Vikings ‘looking forward to a big test’ in defending Eagles’ breakneck offense

The Eagles' top-ranked rushing offense is led by running back LeSean McCoy, while quarterback Nick Foles (left) has the league's highest passer rating.

Howard Smith/Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Dennis Green was named the coach of the All-Metrodome team

and the special teams players were kicker Ryan Longwell, punter Chris Kluwe,

returner Percy Harvin and specialist Chris Walsh.

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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