Vikings 'looking forward to a big test' in defending Eagles' breakneck offense
DEC 12, 2013 4:30p ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- From the moment Chip Kelly left the University of Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, NFL defensive coordinators studied how Kelly's breakneck-speed, big-play offense would translate to the next level.
Much like the pistol offense, it was the newest trend to hit the league and teams wanted to be prepared to face the up-tempo style.
"Everyone's looked at it," Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "It's the things that you see in college that don't necessarily translate to the NFL, and then the preseason you don't see the full monty, so to speak. So we took a look at it. The one thing that you don't get on film is how fast it comes at you from snap to snap. So we still don't know. The TV copies still don't show everything, so we won't see it in color until we see it on the field."
The Vikings are preparing to see Kelly's offense in full gear on Sunday. Minnesota hosts Philadelphia, which owns the league's third-ranked offense, the top-ranked rushing offense and the most plays of 20-plus yards by a team this season.
"We're getting ready for fast-break football coming in town," Williams said. "The guys are excited about playing a good team. They've heard about it all year long with Chip Kelly's offense in town and looking forward to a big test in how to defend it in all phases; backed up, middle of the field, red zone, they do an excellent job of keeping you on your heels, pressing you mentally and physically. The guys are looking forward to the challenge to see how they respond."
Kelly has even made his own adjustments to the NFL game. After winning the season-opener, the Eagles went through a three-game losing streak and five losses in six games. But the move from Michael Vick to Nick Foles at quarterback and the play of running back LeSean McCoy has Philadelphia's offense clicking during a five-game winning streak.
And the offense is adapting as well to the NFL as anyone might have expected. The Eagles average a league-best 158.8 rushing yards per game and are tops with a 4.9 yards-per-carry average. They lead the league in 20-plus-yard plays (80 total), passing plays of 20-or-more yards (64) and touchdowns of 20-plus yards (19). Overall, Philadelphia is second in yards per play, averaging 6.16 yards per play, and average 409.3 offensive yards per game.
"I think the key to our success is going to be being very stout in the run game and being able to force them into situations," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. "We've got to try to play with a lead. You let this team get a lead and their playbook's wide open. If we can get a lead and kind of force them to be one-dimensional, we can hopefully create some unfavorable matchups and make (Foles) throw the ball in places he might not want to. Right now he's in a good rhythm and the way to change that is to make them uncomfortable."
Foles has thrown 20 touchdowns this season and tossed his first interception of the year last week in a game with snowier conditions than Minnesota endured in Baltimore. During the five-game winning streak, Foles has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 1,348 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception. The 136.3 quarterback rating during that span is the seventh-highest by an NFL quarterback during a five-stretch since 1960. He leads the league with a 120.0 quarterback rating this season.
But when the Vikings evaluate the Eagles' offense, they point to one player in particular -- McCoy, the league's leading rusher with 1,305 yards. He has five games this season with 150 yards or more rushing. He also has 40 catches for 439 yards and leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
"This dude is making moves," Allen said. "He's like a human joystick right now. Honestly it reminds me a lot of Dante Hall, back when he was just making people miss like crazy. This year, you even watched the Redskins game, stopping this way and then he's 100 yards that way."
Last week, McCoy went for 217 rushing yards on 29 carries to overtake Minnesota's Adrian Peterson in the lead for the rushing title.
"Dynamic. Dynamic in every phase. Dynamic out of the backfield. Dynamic when you have him bottled up," Williams said. "He's Houdini. You think you have him bottled up and he's right there. You look away and the next thing you know you're looking back at the film and he's 30 yards down the field. So, we'll have our hands full. We have to tackle and then we have to tackle and then we have to tackle. He's a fantastic football player. I don't know if he gets the recognition, really, that he should."
The entire Philadelphia offense is getting recognition from the Vikings this week.
Peterson and company still out of practice: Peterson and Toby Gerhart were both held out of practice for Minnesota again on Thursday and their status is still unknown. Coach Leslie Frazier hopes both will be able to get some work on Friday.
Peterson didn't advance to working on dry land with his sprained foot and again did some work in the pool. Gerhart still wasn't ready to practice with his hamstring injury.
"In Adrian's case, just being able to see him cut, plant, put some weight on that foot, do the things that you kind of want to see him do in a ballgame, see if he's inhibited at all," Frazier said of what he wants to see on Friday. "And then Toby, just see if he can burst a little bit with a hamstring. Hopefully, we can find that out tomorrow."
Tight end John Carlson watched practice, but still hasn't passed concussion testing in order to participate. Frazier said he's hopeful right guard Brandon Fusco (knee) will be able to practice tomorrow. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) might have a tough time returning this week. Josh Robinson (fractured sternum) was still held out of practice as well.
"Xavier, it will be touch and go, but it will be great if we can get him, as well," Frazier said. "We'll know tomorrow. It will be a big day for a lot of guys."
All-Metrodome team: With two games left in the final season of the Metrodome, the Vikings unveiled their All-Metrodome team on Thursday. The players will be recognized, with many in attendance, on Sunday against Philadelphia.
In voting completed by fans, the offense includes quarterback Daunte Culpepper, running backs Adrian Peterson and Robert Smith, receivers Anthony Carter, Cris Carter and Randy Moss, tight end Steve Jordan, offensive tackles Tim Irwin and Gary Zimmerman, guards Steve Hutchinson and Randall McDaniel and center Matt Birk.
The defense comprised ends Jared Allen and Chris Doleman, defensive tackles John Randle and Kevin Williams, linebackers Chad Greenway, Ed McDaniel and Scott Studwell, cornerbacks Carl Lee and Antoine Winfield, and safeties Robert Griffith and Joey Browner.
Differences in late-game defense: Williams said there was a difference in the defense on the final drive on Sunday in which Baltimore drove for the game-winning touchdown with 4 seconds left. It was the fifth time this season the Vikings have given up a lead in the final minute.
"I think those issues this week, guys were close to the play (and) just didn't make the play," Williams said. "In past weeks it may have been not necessarily executing the defense or being out of place, not where we're supposed to be. (On Sunday) the guys were close. Two plays Audie (Cole) was close, but not close enough and I think that comes from experience, knowing that, hey, if they catch it in front of you, no big deal, don't give up one over the top, and just more so that and experience than anything else."
Explanation on "mortar" kick: Another back-breaking play on Sunday was the high, short kick Minnesota used to try and avoid kicking to Baltimore's talented returner, Jacoby Jones. Kicker Blair Walsh lofted a high kick, but Jones snuck forward and ran underneath the kick and returned it 77 yards for the touchdown, an alignment special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said he won't use again.
"Well, we decided to kick the mortar kick, try to slow him down a little bit," Priefer said. "They read it perfectly. They did a good job. I got outcoached on that play, unfortunately. We didn't execute it well enough. We had guys over there. We had, I think, two of them got pinned inside. He hit that seam full-speed. It was not a very good call on my part, and it was not schemed up well on my part. I've got to give credit to them. They did a nice job, and got the ball in their best playmaker's hands."
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