Ever since Michael Vick's masterful performance in Washington, the Eagles' opponents have known that to have a chance, they must attack the quarterback.

The Bears did it with twists and stunts and an athletic front four; the Giants used their defensive backs to add pressure. But everyone has made hitting Vick a priority.

So it should have been little surprise when the Vikings made their pass rush a priority, but even after Minnesota showed its hand on the second play of the game, the Eagles couldn't adjust, and it cost them dearly at the end of the first half, and in the race for playoff seeding.

By the end of Tuesday's 24-14 loss, Vick was sacked six times - the most the Eagles have allowed since giving up six in Week 1 - and hurried seven times. He had three turnovers, and it could have been worse if the Vikings secondary had better hands.

He had his worst game of the year.

"Our coaching staff did a great job throwing in blitzes and the fronts that we did," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. "We knew that we had to stay very aggressive and make the plays against Vick and trap him or we would pay."

The Eagles struggled to adapt.

On the second play, cornerback Antoine Winfield abandoned pass coverage and raced at Vick, coming from the quarterback's blind side for a sack.

The cornerback estimated that he blitzed Vick six more times over the first two quarters, leading to his momentum-changing strip-sack, fumble recovery, and return for a touchdown. Winfield and linebacker E.J. Henderson rushed Vick on the play, coming from the left on a blitz almost identical to the one they ran on the game's first drive.

By that time, Winfield's blitzing should have been familiar to the Eagles' blockers and coaches. On the strip-sack, he was in Vick's field of vision the entire time.

"There was a free guy and so you have to account for that guy, and I didn't think we did a very good job with that," coach Andy Reid said. "And then there were some things protection-wise that we can help with that take care of that. But we just have to be more aware of where and if they bring an extra man."

At several points, the Vikings seemed to fool the Eagles with varied formations. They often put six men at the line of scrimmage, only for two or three to drop into pass coverage while Winfield rushed. This let Winfield get free runs at Vick, even when the Eagles had as many blockers as the Vikings had pass rushers.

In other instances, the Vikings brought an extra man, and Vick didn't get the ball away fast enough.

"The game plan was to disguise some of our plays and not let him know when we were going to blitz him," linebacker Ben Leber said.

Leber said the Vikings brought more pressure than usual because of Vick's talent. They surprised and confused the Eagles, even though the Eagles have seen heavy pressure for weeks.

"There were breakdowns in communication. They blitzed us a lot more than what we were expecting, and we didn't make the right calls," tackle Winston Justice said.

To be fair, the problems weren't all in protection. On on a second-and-9 play, Winfield was shoved aside by LeSean McCoy, but Vick threw the ball into a defender's arms, only for it to be dropped. On the next play, Winfield rushed again and was picked up by Jason Avant, giving Vick time to throw deep. But the pass was way off and was intercepted.

The Eagles have said all year that they welcome the blitz. They see it as an opportunity for their big-play offense to strike. Reid shed light on this philosophy after the Giants game, saying that against a blitzing team, "there might be five [plays] that look bad, but you're going to get one and normally it's a big one."

That has been true much of the season. But Tuesday night, the big plays on the blitz came from the Vikings.

It's tempting to say that the Eagles' playoff opponents will take note, but the reality is that the book has long been out that attacking Vick is the best way to slow down this potent offense. The next time the Eagles face heavy blitzes, they shouldn't be surprised.

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JonathanTamari.