It seemed like a good idea at the time: Minnesota kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson is dangerous, so the Eagles decided to use short kickoffs that would be fielded by other members of the Vikings’ return team.
“It was a game plan, just like an offensive or defensive game plan,” cornerback and special teamer Roc Carmichael said. “We worked on it all week. We wanted to keep the ball out of (Patterson’s) hands. He’s a dynamic guy. We felt we could do better kicking it to the tight ends or fullbacks or those up guys.”
The strategy gave the Vikings consistently good field position. After kickoffs, they started drives at their 25, 38, 25, 34 and 46, respectively. If Alex Henery had simply kicked the ball out of the end zone, as Minnesota’s Blair Walsh did seven times, the Vikings would have started on their 20 each time.
“Even if you do kick it deep,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said, “he takes it out. He’s got a 109-yard kickoff return. We knew how dangerous he was, and we were just trying to keep the ball away from him.”
It was a long day in Minnesota on Sunday for running back LeSean McCoy and the Eagles.
Fourth-and-a-half-yard: Kelly made one good point about his decision to go for it on fourth down at his own 24-yard line in the third quarter.
“You have to think on fourth-and-a-half-a-yard, we can get a half a yard,” Kelly said.
But LeSean McCoy's dive over left guard fell short. Kelly challenged the spot -- in for a penny, in for a pound -- and wound up losing a timeout.
“It started as a combination block with me and Evan (Mathis),” center Jason Kelce said. “The 'backers are flowing hard to their gaps, so you can’t stay on the double-team that long. When he left, I started pushing my guy to the left. Shady tried to hit that hole. It looked like he just dove forward. I’m not sure why we didn’t get it.”
It was McCoy’s second try to pick up that single yard. On third-and-1, he was stopped on a run around right end.
“We shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Kelce said, “if we did a better job on third down. We had a good play called, I thought. I was pulling. I got picked by one of the blocks inside. That made LeSean bounce it outside.”
Trying too hard: Eagles quarterback Nick Foles prides himself on being a team-first guy. So when he had to block a linebacker on a reverse, he didn’t settle for the usual quarterback patty-cake block. He dove in an attempt to take the player out.
“In the heat of battle, I made a mistake,” Foles said. “I made a block that I thought would help the team. You cannot turn back on someone and do that. I am at fault and the referee made the correct call.”
The penalty for an illegal peel-back block negated DeSean Jackson's touchdown. The Eagles instead kicked a field goal. The irony is that the pattycake block -- just getting in front of the defender -- would have been effective in springing Jackson.
“He has to seal that guy,” Kelly said. “I don’t think he had to cut him.”
Unraveling: Things got messy for the Eagles toward the end of the game.
Jackson made a great run after a short pass from Foles, making five defenders miss for a 51-yard gain to the Minnesota 4-yard line. The normally up-tempo Eagles couldn’t get a play off before the clock ran down and were flagged for delay of game.
After Foles’ 16-yard touchdown pass to Jason Avant made it 41-28, the kicking team started on the field. Kelly had to waste a timeout to set up for the two-point conversion.
“It was just a miscommunication upstairs,” Kelly said. “We should have gone for two, and that’s on me.”
Then there was the wave of penalties: Carmichael for taunting, Patrick Chung and Cary Williams for unnecessary roughness, Carmichael for 30 yards for pass interference.
Carmichael said he and Vikings wide receiver Rodney Smith had been going back and forth all game on special teams.
“I told him it was going to be a long day,” Carmichael said. “I turned around and there was a flag. It’s part of the game.”