- ESPN.com national NFL writer
- ESPN.com NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
- Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 on Monday night as quarterback Jalen Hurts was in control on the ground (57 yards, 2 TDs) and through the air (26-of-31, 333 yards), while the Eagles’ defense frustrated Kirk Cousins & Co., coming away with three interceptions.
Hurts has been the team’s best player in both games so far, and that’s no small thing. Entering the season, the big question was whether Hurts was good enough to take advantage of a loaded roster and turn the Eagles into legit contenders. There’s a long way to go, but he has been dynamite so far. Vegas has taken notice. Hurts’ MVP odds moved from 14-1 to 8-1 at Caesars Sportsbook following Monday’s win. He is now the third favorite behind Josh Allen (+325) and Patrick Mahomes (+450). The big improvement has been Hurts’ passing. He was decisive and accurate with his throws against Minnesota. Given how effective he is as a runner, defenses are going to have a very hard time containing him if he continues to burn it up through the air.
Promising trend: The Eagles’ defense got off the mat in a big way after yielding 35 points to Jared Goff and the Lions Week 1. The difference? Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was much more aggressive. He dialed up a number of creative blitzes and had the corners challenging the gifted group of Minnesota receivers. The result was three interceptions, including a pair by Slay.
Pivotal play: Early in the second quarter, Hurts found a streaking Quez Watkins for a 53-yard touchdown to put the Eagles ahead for good. It was a total defensive breakdown, with three defenders gravitating toward tight end Dallas Goedert while Watkins cruised down the field unmarked.
QB breakdown: This was Hurts’ third games since the beginning of last season with two rush touchdowns and a passing touchdown. The rest of the league has four, per ESPN Stats & Information research. — Tim McManus
Underrated statistic to know: Hurts is the second Eagle in the Super Bowl era with 300 passing yards and two rushing TDs in a game. He joins quarterback Mike Vick, who did it on Monday Night Football in 2010 against Washington.
Next game: at Commanders (1 p.m. ET, Sept. 25)
There is a very good reason to avoid overreacting to Week 1. It’s called Week 2, and it has a way of leveling off any quick assessments. And so it went Monday night for the Vikings, who were dominated physically and schematically. The loss came one week after they dominated the Green Bay Packers physically and schematically in a rousing win to open the season. So which performance best indicates the type of team the Vikings will be this season? The answer to such questions is usually somewhere in the middle, but it will take some time to dig through the rubble left by Hurts, who completed 26 of 31 passes for 333 yards while accounting for all three Eagles touchdowns.
Eye-popping Next Gen Stat: Darius Slay shut down Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson one week after Jefferson had a career-high 184 receiving yards against the Packers. With Slay as the nearest defender, Jefferson had one reception for 7 yards on five targets. Slay intercepted two of those passes.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The Vikings opened in a shell defense against Hurts and the Eagles’ offense and were immediately clobbered. Hurts completed his first nine passes and had 251 passing yards at halftime alone. The Vikings didn’t blitz often. By midway through the fourth quarter, they had sent an extra rusher on 19% of his dropbacks and had gotten pressure on only 25% of his dropbacks. This defense is predicated on getting heat from pass-rushers Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, and neither made much of an impact. Although the Eagles were slowed considerably in the second half, the damage was done.
Troubling trend: Cousins threw two interceptions in the red zone during the third quarter, and a third in the fourth, all when the Vikings were trailing by 21 points. In other words, the interceptions quashed a genuine chance to get back in the game. The picks immediately revived social media talk of Cousins’ record on Monday Night Football games, which is now 2-10. One was a miscommunication with Jefferson, who appeared to be apologizing to Cousins in the moments afterward. But the others were a forced pass to receiver Adam Thielen, who was bracketed in coverage, and a jump ball to Jefferson that was short of its mark. — Kevin Seifert
Underrated statistic to know: On passes on 10 or more air yards, Cousins was 4-of-10 for 61 yards and two picks.
Next game: vs. Lions (1 p.m. ET, Sept. 25)
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