Vikings' delayed shocker exposes Eagles' lack of urgency for playoffs
Antoine Winfield and the Vikes defense overtly blitzed Michael Vick all night
The Eagles (No. 3 slot) will likely face the Packers or Giants in the wild-card round
Philly should rest Vick in Week 17 vs. Dallas, now a game with little meaning
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Things we learned from the Vikings' shocking win over the Eagles on Tuesday night ...
1. If a team comes into an NFL game not ready to play, it's going to lose -- no matter how lopsided the matchup looks on paper. The Eagles were still high off last week's win over the Giants and were already game-planning for next Sunday's game against the Cowboys. They didn't think they needed their best effort against a Vikings club that had lost its last two games by a combined score of 61-7 and hadn't beaten a winning team all season.
But the Vikings that stumbled into Lincoln Field weren't as bad as their recent record indicated. They'd had to deal with the Metrodome collapse and were without Adrian Peterson in Week 15. But the biggest surprise was quarterback Joe Webb. Nothing the Eagles saw on film could have prepared them for Webb's performance. The rookie completed 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards and ran for a nifty nine-yard touchdown to secure his place as the greatest Tuesday night quarterback in league history.
As surprising as Webb was, it was interim head coach Leslie Frazier's defense that really caught the Eagles off guard. The Vikings didn't try to hide anything -- they blitzed cornerback Antoine Winfield relentlessly and he got in unblocked on Vick time and time again. Philly seemed like it couldn't believe Minnesota was sending him so often. Even when the Eagles adjusted and blocked the veteran defensive back, they let him by a few plays later and he forced a Michael Vick fumble and returned it for the key touchdown in the game.
2. The Eagles have both a short- and long-term problem with the hits defenses are getting on Vick. Teams are starting to focus on harassing Vick so he doesn't have time to make long throws to DeSean Jackson. And they know Andy Reid isn't going to turn to the running game to take pressure off Vick.
The Giants were successful at disrupting Vick's rhythm for three quarters last week. The Vikings did an even better job rushing Vick and making sure he didn't have time to find receivers. Minnesota sacked Vick six times and hit him hard on several scrambles.
Not surprisingly, Vick's numbers have begun to dip. He didn't throw an interception in his first seven games. He's thrown six in his last five games, and should have had at least two more Tuesday. Vikings defenders Lito Sheppard and Frank Walker dropped near-perfect interception opportunities.
The turnovers could pose a problem in the wild-card round. The Eagles will likely play the Packers or Giants -- two teams that can get after the quarterback. New York's defense would be eager to get another shot at Vick. And Green Bay would have a much better game plan than it did in Week 1, when Vick shined as Kevin Kolb's replacement.
Looking down the road, the Eagles have to worry about making a sizeable investment in a 29-year-old quarterback who will always take off downfield --despite his improvement as a pocket passer. And Vick showed once again he doesn't know how to slide or get rid of the ball to avoid a hit.
3. The Vikings still have breathtaking talent. There's a reason Brett Favre wanted to come back to this team. Peterson, who had 118 yards and a touchdown, runs harder than anyone in the league. The Vikings are just starting to figure out what they have in Percy Harvin, who showed Tuesday he can beat a cornerback long and turn short passes into big gains. Defensive end Jared Allen couldn't quite catch Vick, but his name came up a lot. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams moves ridiculously well for a large man and had a great strip on Vick. And newly named Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Greenway is relentless.
The Vikings had a lot of bad luck this season, with injuries in the secondary and offensive line changing everything. And they started out with the hardest schedule in the NFL. But on Tuesday night, we saw the guys who came within moments of reaching the Super Bowl last season.
4. The Eagles may not be able to avoid another late-season/playoff collapse after all. Their players promised there wouldn't be a repeat of 2009, when they dropped their last two games to Dallas in uninspiring fashion. They didn't show up for most of the Giants game last week, and they didn't show up at all against Minnesota.
Sometimes we forget how young Philadelphia is. They're starting two rookie defenders from Round 7, and their big offensive playmakers -- other than Vick -- are in their early 20s.
Philly has time to rebound from Tuesday's loss, but it's going to need strong leadership to have everyone believing they're capable of reaching the Super Bowl. On Tuesday, the Eagles didn't have a killer instinct that's paramount for the playoffs.
5. The Eagles can pull something positive out of the loss. Now they know they'll be a No. 3 seed and don't have to play their starters against Dallas in Week 17. They'll have to play three games in a 12- or 13-day span and are already stretched thin by injuries on defense. And Vick, who was limping all night, needs time to recover.
The most important aspect of the mental break: The coaching staff figuring out how to get Vick out of harm's way. They can treat the Dallas game as an off week, and Reid is unbeatable after a bye (12-0 in the regular season). Look for the Eagles to mix up their offense a lot more in the wild-card round. Even after this week's performance, the defensive coordinator that sees Vick in two weeks will have a lot of work to do.
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