MINNEAPOLIS -- After a horrendous first month of the season, and a promise by Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis that things would get better, they did. For the last 9 weeks, the defense had stated its case, never allowing more than 21 points in a game. If Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy got most of the headlines as the Eagles made their unexpected entry into the playoff race, the improvement and the consistency of the defense was just as important.
All of which is a long way of saying that nobody saw the bus coming Sunday at Mall of America Field.
The Minnesota Vikings were without the planet's top running back, Adrian Peterson, as well as his backup Toby Gerhart -- but it didn't matter. Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel had time to operate, made almost no mistakes, and picked apart the Eagles' secondary.
The final score was Vikings 48, Eagles 30. The five-game winning streak is over. With an 8-6 record and two games left to play, the playoff road just got measurably harder. And now, there is this disturbingly ragged game on their resume. Penalites, dumb mistakes, sideline indecision, odd play-calling -- for the first time in a long time, you got a whiff of wheels coming off, whatever that smells like.
But it started with a defense that was torched by the quarterback of a team with a 3-9-1 record. Cassel threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns. At one point in the game, safety Patrick Chung was benched in favor of Kurt Coleman. At the end of the game, cornerback Cary Williams -- who took one of a flurry of taunting penalties on both teams as the game wound down -- was also benched. Throw in a head injury that nickel corner Brandon Boykin suffered on a kick return, and there suddenly is a worrisome list of issues that need addressing.
Some with argue that the defense was never that good, that it gave up too many yards, that the 9 solid weeks was a product, more than anything, of lousy opposing quarterbacks (and snow). That is easy to say. But the results were the results, and nine games is a pretty big sample, and there was no denying the numbers on the scoreboard, week after week.
Suddenly, a week where the coach will earn his money.
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