Vikings players are left to wonder what might have been if they hadn't dropped so many last-minute leads, but at least they played well against a division leader and showed what is possible. Plus, nearly 20 notes to help tell the tale of the game.
There weren't many who gave the Vikings much of a chance to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday at the Metrodome. Not only were the Eagles a division leader looking to keep distance between them and the Dallas Cowboys
, they were at full health and the Vikings were without several starters – including their top two running backs, Adrian Peterson
and Toby Gerhart
It was supposed to be a beat-down from the Eagles. Instead, the Eagles got stunned, allowing 48 points – the most scored by a Vikings team since 1998 – in an improbable 48-30 win.
"I think it speaks to the kind of players we have in this locker room," Chad Greenway
said. "The coaches have kept us confident that we can get the job done and today was one of those games where it came together on offense and we were able to be a little more aggressive on defense because we spent most of the game playing with a lead."
The Vikings offense was on fire most of the game, scoring seven points in the first quarter, 10 points in each the second and third quarters and 21 in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
"It was one of those games we knew we could put together," Phil Loadholt
said. "To do what we were able to do without Adrian and Toby is a testament to the guys we have on this team. We haven't had too many days like this where we walk away knowing we got the job done on offense, defense and special teams. It feels great knowing that we can face a quality team like Philadelphia and control the pace of the game.
If there was a downside, it was that, at 4-9-1, the Vikings are out of playoff contention, and can wonder what might have been in this lost season.
"Today we showed what kind of team we are," Jared Allen
said. "The only bad part of all of this is that we gave away five games this season in the final seconds. If we hold onto those, or even most of those, we would be right in the middle of the division title hunt. We can enjoy this today, but it still kind of eats at you that we could be so much better in the standings than we are."
GAME DAY NOTES
Greg Jennings had a career high in receptions with 11, which went for 163 yards and a touchdown. His rapport with Matt Cassel has been night and day than it has been with either of the Vikings' other two quarterbacks and, during a postgame interview, hinted that Cassel may end up starting the final games of the season. Leslie Frazier said there aren't any questions about the quarterback next week.
Sunday marked Jennings' first 100-yard game as a Vikings and teammate Jarius Wright almost joined the party, catching four passes for 95 yards.
Cassel had one of the most prolific passing games of his career, completing 26 of 35 passes for 382 yards with two touchdowns and a passer rating of 116.6.
The Eagles had such respect for Cordarrelle Patteron's return ability that they pooch kicked short on every kickoff, resulting in Chase Ford, Wright, Jerome Felton and Joe Banyard returning kickoffs for the Vikings.
Shaun Prater recorded his first career interception Sunday.
Long snapper Cullen Loeffler was injured during the game after getting his right hand stepped on. He was taken off the field for X-rays, which didn't show a break, but, after the game, his hand was horribly swollen and the spike marks were clearly visible. While he was out, Jared Allen snapped for a punt.
Speaking of Allen, he recorded two sacks Sunday, giving him nine for the season. After having just five sacks in the first 11 games of the year, he has posted four in the last three games.
Safety Harrison Smith returned to action and, while he didn't start, he played extensively during the game. He said that his teammates were giving him some good-natured ribbing early on, saying, "I was little rusty. They were kidding me late in the first half when I came off the field and was tired. But I felt like I got stronger as the game went on and felt pretty good by the end of the game." Smith finished tied with Robert Blanton for the team lead in tackles with eight.
The teams combined for 930 yards, with the Eagles gaining 475 and the Vikings gaining 455.
The Vikings converted 8 of 13 third downs, which helped amass an enormous advantage in time of possession. The Vikings had the ball for 36:26 of the game's 60 minutes.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles ended up being their leading rusher with 41 yards. LeSean McCoy, who entered the game leading the NFL in rushing, had just eight carries for 38 yards.
The Eagles had nine penalties for 94 yards, while the Vikings had just three for 25 yards.
The Vikings kicked off nine times Sunday, with seven of Blair Walsh's kicks going for touchbacks.
Over the last six games, Walsh has scored 63 points.
The Vikings got in the red zone six times, scoring touchdowns on five of those trips.
In the third quarter, the Vikings had a fourth-down defensive stand at Philadelphia's 25-yard line that put the team in scoring position after two runs failed to pick up the needed yard for a first down. Complicating matters, Eagles coach Chip Kelly challenged the ruling on the field, lost the challenge and cost his team a timeout.
In the first half, the Vikings had the ball four times, scoring three times and missing a field goal on the other. Those four possessions included drives of 10, 10 and 16 plays.
The Vikings had one of their most explosive drives of the season in the first quarter. Pinned on his own 9-yard line, it took Cassel just four plays to go the 91 yards, completing a 26-yard pass to Jarius Wright and, one play later, connecting with Jennings for a 57-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead and set the tone for the rest of the game.
The announced attendance was 64,087, but given the amount of empty seats Sunday, that figure likely represented tickets sold, not tickets used.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.