PHILADELPHIA — Sparked by running back D’Andre Swift and wide receiver DeVonta Smith, the Philadelphia Eagles came alive in the second half of their “Thursday Night Football” matchup against the Minnesota Vikings for a 34-28 win in Week 2.
Neither team looked fully cohesive in the first half. The Eagles’ defense came up with stops, and their offense pounded the ground with run plays to dominate overall time of possession while the Vikings tallied four lost fumbles. Here’s what to know about each team’s performance:
The one constant in an otherwise volatile game between the Eagles and Minnesota Vikings was Philly’s ground game.
The Eagles rushed for more than 250 yards with a pair of Jalen Hurts touchdowns, offsetting a passing attack that was uneven for a second straight week. One of the more promising developments was the performance of D’Andre Swift, who rushed for a career-high 175 yards. It was the most rushing yards by an Eagle since LeSean McCoy in 2013 (217 rush yards). He carried the load with Kenneth Gainwell (ribs) sidelined.
The most impressive sequence came in the first half when Philadelphia orchestrated a 16-play, 75-yard drive featuring 13 rushes. Hurts now has 28 career rushing touchdowns, tied with Cam Newton for the most through a QB’s first 50 career games.
The Eagles are 2-0, but it hasn’t always looked pretty. That’s particularly true of the passing game, which has sputtered for extended stretches. But the defense generated three takeaways and when it mattered, Philadelphia was able to lean back on the run — a luxury that will come in handy moving forward.
Buy a breakout performance: DeVonta Smith erupted for four catches for 131 yards and a touchdown, including a pair of grabs of 50-plus yards. Corner Darius Slay predicted it won’t be long until Smith is considered the best receiver in the league. While it’s too early to put him in that conversation, all the signs suggest Smith is in store for a career year.
Eye-popping stat: Including playoffs, Hurts has 10 rushing touchdowns on QB sneaks since the start of last season, seven more than any other signal-caller. The “tush push” has been key: Hurts has now converted 34 of 36 sneaks when pushed by teammates the last two seasons including playoffs. No other QB has more than 10 push sneaks in that time.
Pivotal play: With the Eagles nursing a 13-7 third-quarter lead, defensive end Josh Sweat came off the edge and knocked the ball loose from Kirk Cousins. Fletcher Cox recovered and rumbled to Minnesota’s 7-yard line, setting up a Hurts TD plunge. That was the beginning of the end for Minnesota. — Tim McManus
Next game: at Buccaneers (7:15 p.m. ET, Sept. 25)
The Vikings didn’t just lose to the Eagles. For the second time in as many games this season, they didn’t give themselves a chance to win.
The Vikings lost three fumbles in the first half alone, including one by receiver Justin Jefferson as he attempted to extend the ball into the end zone, and finished with four in the game. Combined with their sloppy performance in a Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Vikings became the first NFL team since 2003 to lose six fumbles in the first two games of a season.
Who knows how this game, or last week’s game, would have played out had the Vikings managed to hold on to the ball. Even with the turnovers, they managed to turn a 27-7 deficit into a one-score game midway on two different occasions in the fourth quarter. In either event, they’re 0-2 with games looming against two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks — Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes — along with one of its best overall teams, the San Francisco 49ers. The Vikings will have to find answers quickly before the season gets away from them.
Troubling trend: The Vikings haven’t had anything resembling a running game in either game this season. Frankly they’ve hardly tried, and it’s only fair to recall their decision to part ways with former starter Dalvin Cook in June and replace him with longtime backup Alexander Mattison.
Mattison managed just 28 yards on eight carries Thursday night, a week after gaining 34 yards on 11 carries. Mattison also accounted for one of the Vikings’ fumbles Thursday night.
Biggest hole in the game plan: On the other hand, the Vikings could not stop the Eagles’ running game. Replacement starter Swift finished with 175 yards, and the Eagles rushed for 259 overall by taking advantage of an unusual and ultimately unsuccessful defensive alignment.
The Vikings have adopted a three-safety look as their base defense, and they spent much of the first three quarters using defensive fronts that included either two, one or occasionally no defensive linemen. The Eagles had an extraordinary physical edge upfront, and they took advantage of it.
Pivotal play: Jefferson tied the NFL record for fewest number of games needed (52) to reach 5,000 career receiving yards. He also became the first NFL player since 2011 to have 150 or more receiving yards in each of his first two games of a season. But it was a play he was not able to make that seemed to turn the tide Thursday night. Stretching to reach the ball over the goal line after a 30-yard reception in the second quarter, Jefferson lost control. A replay review confirmed that the ball flew over the pylon, which resulted in a touchback and a turnover.
A touchdown would have given the Vikings a 14-10 lead, but instead the Eagles took over and got a 61-yard field goal from Jake Elliott on the final play of the half to take a 13-7 lead into the locker room. — Kevin Seifert
Next game: vs. Chargers (1 p.m. ET, Sept. 24)
Tim McManus and Kevin Seifert