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.

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

ATLANTA — Seven months after he was acquired from the Houston Astros and anointed a key piece in the Phillies’ rebuild, pitcher Vince Velasquez could be on the move again.

The Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez, a major league source told CSNPhilly.com on Friday night (see story).

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network earlier in the week and essentially confirmed when three Rangers scouts, including Scott Littlefield, one of that club’s top talent evaluators, showed up at Turner Field for Velasquez’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Velasquez delivered a solid but unspectacular performance in a 2-1 loss to the Braves, but he still has the qualities that attracted the Phillies to him last winter. He’s just 24 years old and has a power arm that has produced a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has the upside to pitch at or near the top of a rotation if his development goes in the right direction and he stays healthy. That is a legitimate concern because he had Tommy John surgery as a young minor leaguer and spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a biceps strain.

The question now is: where will Velasquez continue his development? Philadelphia? Texas? Somewhere else?

Clearly, the Phillies’ big wintertime acquisition is in play as Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.

Manager Pete Mackanin said he knows nothing of the front office’s trade plans, but he offered his opinion on trading a young pitcher like Velasquez.

“Our whole goal was to get young pitchers because they’re the most expensive commodity and if you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you’re ahead of the game,” Mackanin said. “But at the same time, at least as far as I’m concerned, I’ll listen to any offers. If you get three guys that are really good looking prospects because pitching is such a commodity, I’m sure you have to consider it.”

With the Rangers' scouts looking on, Velasquez pitched six innings and gave up seven hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out five. His fastball reached 96 mph, proving that his stuff is good. Mackanin, however, said he thought Velasquez relied too much on his off-speed stuff instead of his power fastball.

“It was unusual to me the way he pitched,” Mackanin said. “It was almost like a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher. I’m not arguing with it because he did a good job, but he made me a little nervous here and there. I like the 16 strikeouts.”

That, of course, was a reference to Velasquez’s 16-strikeout complete game win over the Padres on April 14. Could anyone have imagined that he'd be the subject of trade talks 3½ months later?

Velasquez said he was aware of the trade buzz surrounding him and unbothered by it. He’s been down this road before. He said he would not be disappointed if he were traded because he understands baseball is a business.

“At first when I got traded from the Astros it was kind of tough for me, but you have to move on and make the best of what you've got,” Velasquez said. “If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today.

“It's just one of those things I can't control. I had to fight, had to battle for a spot here in Philadelphia and I'm very thankful for the opportunity and everything. Again, I've still got to keep working hard and make the best of what I've got.”

Any team looking to acquire Velasquez would have to pay a steep price. In addition to having talent and upside, he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2018 season and free agency until after the 2021 season.

The Phillies have a good knowledge of Texas’ deep farm system having scouted it extensively — and plucked from it — in making the deal for Cole Hamels a year ago. Are the Phillies about to fuel their rebuild with more talent from the Texas system? Stay tuned.

Velasquez isn’t the only Phillies starter who could move. Several teams remain interested in Jeremy Hellickson (see story), who is scheduled to pitch against Atlanta on Saturday night. The Rangers, in fact, have some interest in Hellickson as a fallback option if they don’t get a pitcher elsewhere. Velasquez is not the only pitcher the Rangers have on their radar, but from a Phillies’ perspective, he is certainly the most interesting.

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rougned Odor homered twice, A.J. Griffin pitched into the sixth inning and the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3 on Friday night.

Jurickson Profar also went deep for the Rangers, and scored three runs.

Odor hit a solo homer in the first that put AL West-leading Texas up 3-0 against Edinson Volquez (8-9). That 443-foot drive into the second deck of seats in right field came a night after Odor's 465-footer that is the longest in his career. He had another solo shot in the seventh, his 21st of the season barely clearing the 8-foot wall in right.

Eric Hosmer homered for the defending World Series champion Royals, who dropped to 10 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

Griffin (4-1) had his longest outing in seven starts in just over a month since coming off the disabled list because of right shoulder stiffness. The right-hander struck out one and walked two while throwing 66 of 98 pitches for strikes in 5 2-3 innings (see full recap)

Chatwood, Gonzalez lead Rockies over Mets for 4th win in row
NEW YORK -- Tyler Chatwood kept winning on the road, Carlos Gonzalez homered and drove in four runs and the Colorado Rockies defeated the New York Mets 6-1 Friday night for their fourth straight victory.

Mark Reynolds also homered for the surging Rockies, who are 11-4 since the All-Star break and have moved within four games of Miami for the second NL wild-card spot.

Chatwood (10-6) improved to 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA away from Coors Field this season. The 26-year-old is 4-6 with a 5.69 ERA at home.

Gonzalez matched a season-high hitting streak of 11 games with an RBI double in the first. He hit a 448-foot, three-run drive in the ninth for his 21st homer.

Steven Matz (8-7) gave up two runs and 10 hits in six innings (see full recap)

Lester recovers from rut of bad starts, Cubs rout Mariners
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester recovered from a rut of bad starts, pitching six shutout innings that led the Chicago Cubs over the Seattle Mariners 12-1 Friday for their third straight win.

Jason Heyward and David Ross homered as the NL Central leaders improved to 9-5 since the All-Star break following a 1-9 slump. Seattle lost in its first trip to Wrigley Field since 2007.

Lester (11-4) had lasted just 16 innings over his previous four starts, going 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA. That skid came after he had gone 9-3 with a 2.03 ERA in his first 16 starts.

Lester gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked two. He was already done when there was a 74-minute rain delay in the seventh.

Mike Montgomery, traded last week from Seattle to the Cubs, pitched the final two innings. He gave up a single to Shawn O'Malley in the ninth for the Mariners' run.

Hisashi Iwakuma (11-7) had won his last five starts, but gave up five runs and eight hits in three innings (see full recap).

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies lost, 2-1, to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The big news from this game, however, was that Vince Velasquez might have made his last start with the Phillies. A major league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez. The Rangers, the source said, also have some interest in Jeremy Hellickson, who pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night, but he appears to be a secondary target (see story).

It would take top talent to get Velasquez, a 24-year-old right-hander with a power arm. The Phillies acquired him over the winter from Houston as the centerpiece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

The Rangers had several scouts at the game, including Scott Littlefield, one of their top talent evaluators.

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported earlier in the week by Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Apparently there’s more than just interest (see story). Stay tuned as Monday’s trade deadline approaches.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez scattered seven hits and two runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Velasquez battled some command issues and needed 91 pitches to complete the six innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since a brief stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins gave up just one unearned run over six innings.

Bullpen report
Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball.

At the plate
Phillies leadoff man Cesar Hernandez reached base in his first three at-bats and scored the Phillies’ only run on an error in the third inning. 

The Braves scored two runs in the third inning on three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk against Velasquez. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis drove in the runs with base hits.

Up next
Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) makes perhaps his final start with the Phillies on Saturday night. He will face Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71).