After injuries to their first two quarterbacks in the last two games, the Vikings may have to turn…
Notebook: Struggles All-Around
In fact, one of the miscues by rookie Adrian Peterson was tagged the most important play of the game by a member of the winning team in the Philadelphia Eagles' 23-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
"I think the biggest play of the game was right after halftime when Peterson touched the ball at the 1-yard line," Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard said. "It gave us momentum to start the second half."
Philadelphia kicker David Akers opened the second half with a boot to the sideline to Peterson's left. Instead of letting the ball either go out of bounds or into the end zone – it was too close to know for sure – Peterson grabbed the ball and stepped out of bounds inside the 1-yard line.
Peterson called it a rookie mistake and the Vikings insisted that he was trying to get a foot out of bounds before getting possession of the ball, a move that would have put the ball at the 40-yard line – just like what would have happened if the ball had bounced out of bounds on its own.
"It's a little-known rule, particularly by you guys here," Childress told reporters after the game, "but if you put your foot out of bounds when you're worried about a ball that's going out of bounds and you're not sure – is it staying in, is it going through the end line, do I sit and watch it? – the minute you put your foot out of bounds and possess the football, the ball is out of bounds."
Despite replay evidence that showed Peterson had the ball before he stepped out of bounds, Childress challenged the on-field ruling.
"Unfortunately, it was a bang-bang and they said he didn't possess it," Childress said. "The guy said it was worth reviewing because that's what I thought. I thought he had a foot down and possession, but obviously they don't see enough to say – they said it was possession, (then) foot down."
It was the second time Childress challenged a play and lost in the game, ending his ability to challenge anymore calls. It was also the first of two timeouts the Vikings used in the third quarter, and they could have used both of those to bring Philadelphia's final possession of the game to an end with more time remaining on the clock.
But, when that possession did finally end, Philadelphia punter Sav Rocca boomed a 65-yard punt that sent returner Bobby Wade running back to field it – at the 1-yard line.
"I am trying to make a play – it is as simple as that," Wade said. "Like I said, if I let that ball bounce into the end zone, we would have been (11) yards closer. … To possibly hit a home run there, it would have been nice, but I was just trying to make a play."
The play took additional time off the clock and Wade admitted that the rest of his teammates on the field were rushing to block the kick, not help set up a return.
The Eagles kept Peterson in check on the ground, too. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry, his second-lowest average of the season since Detroit held him to a 3.3-yard average in the second week of the season.
"We knew we just had to keep our contain, clog up the middle, not make mistakes on blitzes and we could keep him contained," said Eagles defensive end Trent Cole. "He is a hard runner. I'm not going to lie, I've seen him on film and I seen him in the game (Sunday). He is a hard runner and one of the best running backs I've seen. He's fast, keeps pumping his legs and that is why he breaks a lot of tackles."
Cole's other bookend teammate agreed.
"He is a hell of a runner," Kearse said. "He is a young stallion, so we did a good job of getting next to him and stopping the run."
Following the Eagles' final points of the game, the Vikings had their last best shot to score with five minutes left in the game and the ball on the 29-yard line. After getting a completion to midfield, the Philadelphia defense stepped up. Peterson tried to reverse his field and lost 6 yards on first down and Kearse followed with a 5-yard sack. One play later, the Vikings were punting and hoping for a defensive stop.
"Every time he takes one step forward and stops, he is going to go outside," Cole said of Peterson. "He is not going to want to run inside."
Teammates seemed pleased by Brooks Bollinger's relief appearance of Holcomb, as the Vikings went to their third-string quarterback because of injuries to their first two. Bollinger was called upon when Holcomb suffered a whiplash-like injury in the third quarter on a sack. Tarvaris Jackson was deactivated with a fractured finger on his throwing hand.
"At that point, I am just thinking execute the play that is called and don't try to do anything fancy," Bollinger said.
Bollinger entered the game with the Vikings trailing 20-10 and helped lead them to consecutive field goal drives on his first two possessions.
"We didn't want to stay down. That's what new players do, and good teams do," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "When you are down, you don't stay down. You've got to get up. He took control of the offense, and he drove us down the field."
Said center Matt Birk: "He is a pro and that's what you do for yourself to survive in this league. That's what is expected of guys – if you're not a starter, then you're a backup. If you are called upon, you are supposed to step up and play at a high level."
Childress also seemed satisfied with what Bollinger was able to do under tough conditions. He finished 7 of 10 for 94 yards.
"The guy gets very limited reps during the week," Childress said, "particularly if we're trying to prepare another guy, so I thought he did a good job. He understood our game plan, and I wish we could have supported him better."
But Childress wasn't ready to speculate on a starter for Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
"I like all of my quarterbacks," Childress said. "I'm not going to get drawn into, ‘Who is the starter this week?'"
DEFENSE ACCOUNTABLE, TOO
Although the offense only scored 16 points, and that has generally been a recurring theme this season, the defense had its struggles as well. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb completed 23 of 36 passes for 333 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a 103.1 rating.
"Defensively, we are definitely not satisfied with that. We are very upset about giving up so many big plays," said cornerback Antoine Winfield. "If we do that, we really do not stand a chance. Especially that first half I think they put up 17 points. On the outside corner position, we are just giving up too many deep balls."
The Eagles had four receivers with receptions of 25 yards or more (the Vikings had one) and Kevin Curtis' 25.3-yard average on three receptions showed why he was one of the most sought-after receivers on the free-agent market in March. Reggie Brown led the Eagles with eight receptions for 105 yards.
"We watch tape and see other teams match up good against (McNabb) and see him struggle," safety Darren Sharper said. "Then he comes in here and picks us apart, which might be letting us know we are not as good as we think we are."
MORE EXPLOSIVE IN PHILLY
While several Eagles credited Brad Childress with helping them develop when he was a position coach and offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, McNabb insinuated that the Eagles offense has become more explosive under Childress' replacement, Marty Morhinweg.
"We have added some different wrinkles since Brad has left. You know, Marty has done an excellent job of just creating more shots for us downfield, showing the defense different looks and then I think we have been doing a good job with that," McNabb said.
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