Meltdown in Minneapolis: Eagles streak snapped in 48-30 loss to Vikings

Meltdown in Minneapolis: Eagles streak snapped in 48-30 loss to Vikings

This had “trap game” written all over it. Shades of Joe Webb some fans even lamented in the lead-up to Sunday. Whether this loss will be remembered similarly in Philadelphia Eagles lore probably depends on how they finish the season, but today, it feels devastating.

After holding nine straight opponents to 21 points or fewer, the Eagles were absolutely smoked by a shorthanded Minnesota Vikings squad missing its best player. No Adrian Peterson? No problem. Leave it to Matt Cassel, the veteran quarterback who led the purple and gold to a 48-30 win over the Birds in Minneapolis, snapping Philly's five-game winning streak.

The Eagles had absolutely no answer for the Vikings’ passing attack from the opening kickoff. Named the starting signal-caller earlier this week, Cassel completed 26 of 35 passes for 382 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also ran one in for a score.

That was without the benefit of a productive running game, mind you. Third-string back Matt Asiata, who entered the game with three career carries, wound up punching the ball into the end zone three times, but ran 30 times for just 51 yards filling in for the injured AP. That’s less than two yards per attempt.

The bulk of the blame for this debacle lies with Philly’s secondary, obviously. Patrick Chung was torched on a 57-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings in the first quarter—Jennings finished with 11 catches for 163 yards. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were beaten repeatedly on the outside by the likes of Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson.

The Eagles’ front seven was stifled for much of the afternoon too, which didn’t help the defensive backs. Cassel was also on point though, getting rid of the football quickly and making precise throws. Give him credit for playing a smart game. His only turnover was deflected at the line of scrimmage by Bennie Logan.

Chip Kelly’s game plan didn’t do his defense many favors, either. The Eagles didn’t want to kick it deep to dangerous Cordarrelle Patterson, the NFL leader in kick returns, so they squibbed numerous times instead, which often resulted with the Vikings starting near midfield anyway.

Nor was it the greatest of play-calling days on offense for the Birds head coach. For some reason, LeSean McCoy only carried the ball eight times coming off of a franchise-record 217 yards the week before. McCoy finished with 38 yards for a 4.8 average to go with 68 yards through the air.

Shady’s lack of involvement might’ve been mitigated had Nick Foles been sharp, but it was another up-and-down performance for the third week in a row for the second-year passer.

Foles threw for 428 yards and three touchdowns and completed 62.5 percent of his 48 attempts, but the big numbers are a little deceiving. He missed several receivers badly, quite a few of them wide open. He threw his second interception of the year, a terrible decision. Plus, he was sacked four times, several of them drive-killers, all of them avoidable.

The pass-heavy approach was undoubtedly meant to expose a Vikings secondary that was missing its top three players on the depth chart due to injury, and it did to a degree. DeSean Jackson in particular had a big day, hauling in 10 receptions for 195 yards and a score.

Unfortunately, Foles was too inconsistent from series to series. The Eagles also were not proficient in the red zone, converting just two of their five trips into six points. Running the ball a bit more might’ve helped.

Clearly, the defense finally falling apart was the biggest factor in the loss however. Minnesota racked up 455 yards of total offense, and went 8 for 13 on third downs. In fact, the Eagles forced just two punts all day.

In many respects, it was the defense’s worst game of the season. Take away Denver’s two special teams scores, and 48 is the most points the unit has allowed in 2013.

It will be an issue to watch going forward as well. Earl Wolff is nearing a return, but missed his fourth-consecutive game. Kurt Coleman replaced Chung at one point, but then Coleman got hurt. So did Colt Anderson. Cary Williams was benched at the end of the game, and Brandon Boykin was injured as well on a kick return.

Suddenly, an area that has been one of the club’s most consistent strengths the last two-and-a-half months will face loads of scrutiny for at least the next week. So will the Eagles as a team, as they drop to 8-6 on the year and still have Dallas hot on their heels in the NFC East.

Was this a collapse in the vein of the one the Birds suffered in 2010, when they were vying for a postseason bye and a moribund Vikings team with Joe Webb under center upended Philly on a Tuesday night? That remains to be seen. The Eagles did make the playoffs, but lost to the eventual champion Green Bay Packers in the first round.

It should also be noted Minnesota has posted a record of 3-2-1 over its last six games, so while the loss is still disappointing given all the absences, the perception that this team was a pushover was flawed to begin with. That said, they were without Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player and a host of other starters.

As of now, the Eagles are far from a lock to make the tournament. If they don’t, this one will loom large. Hard to look at this as anything other than a missed opportunity in Minnesota.

Notes

- Another big reason the Eagles lost was penalties. Philadelphia was flagged nine times for 94 yards.

- I get kicking away from Cordarrelle Patterson, but notice Vikings kicker Blair Walsh just booted most of his right out of the end zone. Is Alex Henery really unable to do the same?

- Nick Foles finished with more run yards (41) than LeSean McCoy (38).

- Zach Ertz and Jason Avant had the Eagles' other touchdowns. Mychal Kendricks came up with the interception. Kendricks, Connor Barwin, and DeMeco Ryans had sacks. Kendricks and Cole each had three tackles for loss.

- Did anyone else feel like this was an Andy Reid coached game? Got away from running the ball. Timeout wasted before a two-point conversion. General undisciplined play. Definitely had that feel.

Now on Phillies' bench, Ty Kelly looks back fondly on Team Israel experience

Now on Phillies' bench, Ty Kelly looks back fondly on Team Israel experience

Ty Kelly is currently the 25th man on the Phillies' roster, a utliity man who has all of two starts with the club this year.

But two and a half months ago, he was one of the headlining players on the Cinderella squad of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Kelly was the starting third baseman for Team Israel, which made a surprising run to the second round with a perfect run through Pool A. The team began the WBC with an upset over host South Korea before wins over Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands. Israel beat Cuba in the next round in Japan, but fell to Japan and the Netherlands handily.

Unlike most MLB players who spent their spring in Florida, Kelly got to experience two major Asian cities -- Seoul and Tokyo -- while getting his preseason at-bats.

"It was a great experience, trying the food and all that and seeing all the sights," Kelly said.

However, he wasn't too adventurous with trying the local cuisine compared to his teammates.

"Some of the guys were really trying to seek out the native food," Kelly said. "I wanted to do that as much as I could, but at the same time, you're still trying to get ready for baseball games in a tournament, so you've got to do what's best for your body.

"Chicken sandwiches for me were the way to go for the most part," he added with a laugh.

Kelly's participation with the squad began in the middle of 2016, when Peter Kurz, the President of the Israel Association of Baseball, emailed him and asked if he had a Jewish grandparent. Kelly's mother's side of the family is Jewish, making Kelly eligible.

Last year was also the end of Kelly's long road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2009 out of UC Davis, Kelly was traded multiple times, once straight up for current Brewers slugger Eric Thames before Thames went to Korea and back. Kelly wound up with the Mets and finally made his MLB debut two months shy of his 28th birthday. He played 39 games for the Mets at six different positions and got a hit in his only postseason at-bat, which came vs. Madison Bumgarner no less.

Kelly still had to make the Mets this spring, which could have made joining the WBC a tough decision. However, the organization was on board with Kelly playing in the tournament.

"It made it difficult, but I talked to the Mets about it and they were all for me going over there and still playing and getting experience," he said. "People were still watching, so once I got the go-ahead from them, it was an easy decision."

Kelly made the Mets out of the spring but had just one at-bat before he put on waivers and was claimed by the Blue Jays. Eight days later, he was traded to the Phillies. He has four hits (three doubles) in 19 at-bats with the Phillies and had the game-winning RBI single two weeks ago in the front end of the Phils' doubleheader with the Nationals.

He's the only player from Team Israel to have played in the majors this season. Ryan Lavarnway and former Mets 1B Ike Davis are in AAA while the roster also included former MLBers Nate Freiman, Sam Fuld and Jason Marquis.

While none of his WBC teammates have parlayed Team Israel's run into MLB time, Kelly still thinks the team caught the eye of people in the game.

"There was definitely a lot of fandom around our team," Kelly said. "A lot of people rallied around us, including people in front offices I think. Of Jewish descent or not, I think a lot of people liked what we did.

"Being a part of that definitely looks good for me, which is just an added bonus."

A healthy Nolan Patrick to Flyers? 'He won't let anybody down,' Brandon GM says

A healthy Nolan Patrick to Flyers? 'He won't let anybody down,' Brandon GM says

As he met with general manager Grant Armstrong, Nolan Patrick had just finished an injury-marred junior season.

The 18-year-old missed the WHL playoffs and was limited to 33 games because of two separate injuries. He underwent a sports hernia surgery the offseason prior, a major impediment to his summer training. He never quite "caught up to the year," as Armstrong put it.

"I don't think he really ever got himself into a situation where he was 100 percent," the Brandon Wheat Kings GM said in a phone interview last week with CSNPhilly.com.

But none of that was about to crack Patrick's confidence.

"When we had our exit meetings, he told me he was going to play in the NHL," Armstrong said. "I wished him the best of luck and I expect that's where he'll be next year."

Where he could be is Philadelphia sporting Flyers orange. Patrick and Nico Hischier are the consensus top-two picks for the June 23-24 NHL entry draft. The Flyers, of course, with a stroke of good luck, will be happily sitting at No. 2 overall. The Devils will make Ron Hextall's decision much easier when they pick at No. 1.

The Canadian Patrick and Swiss-born Hischier are both centers. Coming into the season, Patrick was viewed as the draft's top dog, but his health and Hischier's rise have tightened the race.

Will the injuries cause apprehension?

"I think there's no concern at all," Armstrong said. "Injuries are a part of the game and I don't see it being an issue for Nolan at all. He trains well, he works hard at it and rehabs properly. I don't see it being an issue and currently, I think he's at 100 percent."

Despite the hampered summer and shortened season, Patrick showed why he's so heralded by still compiling 46 points in 33 games for the Wheat Kings, his third year with the junior club. He scored 20 goals and collected 26 assists. Why that might not be mind-blowing is because Patrick had 102 points in 2015-16 on 41 goals and 61 assists for an astounding plus-51 rating. He went on to record 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 playoff games, leading Brandon to its first WHL title in 20 years alongside current Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov.

Similar to Provorov, Patrick's hockey smarts are well beyond his age.

"His presence on the ice, he just thinks the game, he puts himself in positions to be successful all the time," Armstrong said. "He's almost above the ice in his thinking aspect. He sees the game so well, he's a student of the game, he understands and puts himself in positions of success. That hasn't changed, it's only getting better for him.

"He's a difference-maker."

Armstrong joined the Wheat Kings last summer but had scouted and seen plenty of Patrick as Armstrong worked the previous four seasons for the WHL's Victoria Royals.

"He's a very elite player with a tremendous hockey sense," Armstrong said. "I think that's his biggest attribute is he thinks the game so well, he thinks it ahead of what's really happening on the ice a lot of the times. He's a player that's really starting to come into his own. 

"This next season will be a real opportunity for him to showcase his elite hockey sense and his athleticism and all the things that combine to make him a great player."

It appears Patrick, who has great size at 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, is ready to showcase those traits at the NHL level. His future club will ultimately decide that in training camp.

"We would like to think we know that, but until the kid comes in and shows you what he can do," Hextall said earlier this month. "You make an educated judgment and then you go from there. A player has to come in and prove that he's ready and at this age not many are, so we'll wait and see which way [the player] goes from there."

Armstrong said there's constant communication between Brandon and NHL teams throughout a season and that it escalates this time of year as the draft nears.

What about with the Flyers?

"The Flyers are a great organization and obviously we have ties to their GM," Armstrong said. "It's a good fit and they know what's going on.

"They're dialed into what's going on and they have all kinds of ways to communicate with people."

While Patrick may not jump off the charts with Connor McDavid-like scoring ability, he prides himself on being complete. Armstrong said Patrick models his game after Kings center Anze Kopitar, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and 2015-16 Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's top defensive forward.

It's the do-it-all mentality Armstrong believes was special, night in and night out.

"Just the way he makes small plays in a game that would set up a teammate," he said. "He plays a 200-foot game, he's coming back hard and supporting the D in the defensive zone. Switching to offense, he's quick and he does things that make him such a great player.

"I think everybody thinks that a No. 1 or 2 centerman is going to be completely focused on the offensive side, but no, he's very committed to the defensive side of the puck — I think that's one thing that's a little bit misunderstood about him. He's got such an ability to play in any situation — killing penalties, late in the game, taking big faceoffs, that's his game."

Armstrong extolled Patrick for making everyone around him better on the Wheat Kings.

If that's with the Flyers next, Armstrong believes you won't be disappointed.

"I think they just have to be patient and allow the player to grow. He won't let anybody down," Armstrong said. "I just think he's an elite talent with an elite sense for the game. At some point, he'll be a great two-way centerman in the league. He'll put up offensive numbers. They won't be in the elite category, but he'll be a guy that'll chip away at his game, he'll produce. You just have to take your time and be patient."