ReFo: Eagles @ Vikings, Week 15
Riding a five-game win streak to the top of the NFC East, the Eagles came into Minnesota looking to keep the pressure on Dallas with another win. The Vikings, on the other hand, were without Adrian Peterson and pushing hard toward the top pick, but apparently capable of a surprise. Putting touchdowns on the scoreboard to the Eagles’ field goals, the Vikings built a 24-9 lead early in the third quarter and rode the game out from there.
Fortunate to find Dallas falling short of a Green Bay comeback, the Eagles remain atop the division with two games to go. The Minnesota win, while good for morale, leaves them ‘behind’ seven teams now if they’re looking ahead to May. Here are a few standout performances from Week 15’s matchup:
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
Eagle linebacker Mychal Kendricks opened the year with some dreadful displays, hitting a low point in Week 2 against San Diego that he’s since been climbing back from. After a mid-season stretch that saw him treading water around zero – a good thing relative to his start – he’s now logged three straight positive days, topped by this +4.5 performance against the Vikings. Kendricks spent the afternoon crashing downhill violently against the run, but made the most of his eight pass rush attempts as well (notching a sack, a hit and a hurry) and even hauled in a tipped ball for a third-quarter interception.
With the Minnesota run game missing their All-World star, Kendrick’s play went a long way toward limiting third-string runner Matt Asiata to just 1.7 yards per attempt — slicing efforts for stops against Joe Berger (Q1 8:22) and Matt Kalil (Q4 2:12) were fine examples of his work. Salting the wound, Kendricks leapt over a tentative pass-protecting Asiata on the first play of the fourth quarter to land on Cassel’s back, getting to the Minnesota QB’s short drop in under two seconds.
Foles Falling Off
With 14 touchdowns on deep balls this year, you’ve wouldn’t blame Nick Foles for going back to the well. That well, however, had run dry against the Vikings, despite them fielding a depleted set of DBs. Setting his sights on downfield routes, Foles found his receiver only twice in 11 attempts and turned the ball over on one other.
In the bigger picture, Foles has balanced a positive mid-season run with a string of negatives and is headed in the wrong direction as the Eagles fight for a spot in the playoffs. With his team down and choosing not to use LeSean McCoy on the ground, the Philadelphia comeback bid in this game rested on his arm and ultimately fell short. Now slipping out of the Top 20 quarterbacks in overall grades, Foles’ quick-assumed spot among the NFC’s best is proving to be a short-sighted early call.
Front in Form
All grading in the green on the year and collecting 10 stops between them against Minnesota, the Eagle D-Line group is taking fine form. With Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox having Top-10 seasons for 3-4 defensive ends, depth man Vinny Curry has come on to make their rotation one of the league’s best. Factor in rookie nose tackle Bennie Logan’s ascent and you have a crew able to match up with any around.
This week, as usual, it was Thornton doing the work in run D and Curry getting upfield after the passer. Thornton has logged nine green days against the run this season and has yet to have a day below +0.5 in that department. Curry, just the opposite, had his sixth green grade as a pass rusher, ending with a sack and three hurries. Logan, a revelation since taking over the starting spot, was a generally disruptive figure in the middle of it all and earned his third grade of +1.1 or better in the past four games.
Minnesota – Three Performances of Note
As Good as it Looks?
Though fantasy players who scrambled to plug running back Matt Asiata into their playoff lineups were pleased with his 30-carry, three-touchdown day, the third-year back walked away with a -1.2 rushing grade after generating a paltry 1.7 yards per attempt with 1.3 yards of that coming after contact, a figure that highlights both what little he added and what little his blockers provided. Used primarily to run the clock with the Vikings sitting on a lead, Asiata did exhibit moments of drive – most notably on his second-quarter touchdown plunge that saw him fight through Bennie Logan in the middle of the pile to lurch backward across the goal line. He’ll be torn when looking back on the day – pleased that his three scores helped the team to a win, but disappointed with his lacking output on the ground, a dropped pass, and suspect pass blocking.
Putting it on Tape
Matt Cassel took another late-season opportunity to state his case for a job in 2014. Completing 26-of-35 attempts with one being thrown away and another two dropped, Cassel had no issue dealing with the Eagle secondary. Spreading the ball across the passing grid, Cassel found success pushing the it over 10 yards downfield, completing 10-of-14 tries, and was near perfect into the deepest range, going 4-of-5 for 152 yards and a touchdown when looking to targets of more than 20 yards. This being his second significant green grade since stepping in in Week 13 and Cassel is showing some value. Even if the Vikings – with no apparent QB plan in place — opt to get out of his deal and avoid the sizable bump in pay he’s due, having games like this on tape will surely make finding his next home much easier.
How About a Mulligan
I hate to highlight another negative with the Vikings taking this important-for-their-psyche win, but the play of safety-turned-corner Robert Blanton begs a mention. Lined up in the slot for all but seven of his 59 snaps (part of the next-man-up fill-in plan to offset the loss of injured starters) Blanton surrendered catches all 11 times he was targeted, gave up 161 yards, a pair of scores and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 – each of those marks being the week’s worst among corners. DeSean Jackson gave him the most trouble, hauling in six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. To top things off, Blanton found himself on the wrong end of a downfield screen block by Eagles guard Todd Herremans (Q4 4:64) that predictably ended much better for the larger man who had built up a head of steam before impact.
– Greg Jennings came away with his best grade as a Viking, catching balls against six different defenders but, interestingly, wasn’t targeted in the 10-19 yard range. He caught three of the four he saw over 20 yards and eight of the nine targeted 9 yards or less downfield.
– Cassel went 11-of-14 for 264 yards with a TD and an INT when blitzed.
– Bradley Fletcher gave up 134 yards to Minnesota receivers but only 16 after the catch.
PFF Game Ball
For his efficient day guiding the Vikings to the win, Matt Cassel gets the game ball.
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