Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' win over the Eagles
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 24-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday night, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
Who knew Joe Webb had it in him? The rookie completed 17 of 26 passes (65.4%) for 195 yards and an 87.8 passer rating. He didn't commit turnover. He made big-time plays with his arm (a 46-yard strike to the post for WR Percy Harvin), his legs (a 9-yard stop-and-start scramble for a touchdown) and his head (a 17-yard slant to Harvin on the backside of a designed run play). He would have had his first NFL touchdown pass if WR Sidney Rice hadn't lost control at the sideline. And Webb saved his best for last, finding Harvin mismatched against MLB Jamar Chaney on third-and-11 and threading the needle for 19 yards to set up the clinching touchdown. It was the 12th time the Vikings put the ball in Webb's hands on third down and he converted six of them. Most important, Webb showed he can lead, handle pressure and deliver in a hostile environment -- all in his first NFL start. The Eagles rushed five or more on 12 of his 20 dropbacks (60%), but a game plan predicated on quick hits and bootlegs mostly kept him out of harm's way. Webb underthrew two balls into downfield coverage while getting his bearings early. He took a bad 10-yard sack when he should have thrown the ball away in the red zone and another on a botched bubble screen. He failed to lead his receivers enough on crossing patterns and earned a 15-yard penalty by grabbing for Chaney's facemask on a scramble. All that's just nitpicking under the circumstances, though. Webb did everything the Vikings could have asked and more.
Running backs (3½)
Maybe HB Adrian Peterson (50 snaps) really does play better in a little pain. Twenty-three days after a Herculean effort on a bad ankle against Buffalo, Peterson banged his sore knee on the opening play, sat out the rest of the series and then returned to average 5.4 yards on 22 carries, including "explosive" gains of 15, 23, 18 and 27 and a 1-yard touchdown plunge. Time and again, Peterson rendered Philadelphia's interior penetration moot by finding cutback lanes and breaking arm tackles. His vision and decision-making were superb. The fumble that ruined the 23-yard run was just a bad break -- those are bound to happen sooner or later. Peterson more than made up for it on the ground and in protection, staying in eight times without allowing a pressure. HB Toby Gerhart (seven) barely saw the field and was mostly just a protector when he did. His thin block on SLB Akeem Jordan would have forced the Vikings to punt late if not for a generous spot on Webb's 6-yard scramble. How did the Eagles only get two defenders on the edge against four stacked receivers on third-and-2? HB Lorenzo Booker (four) could have cart-wheeled the bubble screen 6 yards for a first down.
The strange, injury-shortened season of Rice (28 snaps) probably came to an end, in rather dismal fashion. He let one pass go through his hands, couldn't handle another that might have been tipped on third-and-4 and bobbled away a 2-yard touchdown on a beautifully thrown fade. Tough chances? Sure, but they're plays any team willing to pay top dollar for Rice will want to see him make consistently. When Rice finally held on to a 16-yarder on a long cross, CB Asante Samuel concussed him with a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit. Now he'll finish the season right where he began it -- on the sideline. Harvin (41) seems to catch everything, even with the Eagles pressing and occasionally bracketing him in the slot. He made the first man miss after each of his first three catches, for gains of 8, 12 and 15 yards. He spun his shoulders and hauled in the 46-yard completion with CB Dimitri Patterson hanging all over him. He beat RE Trent Cole for 7 on an end around and ran the perfect route on third-and-11 to finish with seven catches for 100 yards -- pushing him past his 2009 catch and yardage totals in only 13 games. Bernard Berrian (34) caught a pair of 8-yard drags and kicked the ball out of Peterson's arms while crackbacking on FS Kurt Coleman. Almost time to say goodnight. The Vikings really wouldn't have needed Greg Camarillo (13) if Rice hadn't gotten hurt.
Tight ends (3)
Big surprise -- that was Jimmy Kleinsasser (37 snaps) picking off Samuel at the 5-yard line to get Webb into the end zone. And sealing the backside against Cole on Peterson's 27-yard run. And getting Cole all turned around on Peterson's TD plunge two plays later. And handling defensive ends and linebackers one-on-one a half dozen times in pass protection. Quickness can beat Kleinsasser at times, but he's rarely going to get overpowered. He might have had more than 3 yards on his lone catch if he hadn't lost his footing. Visanthe Shiancoe (43) got behind busted coverage for a 23-yard gain but otherwise was quiet in the passing game and typically up-and-down as a blocker. Moving LE Juqua Parker one-on-one is a lot to ask. Jeff Dugan (22) got more work than usual because the Vikings used multiple tight ends on 38 of 61 snaps (62.2%). He was OK with the exception of one significant protection miscue, allowing Cole to thwart a bubble screen with a sack in 2.8 seconds.
Offensive linemen (3)
Two sacks, one additional QB hit and seven total "pressures?" The Vikings will take those numbers when a quarterback is making his first start against the zone-blitzing Eagles -- especially since two of the pressures were on the perimeter off bootlegs and two others were extra-hat blitzers. Of course, coaches gave the line plenty of help, utilizing chips or extra-man protections on all but two of Webb's dropbacks (90%) when they weren't booting and rolling him away from pressure off the snap. LT Bryant McKinnie was too slow to help Dugan on the sack, DT Trevor Laws got underneath C John Sullivan for a hit, DE Darryl Tapp bulled RT Phil Loadholt for a pressure and that was it. Sullivan deserves credit for working with Webb to keep the protections straight. However, Sullivan also whiffed on Chaney, who dropped Harvin for an early loss, and got walked back repeatedly by DT Mike Patterson and DT Antonio Dixon in the run game. Getting stronger and healthier have to be Sullivan's focuses in the offseason. RG Ryan Cook had a hand in three runs for loss or no gain but was OK overall. He and Loadholt had great seals on Peterson's 18-yard run. Loadholt probably will pay another hefty fine for his latest facemask penalty, which helped stall a first-quarter drive. Why can't he keep his hands down? McKinnie's handling of Cole was solid overall. He even got the upper hand on Peterson's 24-yard run. McKinnie and LG Chris DeGeare each had a hand in two runs for loss. DeGeare has the natural power to get better. Maybe Anthony Herrera needs to show him how to get nasty.
Defensive linemen (3½)
It didn't take long for RE Jared Allen (68 snaps) to figure out he could whip LT Jason Peters around the edge all day, especially with Vikings DC Fred Pagac jimmying one-on-ones by deploying extra rushers at a dizzying 51.9% clip (27 of 52 dropbacks). Allen cleaned up trash for one sack, chased another for S Jamarca Sanford and ended up with 10 total pressures of Eagles QB Michael Vick, who resorted to abandoning his drops and rolling left underneath the pressure. Allen learned his lesson after losing contain on Vick's early 14-yard scramble and disrupted multiple misdirection plays, including an end around to WR DeSean Jackson that went nowhere and a draw to HB LeSean McCoy that lost 5. He truly was tireless. UT Kevin Williams (63) set up Allen's sack with one of his four pressures and stripped Vick of the ball Allen recovered. LE Ray Edwards (56) added a sack and a hit against RT Winston Justice. And DT Letroy Guion (31 snaps) -- who got more work than starting NT Pat Williams (24) on a day the Eagles ran only 13 times at a 3.4 average with McCoy -- made a diving takedown for the Vikings' sixth sack. The last team to do that sort of damage against Vick was the New York Giants, who sacked him seven times on Oct. 15, 2006. DT Jimmy Kennedy (22) and DE Everson Griffen (seven) added a hit and a pressure, respectively. DL Brian Robison (28) played a lot at multiple spots and only cracked the box score by dropping McCoy for a loss on an aborted play. Pat Williams kept getting knocked back and didn't get in on a single tackle. He did draw a holding penalty.
Seventeen of the Vikings' blitzes (63%) were zone pressures with a defensive lineman dropping in coverage, and all but one of the nine combinations Pagac deployed involved at least one linebacker. MLB E.J. Henderson (75 snaps) blitzed 16 times and got home four (25%), once setting up a sack for Edwards. SLB Chad Greenway (75) blitzed 11 times and got home three (27.3%), hitting Vick once and setting up Guion's sack by blasting through McCoy. WLB Ben Leber (27) played sparingly because the Eagles were throwing so much, blitzed four times and beat Peters to impact a throw CB Frank Walker should have intercepted. Henderson, who was credited with four solo tackles, might have needed to get more depth on TE Clay Harbor's early 3-yard touchdown catch. Greenway tied for the team lead with nine tackles (eight solo) and made a fabulous recovery to chop down TE Brent Celek for no gain on first-and-goal from the 3. Celek did run past his zone coverage for a 22-yard gain -- one of six passes thrown in Greenway's area, all complete for 50 yards. OLB Erin Henderson played one snap in goal line and exited with a concussion.
Defensive backs (4)
CB Antoine Winfield (74 snaps) blitzed his way to one of the best games of his 12-year career. The entire game changed in the final minute of the first half, when Winfield accelerated off the offensive left edge, poked the ball out of Vick's left hand with his right and then located, scooped and sprinted for a game-tying 45-yard touchdown. Just like that, the Vikings had life and the Eagles never led again. It was one of 16 slot blitzes by Winfield, who only got home four times (25%) -- all in the first half, two of them yielding untouched sacks -- but forced the Eagles to rethink their protection altogether. They ended up chipping or using an extra blocker on 31 dropbacks (59.6%), and with fewer players in pattern, Vick's passer rating (74.1) was a season low. The rest of the secondary had a chance for a great day but had to settle for pretty good. Walker (48), CB Lito Sheppard (30) and Sanford (74) all had would-be interceptions go through their hands. Sanford's was the least egregious, and Jackson interfered with him. Only S Husain Abdullah (75) held on, taking advantage of a Vick pass that sailed well behind Jackson's corner-post route to tie Henderson for the team lead with his third interception. CB Asher Allen (47) got picked on as usual until he whiffed on WR Jeremy Maclin in space and didn't get up. Vick threw at Allen 10 times, completed five for 80 yards and drew two penalties for another 29. Regardless of Allen's health, it might be worth looking a little more at Walker, who allowed only two completions for 17 yards into his coverage in six attempts. Sanford held up OK overall in his second NFL start, but he could have played both touchdowns better -- hesitating to cover up Harbor at the post and getting juked out of his shoes on the draw Vick took for a 10-yard score. Then again, that's Vick. Jackson had the safeties split a couple of times deep and Vick's throws were off the mark. None of Abdullah's three blitzes got home.
P Chris Kluwe could have gotten himself in trouble with three of six punts that hung 3.4, 3.1 and 3.1 seconds, respectively. But his placement overall was good, and the Eagles oddly opted to put the dynamic Jackson deep only once. The result was two fair catches, one punt downed, one out of bounds, one touchback and one return by Maclin for 9 yards. Kluwe grossed 38.7, netted 33.8 and averaged 3.8 seconds of hang time. Sanford's penalty for interference was the right call, but there wasn't much he could do about it -- Maclin butchered the fair catch. PK Ryan Longwell was his usual self, hitting two extra points and a 30-yard field goal with ease. The Vikings sure would miss his steady foot if he signs elsewhere. Five kickoffs averaged 3.6 seconds of hang time and the Eagles averaged only 16.5 yards on four returns, plus a fair catch. LS Cullen Loeffler was flawless. Camarillo (two punt returns, 8 yards) and Booker (one kick return, 27 yards) didn't get many chances.