Back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back (that's five) turnovers in the first quarter can give any game a strange feel. What was even stranger Sunday was watching the Eagles, fresh off consecutive losses, beating the previously undefeated Vikings at their own game in a 21-10 victory in Week 7.
With the NFL's top defense coming into Philly, the Eagles turned things around and showcased their defense — creating Sam Bradford's first three turnovers of the year, stifling the Vikings on a big fourth and 1 at the 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, and holding Minnesota to a meaningless touchdown with less than a minute left in the game.
While the offense appears to have a lot of work to do, it was going up against the best defense in the league and did enough to move the Eagles to 4-2. Here are three things we couldn't help but notice and smile about at the Linc on Sunday afternoon:
Anything you can do …
For those saying the Bradford trade in September was equally beneficial for both teams, Sunday provided some indisputable evidence to that effect.
After yet another Eagles penalty, Carson Wentz had the offense backed against its own end zone at the 9-yard line. He missed his target on a second down throw and tossed his first bad interception of the year — compiling his first career tackle on the ensuing return — holding the Vikings out of the end zone. Three plays later, the Eagles picked off Bradford in the end zone with Rodney McLeod playing center field and securing his third pick.
The Eagles' second turnover came just seconds later: After two successful pass plays to move the chains, a botched hand off from Wentz to Darren Sproles led to a fumble, setting Minnesota up in the red zone. And what did you know, one play later a Vikings fumble by Sam Bradford was recovered by Malcolm Jenkins. Connor Barwin was credited with a strip sack on the play.
The turnover bash continued a few plays after that as Wentz threw his second interception. The Eagles got even when a second strip sack — by McLeod — was surrendered by Bradford as the Vikings ventured deep into enemy territory a few minutes later. The turnover was converted into three points and Philly led 11-3 at the half.
In all, both Wentz and Bradford had ugly games, with the rookie completing 16-of-28 passes for 138 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The former Eagles went 24-for-41 for 224 yards (most if it in garbage time), with just one interception but two lost fumbles. Bradford was sacked six times.
For the second game in a row, the Eagles got their first touchdown on special teams. After the first points of the game finally came six minutes into the second (a Blair Walsh 48-yard field goal), Josh Huff ran the ensuing kickoff 98-yards to the house virtually untouched to put Philadelphia ahead 8-3 (after a Wentz run for the two-point conversion).
The special teams once again lifted a unit that committed some badly timed penalties.
Not only did a false start (on rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai) help lead to an Eagles three-and-out to start the game, but a running into the kicker flag on a Vikings punt gave them the ball back, averting a three-and-out of their own. Luckily the defense buckled down and made Minnesota boot the ball three plays later.
A holding call in the red zone in the third couldn't slow down Wentz' first touchdown march since the Lions game, as the unit banded together to push forward for a score on a quick slant pass to Dorial Green-Beckham to cap off a nine play, 77-yard drive to put Philly ahead 18-3.
Special teams struck again in the fourth, as the Eagles recovered a fumble after punting deep in their own end. A Caleb Sturgis 21-yard field goal was added to make it a three-score game a few minutes later.
Dedication to the run
In recent weeks it was obvious, partially with the Eagles playing so much from behind, that they hadn't been committed to the run game in the same manner as they were in their three wins to start the year.
On Sunday, Philly ran the ball 25 times, led by 14 carries for 56 yards for Ryan Mathews. As a team they eclipsed the 100-yard threshhold. The Eagles won the time of possession battle despite a bevy of turnovers early and were able to use the run — including a few designed for Wentz — to set up their passing game which relied on short dinks and dunks to handle the Vikings' potent defense.
The aggressiveness that Pederson has proudly exercised at the helm of the Eagles was apparent in the play calling as well. The Eagles went for two, successfully (on a Wentz run out of the shotgun), converted a fourth and 3 on another Wentz run and ran the field goal unit on the field, took it off after an ice time out, and then ran it out again — just to mess with the Vikings a bit.
A blemish to the ground game marred an otherwise impressive effort when Ryan Mathews surrendered a fumble with four and a half minutes to go in the final frame