Many people have been asking over the last couple days just exactly what did the Philadelphia Eagles do to mystify and abuse the Minnesota Vikings offense.
Guard Brandon Fusco said Tuesday that the problems the Vikings had were as much self-inflicted as they were a strong game plan executed by the Eagles.
Philadelphia didn’t show the Vikings anything they hadn’t seen before, but they executed it better than most.
“They brought a lot of off-the-edge pressure – safety blitzes,” Fusco said. “It’s stuff we’ve seen before, but we just didn’t communicate very well. We’ve just got play better up front.”
The switching in and out of tackles during the game has been cited as one of the reasons the Vikings got overwhelmed up front. Fusco disagrees.
It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment or injury-related decision. The offensive line knew it was going to take place during the game – exactly when was up to debate, but they knew it would happen.
Unlike injury replacements that come in the blink of an eye, the Vikings were aware of the changes that were going to take place. Unlike the Eagles defense, the offensive execution didn’t go quite as well.
“It’s just something that happens sometimes,” Fusco said. “We’re confident in the guys we have in there. That’s why we practice that stuff before the game. We knew it was something we were going to do. It’s not like anything that surprised us. We knew it was going to happen.”
The blame for the Vikings offensive failure against the Eagles has been largely leveled against the O-line. While the line deserves its share of the blame, Fusco said that offenses work as a unit – good or bad – and that the failure the Vikings experienced was shared.
“There is so much that goes into protection,” Fusco said. “You can’t always blame the offensive line. The backs, the quarterback, receivers getting open, it’s a team effort. Our whole offensive effort for protection. We’ll put it on our shoulders, but everyone on offense knows what we have to do to make it work.”
In the aftermath of Sunday’s game, the pundits – from media analysts to social media trolls – jumped on the Vikings’ woes, claiming every other NFL team was given a blueprint of how to attack and destroy the Vikings.
That same logic was espoused when the Eagles crushed Pittsburgh 34-3 at home in September. Future Steelers opponents haven’t found the magic cure to shut them down offensively and overpower them defensively.
Fusco scoffed at that assertion, saying that what the Vikings saw Sunday is something they see every week – Sunday was just a bad of example of counteracting it.
“The off-the-edge pressures are what teams are looking to do to us,” Fusco said. “They want to bottle our runs up the middle. They know we like to run the ball. That’s what starts up our offense. If they contain us and keep us from getting outside the tackles, they want to push up the middle. That’s what their game plan was. We knew it was coming, but we just didn’t adjust to it like we should have.”
The next level knee-jerk criticism has it that the Vikings need to make wholesale changes. What will it take to get Joe Thomas away from Cleveland?
Once again, Fusco doesn’t believe that’s happening any time soon.
“No, I don’t think so,” Fusco said. “I think we just have to get back to fundamentals and our communication needs to be better up front. I think we need to put this behind us, just move on and get better from it.”
While the bandwagon tickets are currently being sold for pennies on the dollar, Fusco is recommending keeping your aisle seat. As he sees it, the struggles the Vikings had Sunday were just as much self-inflicted as they were forced upon the offense.
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A win Monday night would help to erase the memory of the Philadelphia game. Until then, it’s front of mind for the coaches and players and a scenario that don’t want to repeat.
“We did a lot of dumb stuff Sunday that we haven’t done all year,” Fusco said. “We had turnovers. We had blown assignments. When a team beats you, that’s one thing. But when you do as many things as we did to beat ourselves, that’s even worse.”