Former Vikings GM on why offensive coordinator DeFlilippo earned his game ball

Jeff Diamond shares his key takeaways from Sunday's game.

Jeff Diamond
October 08, 2018 - 3:51 pm

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

By Jeff Diamond, former Vikings GM, hosts The Players Show with Harrison Smith or Dalvin Cook live Mondays 5:30 at the Lone Oak Grill in Eagan. Register on Facebook to attend in person or subscribe via Google Play, Stitcher or iTunes

When Adam Thielen fielded a tough onside kick to seal the Vikings thrilling 23-21 win in Philly, there was a huge exhale among his coaches and teammates along with Vikings fans back home. 

Revenge for last January's NFC Championship game defeat to the Eagles was wonderful. More important was improving the team's record to 2-2-1 after a killer season-opening stretch that included road games at Green Bay, L.A. and Philadelphia.

As regular season wins in Week 5 go, this was as big as it gets. And the last 10 minutes was gut check time with the Vikings delivering in all phases of the game: offense, defense and the kicking game.

As has been the case virtually the entire season, we saw a terrific performance from Kirk Cousins (30 of 37 for 301 yards and one touchdown while often throwing under pressure). Equally outstanding was the dynamic receiving duo of Adam Thielen (7 catches for 116 yards and one TD) and Stephon Diggs (10 receptions for 91 yards). In the process, Thielen set an NFL record with five straight 100-yard receiving games to open a season.

What was less expected, especially against the defending Super Bowl champs, were the contributions in three areas that had been an issue in the early season--the defense, running game and kicking game.

Here are five key takeaways:

1. The Vikings pass rush steps up

The defense held the talented Eagles offense to under 300 total yards and 14 points before the too easy 75-yard drive against a prevent defense that set up the final onside kick drama. Despite still missing Pro Bowler Everson Griffen, the Minnesota pass rush put on enough pressure to bother Eagles QB Carson Wentz who often had to run to escape the rush.

And in the biggest play of the game in the second quarter, Griffen's replacement Stephen Weatherly sacked Wentz and forced a fumble that Linval Joseph caught and ran 64 yards for a TD. It put the Vikings up 10-3 and they never relinquished the lead.

Vikings Stephen Weatherly hits Carson Wentz causing a fumble
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

2. Smith reminds us why he’s a pro-bowler

Another huge defensive play was made by safety Harrison Smith early in the fourth quarter after the Vikings' lone turnover when Roc Thomas dropped Cousins' lateral pass. On 3rd and 20, Smith dislodged the ball from Alshon Jeffery to prevent a key first down at the Minnesota 20 yard line on a drive that could have given the Eagles their first lead.

There were a few coverage issues such as the 48-yard completion from Wentz to Shelton Gibson when Mike Hughes looked to be in a position to make a play. But there were very few wide open receivers compared to recent games and two big turnovers were forced by the Vikings D: the Joseph fumble return and a pivotal fumble recovery by Eric Kendricks at the Vikings 5 on the opening drive of the third quarter.  

3. Offensive Coordinator John DeFlilippo earned his game ball

Kudos are also due to new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo for his gutsy call after the Kendricks recovery. He had Cousins throw out of his end zone and hit Adam Thielen on a 68-yard deep pass that set up a field goal. DeFilippo also was impressive on the Vikings clock-draining final drive as he stuck with a running game that had been limited against Philly's top-ranked run defense. Latavius Murray ran for 21 yards on that drive and the Cousins to Thielen combo delivered a big first down before Cousins converted a 3rd and 1 with a 19-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph.

Cousins was pressured often by Philly’s stout defensive line but he was sacked only once (also due to a lot of quick passes called by DeFilippo who was awarded a game ball by Mike Zimmer for his excellent job of calling plays in his return to Philadelphia where he was QB Coach the past two years).  


4. Dan Bailey restores faith in the kicking game

That set up a nervous moment for Coach Mike Zimmer and the team--along with all of Vikings nation-- as new kicker Dan Bailey lined up for a 52-yard field goal with 2:51 to play. Bailey was 2 for 4 on the day with a rare 28-yard miss off the left post on the opening drive and a 45-yard miss in the second quarter. He had converted his other two field goals but this was crunch time and a miss would have given the Eagles a short field trailing by six points.

Dan Bailey kicks a 52-yard field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Bailey made this clutch kick, restoring—for the moment at least—the faith of Zimmer and Vikings fans in their kicking game.

5. One area for improvement: The offensive line

While enjoying this important victory, the Vikings know that the defense and kicking game will need to stay solid and improvement is needed in run blocking and pass protection by the O-line.

The return—hopefully soon—of a healthy Dalvin Cook can help the cause. But Murray ran hard and the offensive line opened some holes.

What’s next: Avoiding a repeat for the Bills scenario 

Now as the Vikings look ahead with the schedule seemingly easing up (with three of the next four games at home), they'll have to guard against a letdown when 1-4 Arizona comes to U.S. Bank Stadium fresh off their win in San Francisco. Rookie first round quarterback Josh Rosen will be at the helm, and Vikings will also have to contend with a defense that forced five 49er turnovers. Sound familiar? Think Buffalo in Week 3. Coach Zimmer surely will remind the team of that nasty Bills loss this week.

Jeff Diamond is a former vice president/general manager of the Minnesota Vikings and former president/COO of the Tennessee Titans. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998 after the Vikings’ 15-1 season. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work including co-hosting the Players Show presented by the Select Minnesota Buick GMC Dealers with Harrison Smith or Dalvin Cook and Mike Max on News Talk 830 WCCO on Monday nights live at the Lone Oak Grill in Eagan. He also writes weekly NFL columns for sportingnews.com and does Vikings/NFL podcasts on TalkNorth.com. Diamond makes speaking appearances to corporate/civic groups and college classes on Negotiation, Labor Relations and Sports Business/Sports Management. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL.