The Eagles were worried about their pass defense entering Sunday's game in Minnesota. The Vikings have an underrated group of receivers, and the Eagles had the No. 31 pass defense in the NFL.
Their fears were realized when Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel completed 26 of 35 attempts for 382 yards and two touchdowns. Veteran receiver Greg Jennings starred with 11 catches for 163 yards.
"Right from the get-go, I thought Cassel was on fire and throwing the ball around a little bit," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the coverage was not tight enough. The Eagles also did not apply enough pressure on Cassel.
The Eagles were particularly undone by big plays, which hadn't been a major issue for them this season. The Vikings had passing plays of 57, 42, and 37 yards.
"It was a bad day all around," Davis said. "I don't know what else there is to say."
Faced with fourth and 1 midway through the third quarter, Kelly elected to go for it from the Eagles 24-yard line. The Eagles were trailing, 24-9, at the time, and Kelly, who has been mostly conservative this season, said that he thought his offense could convert.
"And I also thought if we don't make it, we're in trouble," he said. "If you can't get half a yard, maybe it tells you what the day is all about."
Center Jason Kelce said the play was designed for LeSean McCoy to run behind him and guard Evan Mathis.
"It looked like he just dove forward," Kelce said. "I'm not sure why we didn't get it, but it wasn't very good. In all honesty, we shouldn't have even been in that situation."
The Eagles failed a play earlier on third and 1. Both spots seemed questionable, but Kelly only challenged the second one. He lost the challenge, and the Vikings took over on downs and kicked a field goal four plays later.
After the Eagles had trimmed the lead to 27-22 late in the third quarter, the Vikings responded with a deflating touchdown.
The key play on the drive came on third and 14 at the Eagles 42. Cassel threw to tight end Chase Ford over the middle. Mychal Kendricks was covering, went for the ball, and missed. The Eagles defense has given up a number of conversions on third and long this season.
"I should have knocked it out. I went for the pick-six," Kendricks said. "My last step, I misplaced my step and starting falling. Got my hands on the ball, but it went right through my hands, and he caught it."
Colt Anderson, in at safety because of injuries, whiffed on Ford, and the tight end picked up 37 yards to the 5-yard line. Two plays later, running back Matt Asiata scored.
Signed before the season after Cincinnati waived him, cornerback Shaun Prater never quite caught on with the Eagles. He was active for only one of seven games and was released when the Eagles picked up linebacker Emmanuel Acho in October. The Vikings signed him not long after, and because of a rash of injuries, Prater started Sunday.
The Eagles' game plan was to attack the second-year corner, and for a good portion of the game it worked. But Prater had a few moments. He drew an offensive pass-interference penalty on receiver Jason Avant and intercepted Nick Foles in the third quarter.
It's hardly ever a good sign when your quarterback leads the team in rushing, especially if that quarterback is Foles. The Eagles quarterback rushed five times for 41 yards, picking up most of that ground in the first half.
Foles showed that he isn't as slow as some say, but he needs to work on his slides. There were a few times when he awkwardly went to the ground, but because he didn't completely give himself up took unnecessary hits. Michael Vick, of course, never learned how to properly slide in 13 seasons in the league. Foles might have helped himself and the team if he attended a few spring-training practices with the Phillies and learned how to hook slide.
As poor as Davis' defense played, it did manage to come up with a big turnover when Kendricks intercepted Cassel in the third quarter. The pass was low and deflected off defensive lineman Bennie Logan, and the Eagles linebacker plucked the ball out of the air for his second pick of the season.
"I dropped to the flat in my coverage, and Bennie Logan got a hand up," Kendricks said. "I was in good position to get the pick. It hit my hands, but I had to secure it. There were guys all around me."
The Eagles converted the interception into six points, but that was one of the few times the defense stopped Cassel and the Vikings.
The Eagles were charged with nine penalties for 94 yards. In the fourth quarter, the Eagles had two personal fouls and a taunting penalty.
Cornerback Cary Williams was flagged for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter. He was replaced with Roc Carmichael for the Eagles' next possession. Kelly said it was Davis' decision.
"I put Roc in there to settle [Williams] down a little bit," Davis said. "He was very upset, very mad, like we all were. I just let him cool down a little bit."
Williams declined to comment after the game.