Vikings Film Review: Minnesota struggles vs. Eagles coverage

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Justin Jefferson
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Justin Jefferson /

The Minnesota Vikings suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 in the city of brotherly love.

The Minnesota Vikings looked unprepared in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings could not get in sync and quarterback Kirk Cousins continued his case of the Mondays on “Monday Night Football” to extend his record to 2-10 in such games.

Last week, we saw the Green Bay Packers take a very conservative approach in defending Minnesota’s offense where they sat back into quarters coverage and gave receivers lots of space off of the ball. The result was a 23-7 victory for the Vikings where the team racked up almost 400 yards of offense.

Monday night could not have been more different. In the atmosphere of the Eagles’ home opener in a packed Lincoln Financial Field on a warm Monday night, the Philadelphia fans and the team both turned the heat up on the Vikings.

Minnesota Vikings stifled by Philadelphia Eagles pass coverage in Week 2

Rather than give Minnesota the same quarters looks that Green Bay did, Philadelphia bet on themselves (and their corners), sticking to man coverage to defend the Vikings’ aerial attack led by phenom Justin Jefferson.

The Eagles threw a defense at the Vikings inspired by Don Draper, playing Mad Men, and completely shut down Minnesota’s offense, who did not even get a first down until halfway through the second quarter.

Part of the reason for this was that the Vikings’ defense could not get off the field. However, Minnesota was also unable to capitalize on the opportunities that the defense did give them in the game. Whether it was forcing a punt, blocking a field goal, or coming up with an interception, the Vikings came away with zero points off of turnovers or punts on the night.

Take Minnesota’s second possession of the game for example. On 3rd-and-5, down 7-0 after forcing Philadelphia to punt, Cousins threw a pass to tight end Irv Smith Jr. that would have been well short of the first down marker. On the same play, the Vikings quarterback missed a chance to lead wide receiver Adam Thielen to the sideline for what would have been a big first down.

The Eagles came out with a two-high safety look and showed press-man the entire time. On the snap of the ball, they rolled their field safety over the top of Jefferson to double-cover him. This created one-on-one matchups across the board, an offense’s dream come true. A matchup like this should have generated plenty of more targets for Thielen, who has built a strong rapport with Cousins over the years and is still one of the best receivers in the NFL.

Due to the attention Jefferson drew, Thielen was matched up with Philadelphia cornerback Avonte Maddox and ran a crossing route. The tight coverage and the intensity of the home crowd got to Cousins, who checked it down to Smith for an incompletion.

What is puzzling about this play is that Cousins had a clean pocket and chose to get rid of the ball as if it were a grenade ready to blow his hand off. Perhaps more puzzling is the fact that Minnesota fans have seen the veteran quarterback make this throw countless times to both Jefferson and Thielen (think 2019 divisional round vs. the New Orleans Saints). The Monday night lights were acting as a 12th defender for Philadelphia.

So while the man coverage and the bright Monday night lights made things difficult on Cousins, he was not the only one affected by this defense.

On another crucial third down, Minnesota only had two yards to go for a first down. Down 14-7 and having just forced another punt, the Vikings went three-and-out.

Minnesota’s offense came out in their empty formation where they enjoyed so much success in Week 1. The Eagles matched in a man coverage look that saw cornerback Darius Slay matched up with Jefferson and one high safety over the top.

With no receivers able to take advantage of the one-on-one matchups, Cousins was forced to try and fit the ball into the tightest of windows to an absolutely smothered Smith. The result was a pass breakup and a roar from Philadelphia’s home crowd.

Where the Vikings’ offense looked dominant in Week 1 against a Packers team that played on its heels, the team could not adjust to an Eagles team that came out and punched them in the mouth from the first snap.

Expect a very aggressive Detroit Lions team that gave the Eagles all they could handle in Week 1 to come to Minnesota hungry on Sunday.

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