Eagles' defense ripped apart by Cassel, Vikings

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Eagles' defense ripped apart by Cassel, Vikings

December 15, 2013, 8:00 pm
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The Eagles' defense allowed its most points of the season in a 48-30 loss to the Vikings Sunday at the Metrodome. (USA Today Images)

MINNEAPOLIS -- If he didn’t believe in trap games before, perhaps Chip Kelly does now.

At the very least, Kelly acknowledged Sunday after his Eagles were waxed 48-30 at the Metrodome by a three-win Vikings team (see Instant Replay), that the messy way in which his defense unraveled -- first by failing to make stops, then by losing its collective cool -- must be addressed.

“That will be straightened out,” he said. “That’s not how we’re supposed to play, and obviously unacceptable and we’ll take care of that.”

Even the staunchest trap game and Sports Illustrated cover jinx supporters couldn’t have foreseen an implosion like this.

A defense that entered the game with the NFL’s longest active streak of holding opponents under 22 points (nine games) somehow let an Adrian Peterson-less, Matt Cassel-led Vikings team turn into a scoring juggernaut that racked up 455 yards, converted 8 of 13 third downs, averaged 6.2 yards per play and scored the most points this season against the Eagles' defense (besting the 38 the Birds allowed in a 52-20 loss to Denver on Sept. 29).

“When people are down and out and your back is to the wall, you kind of have nowhere to go but forward,” said linebacker Mychal Kendricks, paying high compliments to the Vikings’ resolve. “They have a lot of guys out right now, and a lot of guys stepped up.”

Buoyed by Cassel’s third-highest passing total ever (382 yards), a career game from wideout Greg Jennings (11 catches, 163 yards), and three rushing touchdowns from Matt Asiata (who didn’t have a carry going into the game) the Vikings set season highs for points scored and total offensive yards and scored the most points against the Eagles’ defense since the Giants hung up 42 offensive points on them in last year’s season finale.

The Vikings had just five pass plays of 40 or more yards going into the game. They had two against the Eagles, along with nine plays of at least 15 yards, five of at least 25 and four of at least 30.

But not because of complacency, insisted linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

“I don’t think so. They just outplayed us,” Ryans said. “They made more plays than we did and it was just a lack of execution.”

“I thought we had a great week of practice,” Kelly added, “But we don’t make excuses.”

The Eagles, who watched corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher each get smoked by Vikings wideouts and penalized by the refs, are bracing for a Bears team that scored 38 on Sunday against the Browns and had three wide receivers catch touchdowns.

“Always when an offense finds success, the team that’s on the schedule that you’re going to be playing might use some of that stuff that worked against your defense,” Fletcher said.

Williams was asked for comment but walked away without talking to reporters.

The Vikings hit an alarming number of big plays against the Eagles, who hadn’t allowed more than 351 yards in each of their past two games.

Cassel hit Jennings for a 57-yard touchdown less than nine minutes into the game -- a home run that landed struggling safety Patrick Chung on the bench for Kurt Coleman -- and the Vikings converted all three third downs on their 75-yard march that ended in Asiata’s first career rushing touchdown, following a Fletcher pass interference in the end zone.

Cassel hit Jarius Wright against Fletcher for 42 yards on Minnesota’s second play of the second half as the Vikes built a 27-9 lead with less than 20 minutes to play in the game. The Eagles hadn’t trailed by 20 since the Denver loss.

“I don’t know if we were overlooking them or did not take it seriously,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “I don’t know what happened, but whatever we did was not good enough going into this game.”

Even after the Eagles came back, scoring 13 straight points to cut the Minnesota lead to five, the defense had another letdown left.

Cassel completed passes of 16 and 37 yards on his next possession, setting up Asiata's third touchdown. The 37-yarder came by third-string tight end Chase Ford on 3rd-and-14, when Kendricks got greedy and went for a pick-six but missed. Colt Anderson, in for an injured Coleman, then lunged at Ford’s ankles and also came up empty.

“I had him. I should have knocked it out,” Kendricks said. “I got my hands on the ball. It went right through my hands and he caught it. I’m looking at him and I’m like, ‘No, please. No.’ Colt missed a tackle. If Colt makes a tackle we’re off the field. It was just a busted play from the jump. Situations like that you just wish you had back.”

The total breakdown wasn’t complete until the Eagles lost their composure in the final minutes. Roc Carmichael was flagged for taunting on a punt return. Chung, back in after injuries to Coleman and Anderson, was flagged for unnecessary roughness at the end of a 10-yard run. Williams was hit with the same penalty on the next play, setting up another Cassel touchdown pass.

Williams landed on the bench late in the fourth, but Carmichael replaced him and committed a 30-yard pass interference penalty that to set up another Asiata touchdown and cemented the Vikings' romp.

“That’s adversity,” Kendricks said. “It’s not like we haven’t faced adversity this year. It’s a situation you’ve got to overcome. Today, we just couldn’t get out of it.

“Situations like this will test a man. Everyone wants to win, and things got hot. I don’t doubt guys’ effort. It’s an emotional game and sometimes teams get the better of us. I don’t fault anybody because we’re all human and nobody’s perfect. We’ve just got to get back to work.”