The Vikings thought they had seen things get as bad as they could when the team got bounced 41-14 by the Bucs heading into their bye week. They were wrong. On their way out of the bye, it was just as ugly, as the Philadelphia Eagles may have dealt a death blow to the Vikings' playoff hopes with a 48-17 thrashing that dropped the Vikings to 3-5.
Things started badly and got worse in a hurry. After an exchange of punts to start the game, Philadelphia was in Vikings territory and wasted little time in taking control. Following runs of 21 and 4 yards by Duce Staley to start the drive, Donovan McNabb went to James Thrash — once for 6 yards to convert a third down and 14 yards on the next play for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 9:38 to play in the first quarter.
The Vikings offense looked for a response, as the team converted a pair of first downs on a 7-yard run by Doug Chapman and a 9-yard pass from Daunte Culpepper to Cris Carter to get the ball to the Eagles 36. But the drive sputtered as the Eagles blitzed to force a pair of incompletions. The Vikings punted, pinning the Eagles on the 9-yard line, and looked to their defense to get the job done — a wish that wouldn't be fulfilled all game long.
The Vikings appeared to have the Eagles' drive stopped, but on a third-and-8 McNabb scrambled for 10 yards and a first down. After Staley did his own damage with 20 yards on two carries, it was all McNabb. He completed passes of 17 yards to rookie Freddie Mitchell and 12 yards to Todd Pinkston, sandwiched around a 15-yard scramble to get the ball on the 20-yard line. After an 8-yard run by Staley, McNabb did the rest, scrambling 12 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead in the opening seconds of the second quarter.
The Vikings' hope of a comeback fell flat after making a play to get back into the game. With the Eagles stuck on their own 14-yard line, McNabb completed a pass to Thrash, but it was ripped out by Kenny Wright and the Vikings recovered on the Eagles 24. However, a sack of Culpepper on third down by blitzing safety Damon Moore forced the Vikings to settle for a 43-yard Gary Anderson field goal, cutting the deficit to 14-3 with 9:02 to play in the half.
The Eagles responded with a scoring drive of their own. After Brian Mitchell returned the kick to near midfield, Freddie Mitchell took a reverse 12 yards. Then, after appearing to have Staley stopped on a third-and-3, sloppy tackling allowed him to gain 10 yards and a first down, leading to a 36-yard field goal by David Akers to build the lead back to 14 points at 17-3 with 6:10 to go in the half.
The Vikings' situation went from bad to worse, as Hugh Douglas sacked Culpepper and forced a fumble that was recovered by Bobby Taylor on the Vikings 18-yard line. One play later, McNabb found Thrash crossing over the middle and hit him in stride as he raced 18 yards for another score to make the lopsided advantage 24-3.
Forced to try to make something happen, Culpepper was intercepted on the next play, and the Eagles had the ball in Vikings territory again. Unwilling to sit on the ball, McNabb came out firing, completing passes of 15 and 16 yards to Staley and, with the ball on the 13-yard line, rookie Correll Buckhalter took a carry to the 1-yard line and then dove over the top for another scoring drive to give the Eagles a 31-3 lead with 2:20 to play in the half.
The Vikings salvaged some dignity in the final two minutes by marching 75 yards for a score at halftime. Culpepper came out throwing and completed passes of 19 yards to Moss, 10 yards to Jake Reed, 20 yards to Byron Chamberlain and 9 yards to Reed before throwing the scoring fade route to Carter as time ran down to cut the deficit to 31-10 at halftime.
Although the game was, for all intents, over, the Vikings hoped for a big comeback in the second half. That wish would last about two minutes. With the Vikings going three plays and punting on the first drive of the half, McNabb took over on his own 38-yard line. After a 17-yard screen pass to Cecil Martin, Staley took a carry that seemed destined for a short gain, broke several tackles along the way and rumbled 44 yards for a touchdown and a 38-10 lead with 13:04 to play in the third.
The Vikings' desperation was obvious. After getting into Eagles territory with passes of 20 yards to Carter and 15 yards to Moss, when the drive stalled, the Vikings opted to go for a first down on the Philly 39. Culpepper was sacked again by Douglas, and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs.
The next drive typified the type of day it was for the Vikings. After forcing the Eagles to punt for only the second time in the game, the Vikings marched up the field with passes of 37 yards to Carter, 20 yards on a screen to Chapman, 13 yards to Moss over the middle and 10 yards to Carter to get the ball to the 2-yard line. However, looking for a score, Jim Kleinsasser took a carry up the middle and, as he reached for the goal line, fumbled the ball into the end zone and into the Eagles' fortuitous hands.
With time and the score on their side, the Eagles ate up yardage and clock time. Starting from the 20, Staley had carries of 5 and 15 yards, and McNabb got short passes of 5 yards to Mitchell and 6 yards to Thrash to move the chains. With the ball in Vikings territory, an 8-yard run by Staley was followed by a 20-yard screen pass to the 11-yard line. A sack by Kailee Wong thwarted the drive, but Akers got the call again and notched a 21-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 41-10 lead with 12:30 to play in the game.
As if the beating couldn't get worse, with the Vikings still looking to add points, the Eagles defense got extremely aggressive. On a corner blitz from Rashard Cook, Culpepper was hit from the blind side and fumbled. Brandon Whiting recovered, and the Eagles were again in business at the Vikings 26.
Refusing to call off the dogs, Philadelphia coach Andy Reid went to the air to keep the rout going. After a 2-yard run by Staley, McNabb zipped a 15-yard pass to Mitchell. After a 5-yard run by Staley got the ball to the 4-yard line, McNabb crossed up the Vikings with a run fake and found fourth-string tight end Mike Bartrum wide open in the end zone for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 48-10 lead with 9:30 to play.
Philly finally removed most of its defensive starters and seemingly allowed the Vikings to get a score. Starting from his own 43, Culpepper completed a pass of 6 yards to Chris Walsh before scrambling 16 yards for a first down. Three plays later, facing a fourth-and-7 from the 29-yard line, Culpepper lofted a pass over the top to Moss for a 29-yard touchdown that seemed to go relatively uncontested to reduce the mammoth Eagles lead to 48-17 with 5:51 to play.
The Eagles finally shut down the offensive engines, taking out McNabb, Staley and even a couple of offensive linemen, but it didn't make a difference. Buckhalter came in and the Eagles never had to face a third down, even though everyone in the stadium knew runs were coming. Buckhalter took consecutive carries for 10 yards, then moved the chains with runs of 3 and 8 yards, broke off a 16-yard run and, when he blew up for runs of 9 and 2 yards, backup quarterback Koy Detmer was able to kneel on the ball and mercifully end the game with the Eagles rolling 48-17.
With the loss, the Vikings remain winless on the road and drop to 3-5, the worst record many of the current Vikings have faced at the official midway point of their season. If the Vikings hope to entertain any playoff hopes, they will likely have to go 6-2 at a minimum and more likely 7-1 to finish out the season — improbable considering the brutal schedule the team will be facing. This was a game the Vikings absolutely had to have and not only didn't they get it, they got their hats handed to them, leaving much more doubt as to whether the 2001 Vikings will have any chance of making the playoffs. VU
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