PHILADELPHIA — Jalen Hurts collected the ball out of the shotgun formation to start the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday, and he immediately saw wideout Quez Watkins running wide open toward the end zone.
Watkins had been passed off in zone coverage by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr., but immediately sped past safety Camryn Bynum. Hurts launched the ball down the field and connected with Watkins for a 53-yard touchdown, which put the Philadelphia Eagles up by 14 points to start their regular-season home opener against the Vikings.
After winning a too-close-for-comfort Week 1 battle against the Detroit Lions, the Eagles‘ early surge served as a statement in front of the prime-time audience. While there were concerns about the Eagles’ passing offense and the overall defense following Week 1’s win over the Lions, Philadelphia — with a 24-7 win over the Vikings — showed the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with in the NFC
Jalen Hurts, Eagles defense make a statement to the NFL against the Vikings
Hurts, who has routinely been criticized for his work in the pocket, started the game with 12 consecutive completions and led three touchdown scoring drives in the first five series of the night. Despite a handful of early penalties by the offense, Hurts kept his cool and delivered the ball effectively and efficiently to his weapons with a sound script from head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
On the opposite end, much-maligned defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s unit forced three three-and-outs during the first four drives of the game. Despite giving up a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown-scoring drive in the middle of the second quarter, the Eagles’ defense revved back up and made quick work of Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense after three plays.
It was a first half to silence the naysayers. The Eagles, who constantly have had their armor poked at during the year-plus of the Sirianni era, decleated the doubters with an outstanding Monday night performance.
The Eagles took a 24-7 lead to halftime with momentum clearly on their side. Hurts threw for 251 yards and a touchdown and ran for 50 yards and two scores on the ground during the first half. The Eagles’ defense held the Vikings’ offense to just 93 total yards and a touchdown during the first two quarters.
The Eagles defense continued to shine against the Vikings’ offense in the second half, dominating with turnovers and takedowns through the final whistle.
After allowing the Vikings to get in the red zone during their first series of the third quarter, the Eagles took the ball away with an interception by cornerback Darius Slay. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave was able to force a bad throw by Cousins as he barreled into the QB, and Slay picked off the pass in the end zone before returning the ball to the 19-yard line.
Following the turnover, Sirianni, Steichen, Hurts, and the Eagles’ offense smelled blood in the water. The offense went back on the attack, as Hurts used wideout A.J. Brown and the running game to push down the field.
However, following a stalled drive in scoring territory, Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson blocked a 41-yard field-goal attempt by kicker Jake Elliott, giving Minnesota some hope in an otherwise lopsided affair with 3:17 left in the third quarter. The Vikings recovered the blocked field goal and returned the ball into Eagles territory.
But, despite being set up at the 30-yard line, the Vikings offense came up short again as nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox picked off a third-down pass from Cousins. The home crowd erupted as the 5-foot-9 cornerback skied for the ball and came down with it to prevent the Vikings from taking advantage of their special teams highlight.
While the Eagles couldn’t take advantage of either interception by the defense, they took away two red zone trips for the Vikings. They took several minutes off the play clock, making a comeback attempt improbable for the visiting squad, especially with the home crowd’s energy mimicking the product on the field.
The Eagles failed to produce a sack until the fourth quarter, but that takedown of Cousins was notable, as it effectively wiped out any chance of a comeback. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox produced a strip-sack on third down. While the Eagles didn’t recover the ball, the play forced the Vikings to punt again with 8:27 left in the game.
The Vikings intercepted a pass from Hurts that bounced off the hands of running back Kenny Gainwell on the next possession. Despite being set up on the 9-yard line, the Vikings turned the ball over again. Slay picked off another Cousins pass in the end zone. The pick was Cousins’ third red zone interception in the game and Slay’s second pick of the night.
The Eagles’ defense held the Vikings to 264 yards on the night. The unit also produced three interceptions and two sacks in the Monday Night Football matchup.
Hurts completed 83.9% of his passes for 333 yards, a touchdown, and an interception for a 108.7 passer rating. The QB also added 57 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, as the Eagles ran for 163 total rushing yards against the Vikings in the blowout win.
Quez Watkins and DeVonta Smith re-appear in the Eagles’ offense
Against the Lions in Week 1, Hurts and Brown — the team’s top offseason addition — connected on 10 completions for 155 yards. Watkins and DeVonta Smith were noticeably absent from the box score in the receptions category. Neither Watkins nor Smith caught a pass in the season opener, leading to outrage from Eagles fans and the fantasy football community.
However, against the Vikings, that problem was squashed. During the week, Sirianni and Steichen said they wanted to get the Eagles’ No. 2 and No. 3 wideouts more involved. The play-callers delivered on Monday, as Smith was targeted on the first play. From there, last year’s first-round pick diced up the Vikings’ defense for 7 catches for 80 yards in an impressive Year 2 home debut.
Watkins, responsible for the night’s highlight play, caught 2 passes for 69 yards and a TD. Watkins didn’t score a TD last season until the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18.
Along with the impressive outputs by Smith and Watkins, Brown continued to deliver as the Eagles’ top target, catching 5 passes for 69 yards. Tight end Dallas Goedert also got in on the aerial onslaught, as he caught 5 passes for 82 yards.
Vikings WR Jalen Reagor hears it from the home crowd
The Eagles traded former first-round pick, Jalen Reagor to the Vikings one day after the final-cut deadline earlier this month. Reagor, a former first-round pick, was an epic disappointment in Philadelphia.
He caught just 62 passes for 676 yards and 3 TDs in two seasons, while the player drafted immediately after him — Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson — has put together a Hall-of-Fame start to his career.
On Monday, in a potential “revenge” game opportunity, Reagor received the wrath of the home crowd. As he awaited the first punt of the game by the Eagles, Reagor was booed by the thousands in attendance at The Linc. Reagor fielded the punt and picked up one yard before being clobbered by cornerback Zech McPhearson, who was a gunner on the play.
The Vikings later used Reagor on a trick run on offense, and while the fans booed him again, the wideout picked up 17 yards on the ground for the initial earned first down of the game for the Vikings. Reagor finished the game with two offensive touches for 24 scrimmage yards. He also returned 2 punts for 5 yards.
Jefferson, a reigning All-Pro and Pro Bowler, caught 6 of 12 targets for 48 yards. Slay, Maddox, and James Bradberry each drew Jefferson in coverage, and all produced pass breakups against the elite wideout. Fellow starting wideout Adam Thielen caught 4 passes for 52 yards.
Quick Hits from Vikings vs. Eagles
- While the Eagles’ defense only registered two sacks on the night, the group hit Cousins 7 times. Slay produced the fifth and sixth interceptions of his three-year Eagles career, while Maddox, a homegrown talent, produced the fourth interception of his five-year career.
- Hurts anchored the Eagles’ running game, but Philadelphia’s running backs also had a solid evening. Miles Sanders ran for 80 yards on 17 carries and caught 3 passes for 6 yards. Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell paced the backfield rotation, as they combined for 26 rushing yards on 6 carries and 2 catches for 13 yards.
- Hurts proved to be elusive (duh) on Monday, but he was still sacked 3 times by the Vikings’ defense. Vikings defensive ends Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum both registered solo sacks, while defensive tackles Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson split a sack during the loss.
- The Eagles defense gave up 172 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns to the Lions’ running backs in Week 1. The unit held the Vikings to just 59 rushing yards on 10 attempts in Week 2.
- The Vikings’ offense finished 4 for 12 on third down. The Eagles were 7 of 13 on third down.
- The following Eagles players were all healthy scratches via inactives: QB Ian Book, S Reed Blankenship, RB Trey Sermon, DE Janarius Robinson, G Josh Sills, and TE Grant Calcaterra.
- Vikings rookie cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (quad) was inactive for the game after being ruled out on Saturday. Along with Booth, the following Vikings players were inactive: RB Ty Chandler, LB Luiji Vilain, G Chris Reed, OT Vederian Lowe, and DL Esezi Otomewo.
- Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper and Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden were in attendance at the game. Actor and noted Eagles fan, Bradley Cooper, was also at the game.