Vikings head coach Dennis Green said during the Vikings' bye week that he had to teach his team how to win on the road. Either the professor needs a new group of students or the campus at Winter Park needs a new dean. Whichever the case, Minnesota continues its string of embarrassing play, especially on the road.
Here is the most important fact about the Vikings: If they can't tackle on defense, their offense will have to score a touchdown on every possession. Obviously, that is an oversimplification of the team's problems, but it is the simplest, most precise breakdown of what is happening to this once-feared team. It isn't tackling on defense, forcing the offense to abandon the run early to catch up — and it all snowballs.
A brief summary of the Vikings' disgrace at Veteran's Stadium: The defense allowed Eagles running back Duce Staley his first 100-yard game of the season (146 rushing and 85 receiving), and Staley was more entertained with spinning the ball after long runs through missed tackles than with the game itself. The defense missed about 20 tackles by halftime for the second consecutive game and allowed the most points the Eagles have scored with Andy Reid as head coach. The offense couldn't run the ball for the seventh time in eight games. The defensive line was inept at pressuring the quarterback (no sacks by the defensive line), and one of the few times the offense went deep Cris Carter was forced to pull down the defensive back to avoid an interception.
The result was a 48-17 pasting from the Eagles and some gaudy statistics. Philly averaged 7.8 yards per rush and had 272 rushing yards. Minnesota rushed for 56 yards, with quarterback Daunte Culpepper the leading rusher — again — with 21 yards. Culpepper was sacked six times and the only Vikings sack came from Kailee Wong on a blitz. The rest of the time there was little pressure.
It started early in Philadelphia.
After both teams picked up one first down and punted, the Eagles took their second possession 45 yards for a touchdown, without much resistance from the Vikings defense. Duce Staley, who ran for 50 yards on six carries in the first quarter, started it with a 21-yard run, and wide receiver James Thrash picked up the next first down with a 6-yard catch to the 14-yard line. On the next play, only the fifth of the drive, Donovan McNabb found wide receiver James Thrash open up cutting across the middle of the end zone and hit him in stride for an easy touchdown and a 7-0 lead at 9:38 of the first quarter.
The Vikings regained control of field position on their next drive after a kickoff return to the 42-yard line by Nate Jacquet and picking up two first downs on a 7-yard run by Doug Chapman and a 9-yard pass to Cris Carter. But after driving to the Eagles' 34-yard line, Dennis Green called for the punt team, gaining 23 yards of field position with a punt to the 9-yard line.
The field position wouldn't matter, however, as the Eagles jammed the ball through the Vikings' porous defense. McNabb picked up the initial first down with a 10-yard run. Then Staley ran for 17 on the next play and followed that with a 3-yard run. McNabb found Freddie Mitchell for 17 yards, then the quarterback ran for 15 to the 27-yard line. After a false start, on consecutive plays McNabb found Todd Pinkston for 12 yards, Staley ran for 8 yards and McNabb finished the 10-play, 91-yard drive with a 12-yard run to the end zone and a 14-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
Another strong return to midfield helped, but after picking up one first down the offense fizzled again and punted. But they got another chance quickly when Kenny Wright stripped James Thrash of the ball after a short reception, and the Vikings recovered.
But with the ball on the 24-yard line the offense could do nothing, and the Vikings were forced to settle for a 43-yard field goal. It was only a mild salve on a very open, bleeding wound.
The Eagles kept it coming, answering with a 35-yard field, but Philadelphia poured it on after that. The surge to halftime and a 31-10 lead started with a sack of Daunte Culpepper by Hugh Douglas, who stripped the ball and the Eagles recovered on the Vikings' 18-yard line. On second down, Thrash scored on a 17-yard pass with 4:28 left in the half.
On the next play from scrimmage, Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent intercepted Culpepper, giving Philadelphia the ball at midfield. Staley started that drive with a 15-yard run and 16-yard reception to move the ball to the 18-yard line. After a holding call on cornerback Eric Kelly, backup running back Correll Buckhalter took carries of 12 and 1 yard, the second for a touchdown with 2:20 left in the half and a 31-3 lead.
Minnesota got a small measure of revenge on its next drive as the offense opened up a bit. The initial first down of the drive came via a 9-yard pass to Jake Reed, followed by a 21-yard pass to Byron Chamberlain. But after a sack and 15-yard penalty, the Vikings were facing complete desperation at third-and-14 from the 28-yard line. But a beautifully designed rollout to the right and screen back to Doug Chapman in the left flat got the ball to the 3-yard line and picked up the necessary first down. After another sack of Culpepper, the quarterback found Cris Carter on a corner route in the end zone and the Vikings had their first touchdown of the game, as the half ended with the Eagles leading 31-10.
The momentum wouldn't carry over to the second half.
The Vikings picked up 3 yards on a first-down run by Doug Chapman and then threw two incompletions and punted. The Eagles offense would do the Vikings no such favors, putting the game away early in the second half.
Fullback Cecil Martin started Philadelphia's first drive of the second half with an 18-yard catch-and-run, and Staley finished the two-play, 62-yard drive with a 44-yard catch-and-run (through more missed tackles) for a touchdown and a 38-10 lead.
Minnesota moved past midfield with a 20-yard pass to Carter and a 13-yarder to Moss, but on fourth-and-4 from the 39-yard line, Hugh Douglas gave the Eagles their sixth sack of the game and ended any legitimate hopes of a Vikings comeback.
Philadelphia continued to pile it on, adding a field goal by David Akers and 4-yard touchdown pass to third-string tight end Mike Bartrum on consecutive drives to make it 48-10.
The Vikings followed with a touchdown drive highlighted by a 17-yard run by Culpepper and a 29-yard touchdown pass with 5:51 left to play, but it would mercifully be the last score of another pitiful game.
With back-to-back blowout losses to Tampa Bay and Philadelphia and after falling to 3-5 it can only signal the pressure about to be applied to this team and coaching staff. The playoffs look like a pipe dream, and with a brutal schedule still ahead a winning season may be out of the question as well — the only salve being consecutive games at home where the Vikings have at least been competitive.
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Vikes Can't Win on the Road
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