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Eagles Take Charge on the Ground, Take Advantage of Takeaways, Hold Off Late-Charging Vikings

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Sept. 15, 2023

Morgan Killian-Moseley

PHILADELPHIA- At some point last night, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson decided the best way to wake up their unit was to go back to what worked last season: letting arguably the best offensive line in the NFL grind out the clock and grind the opponent into submission.

Philly's rushing game, combined with four takeaways by the defense, were enough to push the Eagles past the Minnesota Vikings 34-28; lifting Philadelphia to 2-0 and knocking Minnesota down to 0-2.

D'Andre Swift, stepping into the feature back role with Kenneth Gainwell out due to a rib injury, was one of the chief beneficiaries of this adjustment. The product of nearby St. Joe's Prep carried the ball 28 times for 175 yards and a 4th quarter touchdown that turned out to be the difference. Of course, quarterback Jalen Hurts benefitted as well, as the Birds' mastery of the QB Sneak led to Hurts hitting paydirt not once, but twice.

The use of the ground game also set up the air game as Hurts found Devonta Smith for a 67-yard touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter.

All in all, Hurts had 12 carries for 35 yards and the two touchdowns while completing 18 of 23 passes for 193 yards and the touchdown to Smith, though he did also throw a 1st quarter interception to Vikings safety Theo Jackson.

Smith was the Eagles' leading receiver, with four catches for 131 yards, including the 67-yard TD. A.J. Brown had four catches of his own but for only 29 yards. Tight end Dallas Goedert had six receptions for 22 yards, after going without a catch against New England.

Boston Scott had five carries for 40 yards before leaving the game with a concussion. Swift added three catches for six yards to his excellent ground performance, while Rashaad Penny saw his first game action of the season; carrying three times for nine yards and making one catch for five.

For Minnesota, quarterback Kirk Cousins kept the Vikings in the game to the very end, going 31-for-44 for 364 yards and four touchdowns. But while Cousins didn't throw any interceptions, he did lose a fumble on Minnesota's second play of the 2nd half on a strip sack by Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat.

Wide receiver Justin Jefferson continued to be virtually unstoppable, making 11 catches for 159 yards; though he did have a costly fumble with less than a minute in the first half that killed a drive with the potential to put Minnesota in front. T.J. Hockenson made seven catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns, while Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn each had three catches, one of them for a score. Addison's catches netted 72 yards, while Osborn's were good for 34. Backup tight end Josh Oliver added two catches for 13 yards.

As for running backs, Alexander Mattison had only eight carries for 28 yards while adding three catches for eleven yards, but lost a fumble in the 1st quarter as well. Ty Chandler had two catches for nine yards and one carry for no gain.

Defensively, the Eagles' four takeaways were what saved the game for Philadelphia. Safety Justin Evans forced a fumble on a punt return by Minnesota's Brandon Powell in the 1st quarter, which was recovered by linebacker Nicholas Morrow, freshly re-signed from the Eagles practice squad in response to the injury to Nakobe Dean. Evans also recovered Mattison's fumble, which was forced by cornerback Avonte Maddox. Safety Terrell Edmunds was credited with forcing Jefferson's fumble; which was originally ruled to have gone out of bounds at the Eagles' 1-yard line, but upon further review was determined to have gone over the goal line after Jefferson lost control, resulting in a touchback. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox recovered the strip sack fumble caused by Sweat.

For Minnesota, Jackson's interception of Hurts, which occurred between Powell's and Mattison's fumbles, was the only takeaway the Vikings had in this battle.

The Vikings sacked Hurts four times; three of those belonging to top-tier pass rusher Danielle (Da-NEEL) Hunter, the other being split between defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and rookie linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. Philadelphia got to Cousins twice, with Jordan Davis registering one in addition to Sweat's strip sack.

Eagles kicker Jake Elliott, the NFC Special Teams Player of Week 1, went 2-for-3 on his field goal attempts; including a career long-matching 61-yarder as time expired in the 1st half.

Maddox left the game with what was revealed to be a torn left pectoral muscle, and it is believed his season may be over. Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins also left the game with a hamstring injury, the severity of which has not been revealed. For the Vikings, offensive tackle Oli Udoh suffered a knee injury in the 4th quarter, and was carted off the field. Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell said in his postgame press conference that Udoh's injury "does not look good", so it seems as though his season may be over as well.

Both Maddox's and Udoh's injuries further chip away at position groups already thin on depth due to injury. The Eagles were already without starting corner James Bradberry and starting safety Reed Blankenship against Minnesota, and Zech McPherson had suffered a torn Achilles during the preseason. Meanwhile, Minnesota center Garrett Bradbury was inactive; and while offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw was technically active, it was revealed postgame that he had re-aggravated the ankle injury that he'd suffered in Minnesota's Week 1 matchup against Green Bay in pregame warmups after rosters had been locked in, so he didn't play a single snap.

The Eagles will try to keep things rolling on Monday Night Football in Week 3, as they head down to Raymond James Stadium to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; while the Vikings will try to right their ship as they return home to US Bank Stadium for an early Sunday afternoon game against the L.A. Chargers.

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