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Week 5 Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings 23, Philadelphia Eagles 21


What you need to know

Minnesota Vikings

After a lack luster loss to the Bills and then a thrilling offensive output in a loss to the Rams, the Vikings finally got back in the win column against the defending Super Bowl champions. There were some good things that happened for the Vikings this week, but the game was more about how poorly the Eagles played than how well the Vikings did. There is still no rushing attack with Dalvin Cook on the shelf, the defense is still giving up the big plays, and the Vikings are relying on the arm of Kirk Cousins to keep them in games. This is a recipe for disaster over the course of a full season, but they still have some time to get it figured out and get guys healthy. The defense stepped up with a strip sack fumble returned for a touchdown, but still gave up large chunks of yards in the passing game. Dan Bailey missed two field goals and if Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs did not step up again this week it would have easily been another loss. The Vikings will play host to the Arizona Cardinals next week and will look to get back into the running for the NFC North title.

Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz produced another positive game in his third game back from injury, but the quizzical element of the Eagles’ home loss to Minnesota was their lack of commitment to the run game despite 12 running back carries for 55 yards and picking up chunk gains on most of them. There was no rhythm on the ground and a key Carson Wentz fumble returned for a touchdown changed the game before halftime. Even with Corey Clement and Darren Sproles out, there was no commitment to Jay Ajayi seeing more work with Wendell Smallwood possessing a strong share of the backfield, which is very telling with Ajayi now out for the season. On the positive side, Wentz’s chemistry with Zach Ertz and in a key moment, Alshon Jeffery, are necessary building blocks if the Eagles are to get back on track in the coming weeks.

Minnesota Vikings

QB Kirk Cousins, 62 offensive snaps, Pass: 30 - 37 - 301 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 1 - 0
With no run game in sight, Cousins is leading this team with his arm again. For as great as he has been moving them up and down the field, he continues to struggle in the red zone. Cousins continues to rely on Diggs and Thielen in the passing game and does not seem to get Rudolph involved enough. He has several weapons at his disposal but favors 2 of them. He was very efficient with the ball, completing 81% of his passes this week. However, he only found the end zone once and forced Dan Bailey into 5 field goal attempts. His lone touchdown was a beautiful 3-yard fade route to Adam Thielen. Cousins put the ball just over the defender draped all over Thielen and low enough that the safety coming over could not make a play. Thielen was able to tap and drag his feet in the back corner of the end zone for the score. He also had a 68-yard catch and run play down the sideline to Thielen. This could have been a touchdown, but Thielen ran out of gas and was tackled in the red zone. Cousins is doing all of his damage through the air and is not getting a lot of help from the rushing offense. He should benefit greatly from a healthy Dalvin Cook, but there is no timeline for when that may happen. Cousins has a plus matchup next week against Arizona and should continue to put up big numbers for the next 2 weeks.

RB Latavius Murray, 46 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 42 - 0, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (2 targets)
With Dalvin Cook on the shelf, Murray is the lead back again. However, the Vikings cannot seem to get anything going on the ground. Philadelphia has a very stout rush defense and held the Vikings to under 100 rush yards as a team. Murray was given more carries than anyone else but was unable to do anything with them. He averaged under 4 yards per carry and only had 1 carry over 10 yards. Stefon Diggs had the longest rush for the Vikings this week and that should never happen if the team commits to running the ball. The matchup next week should be ideal for whoever takes the bulk share of the carries. The Cardinals have been very generous to opposing running backs. Murray may be a good play next week if Cook is ruled out again.

WR Stefon Diggs, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 25 - 0, Rec: 10 - 91 - 0 (11 targets)
The Vikings have one of the best 1-2 punches in the league in regard to Diggs and Thielen. Diggs is a jack of all trades and is being used all over the offense. He led the team in targets this week with 11 and also had the longest rushing play of either team. Diggs took an end around for 20 yards for his first carry and then another 5 yards with his second. He accounted for almost a third of the team's rush yards in those 2 plays alone. In the passing game he continued his normal mix of short passes and screens as well as trying to stretch the field with long go routes. His longest catch was 25 yards, and he averaged 9 yards per reception this week. There were several quick hits and screens that were sniffed out by the Eagles and he was tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. It seems like either Diggs or Thielen is going to break through every week and it just happened to be Thielen's turn this week. Diggs should have a great matchup again next week against Arizona.

WR Adam Thielen, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 116 - 1 (10 targets)
Everything seems to be going right for Thielen this season. He is now the first receiver to ever open a season with 5 straight 100-yard games, moving past Randy Moss and Issac Bruce. More than half of his yards came on a single play where he somehow found himself all alone down the sideline and took the ball 68 yards before running out of gas and getting tackled. He cut back inside to run past the corner but in doing so allowed the safety to catch up and tackle him. He also had a 3-yard touchdown reception with the corner draped all over him. It was a beautiful fade route into the corner of the end zone where Cousins got the ball just over the defender and into the arms of Thielen. Defensive holding was called on the play and declined. There were a few misfires in the game that could have given Thielen an even better game. There was one crossing route in the second half that Cousins over threw Thielen with no defender in front of him. It would have gone for 20+ yards but was simply over thrown. Thielen caught 7 of his 10 targets and led the team in receiving again this week.

TE Kyle Rudolph, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 41 - 0 (5 targets)
The chemistry between Cousins and Rudolph in the red zone continues to struggle. The ball is being force fed to Diggs and Thielen and it does not leave a lot left for Rudolph. The big tight end caught all 5 of his targets and even got them in a goal to go situation before Thielen caught the eventual touchdown pass. Rudolph had 1 catch of 17 yards and continues to only be used in short to intermediate roles. Cousins has a very effective weapon in Rudolph, but just does not seem to want to use him.


Philadelphia Eagles

QB Carson Wentz, 59 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 35 - 311 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 26 - 0
Wentz continued to move well in his third game back from major knee surgery. With a small margin of error against a fully-capable Vikings team, the occasional errors were enough to log a loss for the Eagles. Wentz was not overly pressured, but a third down sack early in the game and being pressured into a fumble, which was returned for a touchdown, were noteworthy plays in key moments. Wentz struggled this week connecting with Alshon Jeffery, which was not an issue last week. Wentz did deliver a number of positive throws to the intermediate areas of the field, including to Sheldon Gibson in tight coverage, a 30+ yard throw to Alshon Jeffery while moving back in the pocket, a perfect wheel route to Wendell Smallwood, and a corner route to Zach Ertz to stay alive late. Wentz had little help from the run game, not from an efficiency standpoint, but only 12 running back carries compared to 35 passes and five Wentz runs.

RB Jay Ajayi, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 29 - 0, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (1 targets)
Ajayi continues to be heavily managed in his snaps despite Corey Clement and Darren Sproles being out this week. Wendell Smallwood was a significant presence in the Eagles running back committee despite Ajayi running well. Ajayi had minimal involvement in the passing game, but showed nice cutting ability on three notable carries. Ajayi’s most notable misstep came on a critical red zone fumble late in the game of the close loss. It has been apparent through the multiple iterations of the Eagles running back depth chart early in the season, Ajayi would have needed quality goal line looks for a successful game as his opportunities for higher volume will be minimal - but now they are zero since he has been shelved for the season with an ACL tear.

RB Wendell Smallwood, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 27 - 0, Rec: 3 - 44 - 1 (4 targets)
Smallwood was a strong No.2 back for the Eagles with Corey Clement and Darren Sproles out against the Vikings. Jay Ajayi rarely got into a rhythm as the starter by title and Smallwood was the back making more plays in space, seeing two big gains on a run and a catch with quality blocking. Smallwood’s best sequence came on a perfect wheel route throw by Carson Wentz in the red zone late in the game, followed by a two-point conversion on a toss, successfully diving for the pylon. Smallwood remains a Jay Ajayi injury (check) and more commitment to the run game by the Eagles away from being a higher-level performer, but has been a pleasant surprise over the past month, including this game, with his touches.

WR Nelson Agholor, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 45 - 0 (4 targets)
Agholor has taken a notable step back since Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery have returned from injury and this week against the Vikings was no exception. Agholor did well with the targets he did receive, breaking a tackle on a slot screen and hauling in two deeper targets, including a corner route when the Eagles were in a need of a momentum-changing play in the second half. Agholor did had a false start penalty on the negative side.

WR Alshon Jeffery, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 39 - 0 (8 targets)
It was a tough game for Jeffery against the Vikings. After his Week 4 debut was such a positive one, this comes as a disappointment considering his eight targets from Carson Wentz. Jeffery did not see a target until the late second quarter, promptly dropping a full extension target on third-and-long. Jeffery’s two receptions were impactful, however, with a 30+ yard catch as Carson Wentz moved back in the pocket and a fourth down laser to a diving Jeffery in the red zone, a must-have play in the fourth quarter. Jeffery logged another drop late in the game on third-and-long, taking a big hit in the process in field goal range. While the clear No.2 target to Zach Ertz this week, Jeffery had the fifth-most receiving yards on the team.

TE Zach Ertz, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 10 - 110 - 1 (11 targets)
For the fifth straight game Ertz saw double-digit targets as he led the team with 11 looks against the Vikings. Ertz had a tepid game, including a drop, until late when he was peppered with intermediate and short throws by Carson Wentz in catch-up mode. Ertz also added his touchdown late with a perfect corner route over defenders throw by Wentz into the end zone as the Eagles stayed alive in their comeback effort. After a big game earlier in the season, Dallas Goedert has not impacted Ertz’s volume of late as Ertz is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season in the NFL.

TE Dallas Goedert, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (2 targets)
Goedert is two games removed from his breakout performance in Week 3. Goedert was once again quiet in an ancillary role with a healthy Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery centerpieces of the Eagles passing game. Goedert logged a quick out reception with yards-after-the-catch in the second quarter, but without an injury or two, Goedert’s impact projects to be sporadic.