The Eagles finally arrived. It just took a week. They reappeared Thursday night on national TV, moving to 2-0 with their dominant 34-28 victory over the winless Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field.
Tailback D’Andre Swift, who had a mere two touches in the season opener, showed what he is capable of doing when fed the ball, while the defense continues to be the strong point of the 2023 Eagles, forcing four turnovers and giving them a season total of six.
The Eagles relied on a dominant ground game, slamming Minnesota for 259 yards on the ground, averaging 5.4 yards a carry, with Swift leading the way on a career-best 175 yards rushing on 28 carries and a touchdown.
There was a ton of good, a touch of some bad, and ugly mistakes that will need to be cleaned up in the Eagles’ 34-28 victory.
Tailback D’Andre Swift proving what he can do when he gets touches. By the end of the third quarter, the former St. Joseph’s Prep and Georgia star rushed for a game-high 107 yards on 18 carries. He finished with a career-best 175 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown. If he can stay healthy, he will be a huge component in the Eagles’ offense. His 43-yard run with 4:25 left sealed the victory.
Left guard Landon Dickerson’s punishing block on Vikings’ nose tackle Harrison Phillips that sprung Swift on the 43-yard run.
Only two games into the season, kicker Jake Elliott has been a great weapon. He booted four field goals in the season opener against New England and nailed a 24- and 61-yarder against Minnesota.
Receiver DeVonta Smith’s 63-yard touchdown reception with 10:54 left in the third quarter, giving the Eagles a 27-7 lead and pretty much wrapping up the overmatched Vikings. Smith’s 54-yard reception on the Eagles’ opening drive set up Jake Elliott’s 24-yard field goal. The difference with the touchdown reception and the first-quarter reception was Hurts hit Smith in stride on the TD, and he had to wait for the ball in the first quarter, turning around to make the catch over the Vikings’ free safety Theo Jackson. Smith finished with 131 yards on four receptions.
Linebacker Zach Cunningham taking down Vikings’ tailback Alex Mattison for a five-yard loss at the Vikings’ 25 on Minnesota’s second drive of the second half. Cunningham later did a nice job covering Jefferson coming across the middle on a third-and-four at the Vikings’ 36 with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
Defensive end Josh Sweat causing the Vikings’ fourth fumble of the game, which led to a 20-7 Eagles’ lead. On the second play of the second half, Sweat beat Vikings’ back-up left tackle Olisaemeka Udoh to the outside, Kirk Cousins’ blind side, for a strip sack. Fletcher Cox picked up the loose ball. Two plays later, Hurts scored his second TD of the game.
The three fumbles the Eagles caused in the first half, which gives them five caused turnovers in the first half this season over their first two games.
Safety Terrell Edmunds’ forced fumble on Jefferson by the goal line, giving the Eagles their third fumble recovery in the half while preventing the Vikings from scoring.
The Eagles’ first drive of the second quarter was a power statement. It went 16 plays, 13 on the ground and ate up 7 minutes, and 55 seconds while traveling 75 yards. It concluded with the Hurts’ one-yard plunge and an Eagles’ 10-7 lead with 2:44 left in the half.
After being bashed last week for failing to help on a New England touchdown, safety Justin Evans caused a fumble with 6:09 left in the first quarter, popping the ball free from behind the Vikings’ Brandon Powell. Linebacker Nicholas Morrow was there for the fumble recovery at the Eagles’ 27. Evans later broke up a pass with less than two minutes to play.
Slot cornerback Avonte Maddox coming up to force Mattison to fumble at the Minnesota 39 on the Vikings’ second drive. Evans was there to pick up the fumble at the Vikings’ 39. The Eagles, however, squandered the opportunity with more faulty play calling and Jake Elliott’s missed.
Defensive tackle Jordan Davis doing it again, putting pressure on Cousins on the Vikings’ first drive, bursting through the Vikings’ front on a third-and-nine at their 41, forcing Cousins to hurt his pass down the middle to slot receiver K.J. Osborn.
Hurts’ seven-yard scramble on the third play of the game to preserve the Eagles’ first series of the game on a third-and-five at their 30.
Left tackle Jordan Mailata getting shoved back by Vikings’ defensive end Danielle Hunter for a 12-yard sack on a third-and-22 at the Vikings’ 49 with 12:04 to play. The sack pushed the Eagles out of field goal range. It was the fourth sack the Eagles gave up for minus-22 yards—and third sack given up by Mailata, who at one time seemed to have a promising future, though has been inconsistent for the last few years.
Dickerson’s holding penalty on a second-and-one at the Eagles’ 34, which wiped out a Swift nine-yard gain with 8:35 left in the third quarter. Swift himself getting nailed for a false start on the same drive, which at the time was the Eagles’ fourth penalty for 25 yards. The Vikings, to that point, had not been flagged.
Hurts’ inability to throw the ball in the first half. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 84 yards with an interception—and of the 84 yards, 54 came on Hurts’ first-quarter completion to Smith, leaving him 30 yards on the other nine completions.
Corner Darius Slay got the better of Justin Jefferson last season, holding him to one catch on five targets and the Eagles overall held him to six catches on 12 targets. By halftime, Jefferson had five catches on five targets for 57 yards. In one sequence in two out of three plays, Jefferson had 45 yards against Slay, including a 23-yard reception on a third-and-three at the Vikings’ 21 with 10:36 to play. Jefferson caught 11 passes on 13 targets for 159 yards. He wins Round Two in his ongoing battle against Slay. The Eagles, however, won the war.
On the Eagles’ second drive, right tackle Lane Johnson’s false start on a third-and-four at the Eagles’ 16. It pushed the Eagles back to the 11 and eventually forced them to punt.
Just like it was in the season opener, the Eagles failed to get into the end zone on the opening drive, settling for a field goal. The play calling in the red zone had a lot to do with it.
Who to blame? Evans, Slay, Cunningham, Edmunds or cornerback Josh Jobe on Cousins’ 10-yard TD pass to K.J. Osborn with 7:41 to play, pulling Minnesota, once down 27-7, to 27-21. Jobe never followed Osborn crossing right to left, Slay followed Jefferson and stayed with his man, so who should have picked up Osborn? Cunningham stayed in the middle of the field and had no idea Osborn was standing there alone, while in the right corner of the end zone, Slay, Jobe and Edmunds all went with Jefferson.
Running back Rashaad Penny’s holding call with 13:04 left in the fourth quarter on a first-and-10 that wiped out Hurts’ 25-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Brown, which would have sealed the victory. It was the Eagles’ fifth penalty for 35 yards at that point—and the most costly.
Jobe getting wound around like a carousel on rookie Jordan Addison’s 62-yard TD reception from Cousins on a third-and-10 with 9:09 left in the third quarter, which kept the Vikings within striking distance at 27-14.
Did Bill Belichick create the defensive template to beat the Eagles’ offense in Game One? The Vikings’ defensive coordinator Brian Flores seemed to follow it. Like the Patriots, Minnesota threw a lot of soft zone at the Eagles, moving pieces back and forth and up and down on the line of scrimmage, then backing away and daring Hurts to throw it. He disguised a Tampa Two defense by showing Cover ‘0,’ which means no safeties, and confused Hurts at times, and catching Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson off guard as Belichik did in Week 1. Other teams will surely follow, unless Hurts makes the proper read faster.
Evans failure to cover tight end T.J. Hockenson through the middle on a third-and-nine at the Eagles’ 41 on the Vikings’ first possession of the second quarter. After making two solid plays in the first quarter, his defensive deficiencies resurfaced. The completion led to the first touchdown of the game and a 7-3 Minnesota lead. He later was burnt by Hockenson on a short TD with 1:10 to play.
Nickel Mario Goodrich bouncing off of Hockenson at the Eagles’ three on the Vikings’ second-quarter touchdown. It was solid play design by the Vikings, who had their tight end wide open, while defensive end Derek Barnett looked lost, not knowing whether to rush the quarterback or peel back into coverage, and Goodrich not reacting fast enough as the play unfolded in front of him.
The Eagles’ first quarter. Yeah, sure, they led 3-0, but it should have been more. The Eagles dominated the first quarter, controlling the ball for 12:30 to Minnesota’s scant 2:30, outgaining the Vikings 97-11, and forcing fumbles on two of the Vikings’ first three possessions. The four first-quarter drives resulted in a 24-yard field goal, a three-and-out, an interception and a missed 55-yard field goal.
Hurts’ interception by Theo Jackson at midfield with 2:58 left in the first quarter. Fortunately, the Vikings turned the ball right back on the next play. Hurts forced the ball on third-and-16, and if Jackson did not get it, there were a few more Vikings in the vicinity the grab it.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.