Epic failures in the red zone spoiled the Vikings’ visit to Lincoln Financial Field as the Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) handed the Minnesota Vikings (5-1) their first loss of the season with a butt-ugly 21-10 defeat. The red zone woes from 2015 appear to be haunting the Vikings’ offense again this season, and it was certainly evident on Sunday.
According to teamranking.com, the Vikings rank 27th in the league in red zone efficiency. This season’s poor red zone production is somewhat surprising because the Vikings have an accurate quarterback in Sam Bradford and big, athletic pass-catchers like Kyle Rudolph, MyCole Pruitt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Charles Johnson and Laquon Treadwell. Yet with all that talent, the Vikings have only managed eight touchdowns in 17 red zone opportunities.
Against the Eagles on Sunday, the Vikings ran 13 plays (eight passes and five runs) on four red zone possessions. The Vikings scored one touchdown, had two turnovers, and turned the ball over on downs on one failed fourth down attempt.
The Eagles ran eight offensive plays in the red zone (five passes and three runs) on three possessions scoring one touchdown and adding two field goals.
Red Zone Notes
On the Eagles’ second possession of the game, quarterback Carson Wentz overthrew his tight end and Andrew Sendejo intercepted the pass and returned it 16 yards to the two-yard line. It’s easy to say now, but a pick-six on that play would’ve changed the entire complexion of the game. Little did we know, the ship was about to hit the fan.
Matt Asiata couldn’t power it in on first down, and Rhett Ellison’s false start on the next play moved the Vikings back five more yards. The timing between Bradford and Stefon Diggs was off for most of the game, and a routine quick out route to the front pylon misconnected on 2nd-and-goal from the six-yard line.
On the following play, Bradford uncharacteristically threw the ball up for grabs in the back of the end zone intended for Adam Thielen. Eagles’ safety Rodney McLeod intercepted the pass ending Bradford’s string of 130 pass attempts without an interception.
Three plays later, Wentz fumbled the handoff and Anthony Barr recovered it at the Philadelphia 17 yard line. Just when you thought the second red zone possession couldn’t get any worse than the first, newly acquired left tackle Jake Long got beat by Conner Barwin who strip-sacked Bradford for the turnover.
The play was extremely disheartening because the Vikings only sent three men on pass routes and kept seven in to protect Bradford. The Eagles’ five-man rush completely disrupted the play and made the pass protection look like a complete joke.
The offensive futility continued for the Vikings with their third red zone possession late in the third quarter. With the Vikings down 18-3 and threatening from the 15-yard line, offensive coordinator Norv Turner dialed up the Wild Cat formation as Jerick McKinnon took the shotgun snap 6-yards around the left side. Asiata added another three yards on the ground on the following play. Zach Line had no gain up the middle on a 3rd-and-1. The Vikings went for it on fourth down and Asiata got stuffed at the line for no gain.
The Eagles added a field goal to make the score 21-3 before the Vikings finally manufactured a late fourth quarter touchdown. The Vikings overcame two Alex Boone red zone penalties and Bradford connected with Patterson on 4th-and-goal for the 14-yard score.
The fourth-year receiver made a nice catch on the post pattern and held on after a big hit from the safety. Patterson had 67 yards receiving and caught all seven passes targeted his way. The touchdown was his second consecutive score in as many games as he attempts to rejuvenate his career in Minnesota.
Week 7 was a monster meltdown the Vikings will need to put in the rear view mirror and learn from to move forward. Let’s just hope a Halloween Night tangle with the Bears will be much less creepy.