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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings come away from Philly with turning-point win

By Matthew Coller


The Minnesota Vikings desperately needed a performance like the one they got on Sunday in a 23-21 win in Philadelphia for a few reasons: First, they couldn’t come away with one win in their first five games and still expect to compete for the NFC North. And just as importantly, they needed to beat a quality team in order to prove they can still be a contender.

After last week’s whipping at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams, it was unclear whether the Vikings’ defense could reclaim their place as one of the NFL’s most dangerous. At Lincoln Financial Field, they took the first step toward rebuilding their reputation as a force that can frustrate opposing offenses.

To open the game, the Vikings moved the ball down the field on a 12-play drive, but suffered more kicking woes as Dan Bailey missed a 28-yarder. But the Minnesota defense responded with a three-and-out, which was highlighted by a Linval Joseph sack.

Up 3-0, early in the second quarter, Wentz hit on a deep pass to Sheldon Gibson to set the Eagles up with first down in the red zone. Again the Vikings’ defense came through — with some help via a Wendell Smallwood drop on third down.

Those types of stops had been missing from the last two weeks. Same goes for forcing turnovers. That changed when Stephen Weatherly strip-sacked Wentz, sending the ball fluttering into Linval Joseph’s hands. The former weightlifting champion showed that he could have run track too, out-running the Eagles for a 64-yard touchdown to put the Vikings up by a score.

The Vikings have missed Everson Griffen’s presence over the last two weeks, rarely pressuring quarterbacks. On Sunday, the D-line was back to form, routinely pressuring Wentz, forcing him from the pocket and causing errors, including the fumble and a missed wide open receiver as he was being chased on a key third down.

Playing short handed without Trae Waynes, the defense needed a confidence-building game in which they could overcome some tough circumstances — especially after giving up 465 yards last week.

With big plays and big stops by the defense, the 2017 script was laid out. Quarterback Kirk Cousins cruised down the field in the two-minute drill — with an assist to a questionable 15-yard penalty – and dropped a beautiful pass into the hands of Adam Thielen to put the Vikings up 17-3.

When Cousins signed with the Vikings, he expected things to look much like they did in Philly on Sunday — with the defense giving him opportunities to play from ahead.

John DeFilippo’s offense also needed to find a way to beat an elite defensive line. The Vikings’ OC dialed up a large number of screen passes and quick throws to Stefon Diggs, who promptly created plays with his legs, averaging 8.3 yards per catch in the first half.

Down 17-3, the Eagles stormed out of the locker room, relying on the running game to drive deep into Vikings territory, but again Minnesota came up with a Viking-like play. Eric Kendricks forced and recovered a fumble at the 6-yard line, negating a Philly opportunity to get back into the game.

Cousins took advantage right away, dropping a dime to Adam Thielen for 68 yards.

The @kirkcousins8 to @athielen19 connection is incredible.

Gain of 68!

— NFL (@NFL) October 7, 2018

The Vikings defense came through again in the red zone after an eight-play, 67-yard drive with 2:57 remaining in the third quarter, holding Wentz and the Eagles to a field goal to stay up by two touchdowns.

Philadelphia wasn’t going to completely be shut down. Wentz led a touchdown drive and converted a two-point conversion to bring the Eagles within six points. On third-and-20 with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Wentz hit Alshon Jeffery but Harrison Smith stepped in to break up the pass, bailing out his offense for fumbling the ball.

When the Vikings needed a clock-killing drive they got it — and Cousins showed his toughness along the way, completing short throws with Eagles rushers in his face to sustain drives on first downs to Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. He moved the team just into Dan Bailey’s range and the Vikings’ kicker came through with a 52-yard field goal, overcoming some yips early in the game.

Cousins finished 30-for-37 with 307 yards and one touchdown, continuing his torrid start to the season.

Philly did not give up easily, storming quickly for a Zach Ertz touchdown with 1:09 remaining in the game. But the Vikings recovered an onside kick to put a bow on their biggest win of the year.

Now the Vikings sit at 2-2-1 and leave Philadelphia with a similar victory to the one they pulled off at Soldier Field last year on Monday Night Football that appeared to turn the season in the right direction. Sunday’s was the type of win that can change a season and put the Vikings back into the conversation for the NFC’s most dangerous team.

The post Vikings come away from Philly with turning-point win appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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