What We Saw: Monday Night Edition

Brett Ford and Benjamin Haller recap Monday night's NFL action

Vikings @ Eagles

Final Score: Eagles 24, Vikings 7

Senior Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

Two teams who registered impressive victories in Week 1 met for a mouthwatering matchup as part of the Week 2 Monday Night Football doubleheader – the Minnesota Vikings travelled to the Philadelphia Eagles hoping to cause another upset after they disposed of the Packers at home to start the season. However, the enigmatic Jalen Hurts had other ideas. The Eagles signal-caller marched down the field on an 11-play, 82-yard opening drive, running the ball in himself up the middle from 3 yards out. Hursts sliced through a cautious Vikings defense who allowed too much space to receivers at the intermediate route level – Hurts connecting with three different receivers to make the perfect start. In response, Kirk Cousins quickly went three-and-out a couple of times, although Darius Slay wasn’t called for a clear hold on Justin Jefferson on third down.

 

 

Hurts punished the Vikings by starting the game 10-for-10 for 154 yards and hit Quez Watkins for a 53-yard score to extend the Eagles’ lead to 14-0 at the start of the second quarter. Just how open was Watkins on this play? Wow!

 

 

The Vikings needed a response and Cousins provided it with a decisive 9-play, 75-yard drive that finished with Irv Smith Jr. nabbing a 2-yard reception in the flat for the TD. It was a nice moment for a talented tight end who has been plagued by injuries the past two season.

 

 

However, Hurts was not to be stopped as he led another incisive 7-play, 85-yard drive which he capped off with a career-high 26 yard run for a score prior to the half. The Vikings defense did not cover themselves in glory on this play, or at any time in the first half to be honest.

 

 

The Vikings blew a great chance to pull right back after a brilliant throw under pressure from Cousins hit Smith Jr. over the top of the secondary but the tight end inexcusably dropped a sure-fire touchdown. A killer mistake that deprived Minnesota of belief going into half time.

 

 

And it didn’t get much better after the half with a promising drive from Cousins resulting in a pick at the goal line after Jefferson didn’t run in front of Slay to protect his quarterback’s throw. And the franchise cornerback gave a special guest a special takeaway from the game.

 

 

However, the Vikings special teams unit immediately came up big with a blocked field goal on the back of the turnover which Kris Boyd ran back deep into Philadelphia territory. Veteran Patrick Peterson balling out and giving his team some life.

 

 

The Vikings offense couldn’t capitalize, however, and the play calling from new Head Coach Kevin O’Connell was dreadful in the second half. Cousins threw another two picks, both terrible throws into double coverage after his defense had turned over the ball. The second of these was a lofted pass into the end zone that was the same play as the previous one that was also nearly picked – unbelievable. O’Connell has a fair bit to explain about that one.

 

 

The picks essentially extinguished any hope of the Vikings mounting any sort of comeback. In comparison, Hurts picked apart the Vikings defense time and time again and the stars were out for the show. The Eagles real MVP was their offensive line, which gave Hurts time to operate on nearly every drive.

 

 

The only criticism was that the Eagles were not more ruthless in the second half after enjoying plenty of space in the secondary; instead, they turned the ball over twice and punted twice in a sloppy performance. Still, they did enough to show they were much better than their opponents on the night.

 

Minnesota Vikings

 

Quarterback

 

Kirk Cousins: 27/46, 221 Yards, TD, 3 Int | 2 Carries, 20 Yards

 

Kirk Cousins made a couple of terrible mistakes, and that was compounded by further mishaps from Vikings receivers, which blew the chance for Minnesota to mount a comeback in this one. The Eagles dominated the time of possession, and Cousins wasn’t able to convert on third downs all night. Going into the fourth quarter, Cousins was 1-for-6 on third downs including two interceptions. The second turnover split his two leading receivers, Justin Jefferson underneath and Adam Thielen over the top, nestling in the arms of Avonte Maddox.

 

 

All-in-all, Cousins threw three picks: one from the Eagles’ 19, the second from the Eagles’ 27 and the third from the Eagles’ 9. That will pretty much rule out any hope of victory. It was a rare poor performance in terms of fantasy, but it is not alien to primetime games. He struggled with the Eagles’ blitzing all night and the play calling did not help him one bit.

The Vikings even waved the white flag in garbage time, choosing to run out the clock after Cousins took a third down sack in the red zone rather than putting up some points. A very bad day at the office offering more questions than optimism.

 

Running Back

 

Dalvin Cook: 6 Carries, 17 yards | 6 Target, 4 Receptions, 19 Yards

Alexander Mattison: 2 Carries, 8 yards | 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 6 Yards

 

The game script didn’t endear itself to the Vikings establishing their run game so Dalvin Cook was starved of touches as the Vikings couldn’t sustain drives and lost big on the time of possession. Remarkably, they ran just nine run plays with one being an end-around to Jalen Reagor that went for 17 yards. Cook mounted just six carries for 17 yards. A devastating result for such a talented runner.

Both Cook and Alexander Mattison shared a healthy 11 targets out of the backfield but most of these were either dump offs for short gains or blown screens that they were hit on behind the line of scrimmage. It was a woeful performance on the ground as the offensive line also failed to deal with blitzes. This is the kind of thing they had to deal with all night.

 

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Adam Thielen: 7 Targets, 4 Receptions, 52 Yards

Justin Jefferson: 12 Targets, 6 Receptions, 48 yards

Irv Smith Jr: 8 Targets, 5 Receptions, 36 yards, 1 TD

Johnny Mundt: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 28 yards

K.J. Osborn: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 25 yards

Jalen Reagor: 1 Carry, 17 Yards | 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 7 yards

 

Justin Jefferson arguably suffered his worst day as a professional as he was stymied by Darius Slay for much of this contest, as well as being plagued by errant throws from Cousins and double coverage for most of the game. He made a poor error on a route into the end zone on the opening drive of the second half which resulted in Slay taking it away at the goal line.

 

 

The rest of his targets were often risky throws where Jefferson had to fight cornerbacks to prevent them from intercepting the ball. The talented young receiver had no real opportunity to catch and run like last week against the Packers.

It”s a worrying sign for fantasy managers if Adam Thielen‘s first catch of the game comes after the 12-minute mark in the fourth quarter, but that’s exactly what happened. Thielen followed it up with a couple of nice sideline catches against Slay but otherwise he was largely ineffective and overlooked. A few late receptions as the Eagles defense gave up some cheap yards salvaged his fantasy stat line somewhat.

Irv Smith Jr. looks to be a viable fantasy tight end option if this is how O’Connell wants to run his offense. The former Alabama tight end lined up across the formation and was the first look in the red zone to haul in the Vikings opening TD. He also caught a couple of nice throws from Cousins in coverage and showed toughness to keep hold of the ball.

 

 

Johnny Mundt seems to be getting a couple of looks every week but he’ll need to do better if he is going to establish himself in this offense. Mundt dropped an easy pass on first down in the middle of the field that he could have taken for a big gain.

K.J. Osborn seems to have totally dropped off the radar in Minnesota under the new coaching staff, which is a shame as he showed such promise last season. Osborn only saw two targets tonight. Not a great sign for the fantasy flex spot breakout candidate.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

 

Quarterback

 

Jalen Hurts: 26/31, 333 Yards, TD, Int | 11 Carries, 57 Yards, 2 TD

 

What a phenomenal performance from Jalen Hurts, who enjoyed great protection throughout this game and his receivers were finding plenty of room to work in early on which helped him move the offense at will. The play calling was balanced and Hurts rewarded his team with near-perfect execution in the first half. The opening drive set the tone for the performance and Hurts clearly enjoyed being in the spotlight.

 

 

Hurts had 301 yards of offense alone in the first half as he put the hesitant Vikings defense to the sword. If he wasn’t firing darts on intermediate routes to his wide-open receivers, he was making things happen with his legs. The touchdown run late in the second quarter was a thing of beauty.

 

 

This was a real statement from Hurts as both a fantasy asset and a franchise quarterback. The view last year was that he was “good for fantasy, not so much in real life” – that can be thoroughly binned at this stage.

 

 

His best throw of the night came in the fourth quarter as he moved to his left and hit Watkins deep once again. Unfortunately it was called back for a penalty but it highlighted the improvement in his game coming into this season.

 

 

Running Back

 

Miles Sanders: 17 Carries, 80 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 6 Yards | Fumble (Recovered)

Boston Scott: 4 Carries, 19 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 2 Yards

Kenneth Gainwell: 2 Carries, 7 Yards | 2 Targets, 1 Receptions, 11 Yards

 

The Eagles didn’t need the run game to be explosive tonight as they consistently made plays through the air and exposed the Vikings shell coverage. Miles Sanders and Boston Scott were both serviceable in their respective roles but neither are top three options in this offense. This performance only reiterated that Hurts is the goal line back so any hopes of a fantasy resurgence from Sanders is probably optimistic. His best chance of being valuable is if he gets the type of volume he did in this game. Still, when the Eagles needed to run the ball and chew up the clock more in the second half, they couldn’t run it effectively enough.

Kenneth Gainwell had a big catch and run early in the game brought back for an ineligible lineman downfield. However, he also tipped the dump-off from Hurts into the arms of Jordan Hicks for the only interception on Philadelphia’s signal-caller.

 

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Dallas Goedert: 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 82 Yards

DeVonta Smith: 7 Targets, 7 Receptions, 80 Yards

Quez Watkins: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 69 Yards, 1 TD

A.J. Brown: 8 Targets, 5 Receptions, 69 Yards

Zach Pascal: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 14 Yards

 

This was a real clinic of route running and trusting the play calling from the Eagles receiving room as they enjoyed some space to work as the Vikings opted to keep two safeties deep for much of this game. It didn’t work and Hurts only had five incompletions all night. The majority of the production came over the middle on intermediate routes which really benefitted DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, who led the team with 82 yards, just two ahead of Smith. A late drive in the second half showed just how easy it was for the Eagles receivers to create separation and gain yards. First Smith…

 

 

…and then Goedert, twice, had chunk plays to take the Eagles 49 yards in just 19 seconds before putting an extra three points on the board when the Vikings were begging for half time. It was that easy.

 

 

A word on A.J. Brown after his epic performance in Week 1. He was the same, every time the ball went to him he made something happen. The big play was taken away by the Vikings playing so deep but he was still a big part of the offense and all that was missing tonight was a grab in the end zone. The opportunity didn’t arise but he was still effective.

 

 

A couple of seasons ago Quez Watkins looked the goods as a rookie when the Eagles were devoid of talent at the position. However, Smith and now Brown have been added and Watkins has been pushed down the depth chart. That only means that the Eagles have an elite set of wideouts now and Watkins impact tonight, especially with his route running, should not be understated. He could be what Osborn was the Vikings last year – a deep threat guy who will be boom or bust but has fantasy relevance even as the fourth option for targets in Philadelphia.

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