The quarterback play was perhaps as good as it’s been all season in this game, but the running game was inconsistent and the passing game did little to threaten the Eagles defense. Vikings running backs were held to just 90 yards on 27 carries (3.3 avg.) with a long run of just 17 yards. Vikings quarterbacks combined for a 88.9 passer rating, but four sacks greatly disrupted any chances for finishing more drives.
Kelly Holcomb completed 7 of 16 passes (43.8%) for 88 yards and one touchdown pass and an 82.3 quarterback rating, before being dumped awkwardly on his head on a sack in the third quarter. Given the seriousness of the tackle and the way he landed, Holcomb was lucky he wasn’t injured more seriously. There also could have been a facemask penalty called on the play that would have prolonged the drive, but the Vikings rarely seem to get officiating breaks this season. Before going down, Holcomb was probably as decisive as he’s been this season. He was off target on about three throws and had one drop. He had a couple other plays where receivers simply were not open and had virtually no chance to escape both times he was sacked.
Brooks Bollinger came in and provided a spark. He got the ball out quickly, showed good mobility within the pocket and the quickness to step up and run for positive yardage a couple times. He is much quicker and more athletic than Holcomb. After cries to dump him heading into the regular season, he might have looked liked the best quarterback on the roster if only for less than a half of football. He finished completing 7 of 10 passes (70.0%) for 94 yards and a 99.6 passer efficiency rating. Bollinger was also sacked twice on plays in which he had little chance.
Tarvaris Jackson was the (inactive) No. 3 quarterback with an injured finger on his passing hand.
Adrian Peterson is now the official starting running back. He was held to “just” 70 yards on 20 carries (3.5 avg.) with a long run of 17 yards. The Eagles did about as good a job as you can against Peterson. In fact, he was held to 2 yards or less on all but seven attempts.
Chester Taylor gained just 19 yards on six carries (3.2 avg.) with a long run of 9 yards. He also caught one pass for 18 yards on the game’s final play. Taylor didn’t get many chances in the running game. He was late on a blitz pickup in the first quarter that led to an intentional grounding penalty by Holcomb, but he did a very nice job on a blitz pickup in the second quarter that resulted in the team’s longest pass completion (34 yards) of the game.
Fullback Tony Richardson had one carry for one yard. His performance overall was uneven as he missed on some lead block attempts but connected on others.
Bobby Wade led Vikings receivers with four catches for 53 yards, his longest a 19-yarder. Three of his four catches converted into first downs. He had three other incompletions intended for him on plays in which he wasn’t really open. His final catch was a clutch catch-and-run for 15 yards on a play in which he hyperextended his knee. He did later return to action but might have some lingering affects.
Sidney Rice caught three for 27 with a long of 13 yards with one other off-target throw in his direction. It would seem that Rice is ready to become more involved in the offense if they can get him the ball more consistently.
Robert Ferguson had one catch for 34 yards with three other attempts in his direction.
Despite starting, Troy Williamson did not have a single pass even thrown to him. Rookie Aundrae Allision was once again inactive.
Visanthe Shiancoe finally became a go-to guy in the team’s passing game as he caught five passes for 50 yards, including a touchdown reception. They also tried to hit him a couple more times but were unable to connect. Shiancoe has a ton of potential as a pass-catching tight end. He’s a big target with good hands and enough speed and athleticism to run after the catch. On the downside, he had a false start penalty in the second quarter that killed one drive, and was flagged for holding on a weak call that nullified a nice gain around left end by Peterson.
Jim Kleinsasser had a 10-yard catch that didn’t count due to a penalty on the Eagles. He had another catchable throw that he was unable to bring in. He also had a drive-killing false start penalty in the second quarter. He otherwise did a nice job as a blocker.
Garrett Mills was inactive.
A strong performance by Steve Hutchinson at left guard who was sturdy in pass protection all day long and generally kept a hat on his man in the running game. Overall, he was quietly effective.
Center Matt Birk was late adjusting to a stunt on a play in the first quarter that led to a grounding penalty but otherwise played okay.
Right guard Anthony Herrera allowed a quarterback pressure early in the game but settled down and played better as the game went on.
Ryan Cook struggled at right tackle. He was beaten badly by Juqua Thomas for an 11-yard sack on the play in which Holcomb was injured. Cook himself suffered a mild shoulder separation on the play and had to leave for a while. He came back and was beaten by Javon Kearse for another sack that stalled the team’s last real drive to potentially tie the game.
Marcus Johnson filled in for Cook when he went out and did okay, but also allowed some pressure.
Bryant McKinnie also had his hands full with Trent Cole at right end. Cole led the Eagles with eight tackles, including two sacks and two official quarterback hurries. Cole is the undersized, but super-quick type of player that McKinnie seems to have the most trouble with. He struggles with their quickness but also getting low enough to get leverage on a shorter, more explosive opponent. Cole has developed into a very good player and he clearly won the battle between him and McKinnie on this afternoon. Cole’s first sack came despite McKinnie getting “help” from Shiancoe as he simply blew through both of them for a quick 9-yard sack.
Summary: The inconsistency with pass protection off the edge is killing the team’s ability to mount a consistent passing game. But it’s also clear that there are shortcomings at quarterback and wide receiver still. It’s hard to be too critical of the play-calling when 6 of 8 failed drives were undermined by a penalty (3) or failed pass protection (4).
Coming Soon: Defense and Special Teams.