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Where was Eagles-Vikings game won and lost?
Matt Cassel celebrates his 6-yard rushing TD in the third quarter. Cassel also threw for two touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Eagles. (USA Today Images)
Nope, no such thing as the trap game, right?
The red-hot Eagles strolled into the Metrodome to face the lowly Vikings on Sunday, but somehow the tables turned on them. Instead of shutting down an awful Vikings offense that lacked Adrian Peterson (and his backup), the Eagles made Matt Cassel look like Joe Montana (or Joe Webb). Instead of lighting up an awful Vikings defense, Nick Foles threw a costly interception and played from behind the whole game.
Stunningly, the Eagles were barely competitive in their 48-30 loss, their first loss in six games since falling 17-3 to Dallas on Oct. 20. They hadn’t lost a road game and hadn’t given up more than 21 points since losing 52-20 to the Broncos in Denver on Sept. 29.
It’s the most points allowed by the Eagles’ defense all season -- the defense allowed 38 of Denver’s 52 -- against a Vikings team that averaged 24 points per game, and that’s with Peterson, their superstar halfback.
The Eagles entered the game with a one-game lead on the Cowboys in the NFC East with a chance to put more distance between them. It’s looking more as if the division will be decided when they meet in the season finale in Arlington, Texas.
All week, the Eagles downplayed the trap game theme, and Foles shrugged off his appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
If they weren’t jinxed or complacent, then they have major problems to address.
This game bore too much resemblance to the 2010 loss to the Vikes at the Linc, a 24-14 upset masterminded by quarterback Joe Webb and a thirsty defense that knocked around Mike Vick and snapped the Eagles’ three-game win streak, setting the stage for the Eagles to lose their next two, including a first-round home playoff game to Green Bay.
This time, Cassel played the role of Webb, shredding the Eagles’ secondary for his first 300-yard effort of the season. Foles threw just his second pick of the season and was sacked three times.
Not only were the Vikes without Peterson, backup running back Toby Gerhart and tight end Kyle Rudolph, but they were also without their starting right guard, two starting cornerbacks and backup tight end John Carlson.
Still, the Vikes built a 27-9 lead in the third quarter -- the Eagles’ largest deficit since the Broncos loss. Looking for anything, Kelly put the ball in LeSean McCoy’s hands on 4th-and-1 from inside his own 25-yard line in the third, and McCoy came up short.
The Eagles still managed to get touchdown passes from Foles to DeSean Jackson and Zach Ertz, with a Mychal Kendricks pick sandwiched in between, to cut the Vikes’ lead to five at 27-22 going into the fourth.
But the Vikes took advantage of great field position -- the Eagles kicked short all game to keep the ball away from dangerous returner Cordarrelle Patterson (see 10 observations) -- and marched downfield, getting a 37-yard catch by Chase Ford on a 3rd-and-14 to set up third-string running back Matt Asiata’s second rushing touchdown.
The Vikings went up 34-22 and then hammered down the nail when Patterson caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Cassel with about seven minutes left to play.
In the end, the numbers look good for Foles in his real dome debut. He passed for 428 yards and tossed three touchdowns. He made some terrific throws but also took some bad sacks and threw an interception.
He didn’t lose the game for the Eagles, but with the defense struggling, he couldn’t afford to have those two turnovers. He also negated a DeSean Jackson end-around touchdown by throwing an unnecessary and illegal cut block on E.J. Henderson with Jackson already in front of the play and on his way to the end zone. Good effort from Foles but an unwise decision.
Cassel, on the flip side, can maybe help save coach Leslie Frazier’s job if he has a few more games like this. He completed 26 of 35 passes (74 percent) -- his highest completion percentage as a starter since Oct. 20, 2008 against Denver when he played for New England. He passed for 382 yards, the fourth-most of his career and most since Nov. 13, 2008, when he threw for 400 yards for the Patriots in a loss to the Jets. He averaged 10.9 yards per attempt, a single-game best.
Veteran wideout Greg Jennings erupted against the Eagles' defense, with a career-high 11 receptions for 163 yards -- the most by a Vikings receiver this year and most against the Eagles this season. Jennings had 114 yards at the half, which was already the third-best receiving total by a Viking this year.
The Eagles’ offensive line had been tremendous over the past few weeks but struggled against the Vikings’ front line. Minnesota sacked Foles four times and registered five tackles for a loss, holding LeSean McCoy to just 38 rushing yards, his lowest total this season.
Vikings backup corner Shaun Prater, who played one game with the Eagles this year before being cut, exacted revenge by recording his first career interception and breaking up a two-point conversion attempt from Foles to Riley Cooper. He can share this with defensive end Brian Robison, who had two sacks and several pressures.
The entire Eagles secondary shares it. Patrick Chung got benched after Jennings’ 57-yard touchdown catch, Kurt Coleman wasn’t better and Colt Anderson missed a terrible tackle on a 3rd-and-long conversion. Cary Williams got roasted all game and had the nerve to taunt twice, and Bradley Fletcher got called for a pass interference in the end zone that set up a Vikings touchdown.
Coleman left in the first half with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. Brandon Boykin was very slow to get back to his feet and off the field on a kickoff return in the third quarter. He was evaluated for a head injury and never returned. Anderson left the game in the fourth with a knee injury and didn’t return.
S Earl Wolff, LB Najee Goode, QB Matt Barkley, CB Curtis Marsh, RB Matthew Tucker, OT Dennis Kelly, OT Matt Tobin.
Did you know?
DeSean Jackson caught 10 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. He now has 1,275 yards -- a career best.
The Eagles play the Bears at the Linc next Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on NBC. They haven’t played on prime time since Week 3 against the Chiefs on Thursday night. Chicago (7-6) beat the Browns, 38-31, in Cleveland this week.