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.

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

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Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg (9-0) won his 12th consecutive decision dating to last season, pitching six innings of one-run ball as Washington salvaged a four-game split.

Strasburg improved to 12-0 in 15 starts since losing to the Mets on Sept. 9, and the Nationals have won all 15 of those games. The 12 consecutive winning decisions is a franchise record for a starter, breaking a mark shared by Livan Hernandez (2005) and Dennis Martinez (1989).

Jayson Werth connected for a pinch-hit grand slam. Wilson Ramos had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs. Bryce Harper hit an RBI single during a three-run fourth off Michael Wacha (2-6), who lost his sixth straight decision (see full recap).

Dodgers score twice in 9th to top Mets
NEW YORK -- Adrian Gonzalez snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run single off suddenly struggling closer Jeurys Familia, and Los Angeles beat New York.

Curtis Granderson hit a tying triple for the Mets immediately after Clayton Kershaw was lifted with two outs in the eighth. But the Dodgers quickly regrouped for their sixth victory in seven games since losing four straight.

Kershaw struck out 10, walked none and capped a magnificent May with another sublime performance.

Adam Liberatore (1-0) got the win. Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Familia (2-1) allowed two runs on two hits and two walks (see full recap).

Castro's homer Yanks' only hit in victory
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Starlin Castro's two-run, seventh-inning homer off Jake Odorizzi was the Yankees' only hit of the game, enough to give New York a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

According to Baseball Reference data going back to 1913, the Yankees' only other one-hit win was when Charlie Mullen had an RBI single to beat Cleveland in six innings in a doubleheader nightcap on July 10, 1914.

Nathan Eovaldi (6-2) gave up one run and six hits in six innings to win his career-best fifth consecutive start and beat Odorizzi (2-3).

Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman each pitched a perfect inning and combined for seven strikeouts. Chapman got his seventh save (see full recap).

Deitrich hurt on odd play in Marlins' win over Braves
ATLANTA -- Derek Dietrich hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer and drove in four runs before getting hurt on a foul ball hit into Miami's dugout.

Dietrich's homer landed deep in the lower section of the right-field seats in the sixth, giving Miami a 3-1 lead. A former Georgia Tech star, Dietrich added a two-run double off Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh inning, then was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Christian Yelich in the ninth.

The team said X-rays were negative and Dietrich was to remain in Atlanta on Sunday night for further evaluations.

Tom Koehler (3-5) allowed three runs -- two earned -- three hits and five walks in seven-plus innings. Julio Teheran (1-5) gave up three runs, five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings (see full recap).

Correa's home run lifts Astros over Angels in 13
ANAHEIM, Calif.  -- Pinch-hitter Carlos Correa had a three-run homer off Mike Morin (1-1) in the 13th inning.

Correa got a run-scoring hit in the 13th inning for the second time in six games, following up his game-ending single against Baltimore on Tuesday.

Albert Pujols had three hits for the Angels, who blew an eighth-inning lead and stranded 14 runners while losing for the fourth time in five games.

Michael Feliz (3-1) pitched the 12th for Houston (see full recap).

Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

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Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

It doesn't sound like the Sixers' replacement for Mike D'Antoni will be the most rumored name for the position.

NBA coaching veteran P.J. Carlesimo has decided to not join Brett Brown's staff as associate head coach and instead will remain a television analyst, according to tweets Sunday night by ESPN's Mark Stein.

Stein added that despite "strong mutual interest," Carlesimo made the decision for family reasons.

The 67-year-old Carlesimo has spent parts of nine seasons as a head coach in the league and five more as an assistant. He was last on a NBA bench when he took over as the Brooklyn Nets' interim head coach in 2012-13.

So the Sixers still have a vacancy on their bench after D'Antoni, who joined the Sixers in the middle of last season after Jerry Colangelo joined the organization, signed on to become head coach of the Houston Rockets last week. Who the team's next choice for the role is remains to be seen.

Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins

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Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't supposed to take the San Jose Sharks this long to reach their first Stanley Cup Final. It wasn't supposed to take this long for Sidney Crosby to guide the Pittsburgh Penguins back to a destination many figured they'd become a fixture at after winning it all in 2009.

Not that either side is complaining.

Certainly not the Sharks, whose nearly quarter-century wait to play on the NHL's biggest stage will finally end Monday night when the puck drops for Game 1. Certainly not Crosby, who raised the Cup after beating Detroit seven years ago but has spent a significant portion of the interim dealing with concussions that threatened to derail his career and fending off criticism as the thoughtful captain of a team whose explosiveness during the regular season too often failed to translate into regular mid-June parade through the heart of the city.

Maybe the Penguins should have returned to the Cup Final before now. The fact they didn't makes the bumpy path the franchise and its superstar captain took to get here seem worth it.

"I think I appreciated it prior to going through some of those things," Crosby said. "I think now having gone through those things I definitely appreciate it more. I think I realize how tough it is to get to this point."

It's a sentiment not lost on the Sharks, who became one of the NHL's most consistent winners shortly after coming into the league in 1991. Yet spring after spring, optimism would morph into disappointment. The nadir came in 2014, when a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles in the first round somehow turned into a 4-3 loss. The collapse sent the Sharks into a spiral that took a full year to recover from, one that in some ways sowed the seeds for a breakthrough more than two decades in the making.

General manager Doug Wilson tweaked the roster around fixtures Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who remained hopeful San Jose's window for success hadn't shut completely even as the postseason meltdowns piled up.

"I always believed that next year was going to be the year, I really did," Thornton said. "I always thought we were a couple pieces away. Even last year not making the playoffs, I honestly thought we were a couple pieces away, and here we are."

The Penguins, like the Sharks, are a study in near instant alchemy. General manager Jim Rutherford rebuilt the team on the fly after taking over in June, 2014 and with the team sleepwalking last December, fired respected-but-hardly-charismatic Mike Johnston and replaced him with the decidedly harder-edged Mike Sullivan. The results were nearly instantaneous.

Freed to play to its strengths instead of guarding against its weaknesses, Pittsburgh rocketed through the second half of the season and showed the resilience it has sometimes lacked during Crosby's tenure by rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals, dominating Games 6 and 7 to finally earn a shot at bookending the Cup that was supposed to give birth to a dynasty but instead led to years of frustration.

True catharsis for one side is four wins away. Some things to look for over the next two weeks of what promises to be an entertaining final.

Fresh faces
When the season began, Matt Murray was in the minor leagues. Now the 22-year-old who was supposed to be Pittsburgh's goalie of the future is now very much the goalie of the present. Pressed into action when veteran Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion on March 31, Murray held onto the job even after Fleury returned by playing with the steady hand of a guy in his 10th postseason, not his first. San Jose counterpart Martin Jones served as Jonathan Quick's backup when the Kings won it all in 2014 and has thrived while playing behind a defense that sometimes doesn't give him much to do. Jones has faced over 30 shots just four times during the playoffs.

"HBK" is H-O-T:
Pittsburgh's best line during the playoffs isn't the one centered by Crosby or Malkin but Nick Bonino, who has teamed with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin to produce 17 goals and 28 assists in 18 games. Put together when Malkin missed six weeks with an elbow injury, the trio has given the Penguins the balance they desperately needed after years of being too reliant on their stars for production.

Powerful Sharks
San Jose's brilliant run to the Finals has been spearheaded by a power play that is converting on 27 percent (17 of 63) of its chances during the playoffs. The Sharks are 9-2 when they score with the man advantage and just 3-4 when it does not.

Old men and the C(up)
Both teams have relied heavily on players who began their NHL careers in another millennium. Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen, who turns 40 in November, has four goals during the playoffs. Thornton and Marleau, both 36, were taken with the top two picks in the 1997 draft that was held in Pittsburgh while 37-year-old Dainius Zubrus draws stares from younger teammates when he tells them he used to play against Hall of Famer (and current Penguins owner) Mario Lemieux.

"When I say 'Twenty years ago I was playing against Lemieux, they say 'I was 2-years-old,'" Zubrus said.