field goal with 20 seconds remaining.) Then the Eagles marched down the field on the opening drive of the second half for another touchdown without even facing a third down. After the Vikings moved backwards on their first drive of the second half, the Eagles took advantage of the short field and kicked a field goal. Suddenly the lead had shrunk to 24-20, and sphincters throughout U.S. Bank Stadium were puckering at an alarming rate. The Vikings needed an answer.
Play 4: Vikings ball, 2nd & 2 at the Minnesota 46. Third quarter, 5:04 remaining. K.Cousins pass deep right to O.Johnson to PHI 38 for 16 yards (R.Douglas).
On a day where Cousins made several big plays, this may have been his biggest.
He avoided Zach Brown, the Eagles linebacker that had lambasted Cousins to the media before the game, rushing free on the blitz. Cousins then delivered a gorgeous pass to Olabisi Johnson on the run for a huge first down. Six plays later, Stefon Diggs caught his third touchdown pass of the day and the Vikings were back up by double digits.
Play 5: Eagles ball, 3rd & 9 at the Minnesota 48. Fourth quarter, 13:08 remaining. (Shotgun) C.Wentz sacked at PHI 43 for -9 yards (sack split by E.Kendricks and Mac.Alexander).
The glorious return of the classic double-A gap blitz!
With the Eagles moving the ball early in the fourth quarter, this call from Mike Zimmer couldn’t have come at a better time. Eric Kendricks (who had another incredible game) and Mackensie Alexander (who had an interception and allowed only two catches for six yards in coverage) converged to sack Carson Wentz and end the Philadelphia threat. The offense then proceeded to salt that game away with an 88-yard, 8-play scoring drive to put the game out of reach. The defense forced turnovers on the next two Eagles drives, and the third quarter scare became a distant memory.
As always, we welcome you to vote in the poll to tell us which play you thought was the biggest and encourage you to suggest any we may have missed in the comments.
What was the most important play from the Vikings’ win over the Eagles?
This poll is closed
Third down conversion to Thielen on the opening drive
Diggs’ first TD
Diggs’ second TD
Cousins’ scramble to find Johnson in the third quarter
Kendricks and Alexander sacking Wentz in the fourth quarter
Other (comment below)