Fueled by the dynamic duo of running back D’Andre Swift and wide receiver DeVonta Smith, the Philadelphia Eagles roared to life in the second half of their Week 2 “Thursday Night Football” encounter with the Minnesota Vikings, clinching a 34-28 win.
The initial half saw neither team achieving full cohesion. The Eagles’ defense made crucial stops, while their offense asserted dominance through ground plays, controlling overall time of possession. Meanwhile, the Vikings struggled with four lost fumbles. Let’s analyze how each team performed:
Amidst the game’s fluctuations, one constant for the Eagles was their formidable ground game. They amassed over 250 rushing yards, highlighted by a pair of Jalen Hurts touchdowns, offsetting an inconsistent passing attack for the second consecutive week. Notably, D’Andre Swift delivered a career-high rushing performance of 175 yards, the most by an Eagle since LeSean McCoy’s 217-yard feat in 2013. Swift carried the load in the absence of Kenneth Gainwell, who was sidelined with a rib injury.
A standout sequence unfolded in the first half when Philadelphia orchestrated a 16-play, 75-yard drive, featuring 13 rushing plays. Jalen Hurts now shares the record for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback through their first 50 career games, tying with Cam Newton at 28.
While the Eagles stand at 2-0, their passing game has faced challenges. Nonetheless, their defense managed three takeaways, and when it counted, they leaned on their strong running game, a valuable asset for the future.
Notable Breakout: DeVonta Smith exploded with four catches for 131 yards and a touchdown, including two receptions of over 50 yards. Cornerback Darius Slay predicted that Smith could soon be regarded as the league’s best receiver. While it’s premature to make that claim, Smith’s performance hints at a promising career ahead.
Impressive Stat: Including playoff games, Jalen Hurts has scored 10 rushing touchdowns on quarterback sneaks since the beginning of last season, surpassing all other signal-callers by seven. His success on these “tush push” plays, converting 34 out of 36 when pushed by teammates in the last two seasons, is unrivaled in the league during that period.
Turning Point: With the Eagles holding a 13-7 lead in the third quarter, defensive end Josh Sweat stripped the ball from Kirk Cousins, and Fletcher Cox recovered it, setting up a Hurts touchdown plunge. This marked the turning point in the game, signaling the downfall of the Vikings.
The Vikings not only suffered a loss against the Eagles but also missed a chance to secure a victory for the second consecutive game this season.
Their woes began with three fumbles lost in the first half, including a critical one by receiver Justin Jefferson as he attempted to extend the ball into the end zone. In total, the Vikings committed four fumbles in the game, compounding their struggles from a sloppy Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This made them the first NFL team since 2003 to lose six fumbles in the first two games of a season.
It’s unclear how both this game and the previous one might have unfolded if the Vikings had maintained possession of the ball. Despite the turnovers, they managed to narrow a 27-7 deficit to a one-score game on two occasions in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, they find themselves at 0-2 with challenging matchups against elite quarterbacks like Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes, along with formidable teams like the San Francisco 49ers, looming on the horizon. The Vikings must quickly find solutions to prevent their season from slipping away.
Concerning Trend: The Vikings’ running game has been virtually nonexistent in both games this season. They made minimal attempts, which is noteworthy considering their decision to release former starter Dalvin Cook in June, replacing him with longtime backup Alexander Mattison. Mattison only managed 28 yards on eight carries in this game, following a 34-yard performance on 11 carries in the previous week. Additionally, Mattison was responsible for one of the Vikings’ fumbles in this contest.
Critical Weakness: On the defensive front, the Vikings struggled to contain the Eagles’ running game. The replacement starter, D’Andre Swift, finished with an impressive 175 rushing yards, contributing to the Eagles’ total of 259 yards on the ground. The Vikings employed an unconventional defensive alignment with a three-safety base defense, often featuring minimal defensive linemen, which the Eagles capitalized on with their physical dominance.
Justin Jefferson achieved an NFL record by reaching 5,000 career receiving yards in just 52 games. He also became the first NFL player since 2011 to record 150 or more receiving yards in each of his first two games of a season. However, a crucial play in the second quarter shifted the game’s momentum. While stretching to reach the ball over the goal line after a 30-yard reception, Jefferson lost control, resulting in a touchback and turnover after a replay review. Instead of taking a 14-10 lead, the Vikings relinquished possession, and the Eagles capitalized with a 61-yard field goal by Jake Elliott as time expired in the half, taking a 13-7 lead into the locker room.