Making the Grade: Eagles vs. Vikings

After a disastrous Sunday at the Linc that resulted in an incredibly frustrating 23-21 loss to the Vikings let’s look at how the Eagles performed position-by-position.

Quarterback: B+

Carson Wentz’s stat line was solid: 24/35 for 311 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had the fumble that went for a Vikings touchdown, put that was partly a fluke and the offensive line deserves some blame as well. Once again, Wentz got very little help from his teammates, from the offensive line to the running backs to the pass catchers. Wentz made some plays with his legs and generally put the ball where it needed to be. Not blaming Carson for this one.

Running Backs: C-

The Eagles managed just 81 yards against one of the worst rush defenses in the league, and 26 of those came on Carson Wentz scrambles. Jay Ajayi’s red zone fumble as the Eagles were gaining momentum was devastating and inexcusable. Wendell Smallwood was a bright spot, averaging nine yards per carry and adding three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown, but received just three carries. Part of the problem here lies with the playcalling, but we’ll get to that later.

Wide Receivers: D

The wide receivers managed just eight catches, which is obviously not enough. The good news is that the receivers got much more vertical, but again, the team needs more production. Alshon Jeffery made a huge catch, but also had a devastating drop and caught just two of his eight targets. This unit has been a concern all season long, and that continued on Sunday.

Tight Ends: A+

One of the lone bright spots on Sunday. Zach Ertz was phenomenal, hauling in 10 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, while Dallas Goedert grabbed both of his two targets. Excellent production from this group.

Offensive Line: D

This unit looks nothing like the dominant force it was a season ago. There were a few bright spots, but generally Carson Wentz was under pressure, getting sacked three times and hit eight times. In addition, the Eagles had an unacceptable amount of false start penalties. Again, playcalling comes into play here, as Doug Pederson failed to establish an aggressive line with a pass-heavy offense early in the game. Bottom line, this unit is falling far short of expectations.

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Bill Streicher / USA Today Sports

Defensive Line: C+

The D-line generated nine quarterback hits and recorded a sack. They also had a huge sack taken away on a ridiculous roughing the passer penalty that unfortunately had an outsized impact on the game. They did a good job controlling the Vikings run game. But Chris Long made a crucial error in leaving his feet after coming free, and overall there just weren’t enough impact plays made on Sunday.

Linebackers: C+

Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham were all over the field, combining for 16 tackles, two QB hits, and a tackle for loss. But again, not enough big impact plays.

Secondary: D

The secondary was again a major issue for the Eagles. They got toasted by Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Laquon Treadwell. That trio combined for 20 catches, 228 yards and a touchdown. Overall, the Vikings completed 30 of 37 attempts for 301 yards. Thielen had a 68-yard backbreaker. Jalen Mills again struggled mightily. The tackling from this unit left a lot to be desired. Another disappointing effort from this group.

Special Teams: B

DeAndre Carter racked up 86 return yards, Jake Elliott was 2/2 on field goals and 1/1 on extra points, and Cameron Johnston put two of his four punts inside the 20. There were no egregious errors and this unit did enough to help the team win.

Coaching: F

A big, fat F. This was Doug Pederson’s worst performance in recent memory. We all love the guy and will be forever grateful for last season, but he was bad on Sunday. The playcalling was curious all day, especially early when it was unnecessarily pass-heavy. His decision to challenge a Stefon Diggs catch was one of the worst challenge decisions you’ll ever see and cost the Eagles a valuable timeout. His decision to punt instead of letting Elliott try a 58-yard field goal with the Eagles trailing by six will be debated all week and considering the way the defense was playing and the time left in the game, questioning the decision is more than fair. The decision was even more baffling considering Pederson gambled by going for two after the Eagles first touchdown to make it a six-point game instead of seven, so it felt odd for him to go away from the aggressive approach. In addition, some of the blame for the penalties has to be placed on the coaching staff as well. In particular, the Eagles were penalized twice for the same illegal formation. That’s discipline, and the coaches are responsible for that.

Overview

It’s hard to know exactly how to distribute the frustration of this game. It was hard on the eyes, the Eagles left a lot of plays on the field, and they continuously shot themselves in the foot. Despite how bad the defense looked in terms of the eye test, they surrendered only 16 points when you remember that the Vikings defense scored seven on the Wentz fumble, and that is good enough to win the game. The Eagles’ two turnovers were killer, with one leading directly to a score and the other occurring in the red zone, likely taking points off the board for the Eagles. Take one of those away, and we might be feeling a whole lot different today. In addition, the ridiculous roughing the passer penalty directly led to seven points for the Vikings, and the Eagles lost by two. Despite the ugliness of the game and the Eagles sub-par play, the Eagles could have just as easily won this game, and that, combined with the officiating/rules mishap, intensify the frustration.

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