THE EAGLES were doing a really good job covering returns, before last Sunday.
An 8-inch snowfall might have helped LeSean McCoy gain 217 yards, but it did not help his friends on the punt and kickoff coverage teams, who gave up a 58-yard punt return touchdown and a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown to the Lions' Jeremy Ross.
The Birds dropped from third in the league in punt coverage and 18th in kickoff coverage going into the game, to 13th and 27th as they prepare to head to Minnesota to face a team that ranks second overall in returning punts and in returning kickoffs. Primary punt returner Marcus Sherels, a cornerback, averages 13.1 yards bringing back punts (fourth in the NFL) and electric wideout Cordarrelle Patterson averages 33.3 on kickoffs (first).
Though Chip Kelly said he thought the snow negated the Eagles' special-teams speed against Detroit, there were breakdowns as well, which needed to be addressed.
"We've got a tall task in front of us," Eagles special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp said yesterday. "I'll never make excuses. There definitely were a number of factors out there, but we didn't do a number of things well enough. We got some good film we can learn from, get better."
Patterson, the Vikings' most explosive offensive weapon if Adrian Peterson doesn't play with a foot injury, is as big a home-run threat as there is in the league right now.
"A lot of teams aren't wanting to kick to him now, because they've seen how explosive he is," Eagles special-teams leader Colt Anderson said. "It's going to be a big challenge for us. He's able to break tackles and really to find space that almost looks like it's not there. He's done a phenomenal job for them."
Another core special-teamer, linebacker Brandon Graham, said the Eagles have to gameplan for Patterson on defense and on special teams.
"We've got to have 11 people getting to the ball, getting after him. It's just a mindset when you come across a person like that. You can't be nervous just because of what he's done before," Graham said.
Asked about the snow last Sunday, Graham said he didn't want to make excuses, but "that wasn't us. We move forward from that. We just can't wait to bounce back."
Running back and special-teamer Chris Polk said the Eagles want to "prove we're not that team that gave up those two touchdowns off returns."
One mitigating factor could be that the Vikings have given up some big returns this season.
Corner Cary Williams suddenly appeared on the injury report with the notation that he was limited in practice yesterday because of a hamstring injury. This was well after reporters talked to Chip Kelly for the final time this week, and after the locker room had closed. So, your guess is as good as mine, as far as what that's all about and whether it's serious . . . Jason Peters said he lost about 25 pounds to facilitate his return from Achilles' surgery, which has gone well . . . "Wind shouldn't be a factor" in the Vikings' dome "unless they have the AC blowing up or something," Nick Foles said . . . LB Najee Goode and S Earl Wolff will be game-time decisions, Kelly indicated. Both were listed as limited in yesterday's practice. Wolff said: "I got a lot more reps today. It's still a little sore at times" . . . The Eagles are 5-1 on the road this season, the Vikings are 3-3 at home, 0-6-1 on the road . . . Minnesota has a minus-7 giveaway-takeaway ratio, the Eagles are plus-9 . . . The Eagles are now tied for fifth in the NFL in red-zone defense. The Vikings are tied for 27th.