Why Eagles CB Darius Slay’s special performance against the Vikings means so much to a rebounding defense

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay put forth an impressive effort against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday at Lincoln Financial Field.

PHILADELPHIA — Darius Slay didn’t score a touchdown on Monday, but the Pro Bowl cornerback did make a pair of crucial catches in the end zone during the Philadelphia Eagles‘ 24-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field.

During the second half, Slay picked off Vikings QB Kirk Cousins twice in the end zone, thwarting multiple comeback opportunities in the process. Slay, the Eagles’ top cornerback, got his hands on the ball regularly against Cousins, despite the crucial assignment of guarding All-Pro wideout Justin Jefferson throughout the majority of the game.

Darius Slay’s special performance helps Eagles’ defense bounce back in big way

Slay finished the game with an eye-opening five pass breakups to go along with his two picks. He also gave NBA star James Harden a worthwhile souvenir, as Slay handed one of his two interception balls to the former MVP.

Following the game, Slay was asked about how many interceptions he should have had against the Vikings. The cornerback calmly and confidently replied that he should have collected a trio of turnovers.

“I got a lot of respect [in the league], but you know how it always goes, the older you get, they think you’re falling off,” Slay said. “But I’m not one of them guys. I’m still at an elite level. I deserve a lot of respect in the league. I think the league respects me enough, but it just be the media.”

But while the Eagles didn’t get three interceptions out of Slay in prime time, the defense did pick off Cousins three times as a unit. Nickel corner Avonte Maddox collected a pick between Slay’s bookending pair. Those turnovers helped the Eagles shut out the Vikings’ offense in the second half.

“It’s huge going forward,” cornerback James Bradberry said about the interceptions. “It gives us confidence going into next week, and we kind of put some different things in the red zone [plan], and we’re going to go back and look at it and see what was successful. Obviously, we had more success in the red zone, so we want to keep building on top of it.”

The defense took some heat from critics following the Eagles’ 38-35 win over the Detroit Lions in Week 1. After building up a big lead in the first half against Detroit, the Lions bounced back to nearly steal the game with an impressive comeback attempt.

Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and head coach Nick Sirianni both acknowledged that the performance wasn’t up to the team’s standard, something the defenders also admitted during the week leading up to the game.

The letdown on defense against the Lions fueled the unit’s Week 2 performance against the Vikings.

“We came into the week real motivated,” linebacker Kyzir White said. “We wanted to come out there and put on a show.”

Week 2 turned out to be showtime for the unit. The group was so dominant that it even allowed the offense to coast through two scoreless quarters and still win the game by the halftime score.

“We just try to stop them from scoring,” Slay said. “We know our offense, what they are capable of doing. So, with them putting their foot down like that and putting 24 points up, we expect to win.”

Slay, who made his fourth Pro Bowl last season, looks to be in prime form despite being on the wrong side of 30. A team captain for the first time with the Eagles, his special performance in prime time sent a message to rival QBs: Don’t throw at No. 2.

“We’re ready for any challenge,” Slay said. “That’s why we’re all here — to be the best.”

The Eagles held Cousins to 221 passing yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. The QB completed just 58.7% of his passes, and Jefferson was held to six catches for 48 yards on 12 targets.

Last season, the Eagles’ defense would have given up a ton of yardage to Cousins and Jefferson in a matchup like this one. Instead, Slay and Co. rose to the occasion, pummeling the Vikings while making a statement to the national audience.

The Eagles are one of three undefeated teams in the NFC, and they have their defense’s dominant performance — along with a sensational outing by QB Jalen Hurts — to thank for their positive vibes following their regular-season home opener.

“We had in our mindset to go out here and dominate and play this game with a lot of effort and a lot of talent,” Slay said. “And guys were out there just executing their job, and that’s what we do. And [Gannon] put us in a great position to win.”

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