On Sunday, with the two teams meeting again, the Eagles quarterback had a chance to put his own stamp on a big win.
Wentz could only do so much, and it wasn’t nearly enough, as the Vikings avenged last year’s blowout loss in the NFC Championship Game by handing the Eagles a 23-21 loss.
It was a rare home defeat for the Eagles, who had been 17-3 at Lincoln Financial Field, including the playoffs, since Doug Pederson took over as the head coach in 2016.
Playing in just his third game since being cleared from offseason knee surgery, Wentz ended with a passer rating of 115.3 with 24 completions on 35 attempts for 311 yards and touchdown throws of 12 yards to running back Wendell Smallwood and seven yards to tight end Zach Ertz. He now has five touchdowns to just one interception since returning.
On the other side of the field, Kirk Cousins was just as efficient, ending with a passer rating of 109.6 with 30 completions on 37 attempts for 301 yards with one touchdown. The Vikings only scored one offensive touchdown.
The other came on a 62-yard fumble return by defensive tackle Linval Joseph and kicker Dan Bailey made 3-of-5 field goal tries.
Minnesota’s Adam Thielen became the fourth receiver to top 100 yards against the Eagles’ defense this season, joining Julio Jones, DeSean Jackson and Corey Davis. Thielen had seven receptions for 116 yards and a three-yard touchdown catch. Stefon Diggs had 10 grabs for 91 yards.
“I’ve been an Adam fan for a very long time,” Diggs said. “So, there’s no surprise to his success this season and we’re going to keep it going. I know he’s going to keep it going.”
Both teams needed a victory.
The Vikings were on a two-game losing streak, and may have saved their season with a win, which improved their record to 2-2-1.
The Eagles (2-3) now have their own two-game losing streak to worry about, and will try to snap that when they play their first game inside the NFC East Division on Thursday night against the 1-4 New York Giants.
“Obviously, it is not where we want to be,” said Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham, who made seven tackles and recovered a fumble. “This is definitely not where we want to be. We can’t lose any more games, so we have to get on the road right here.”
Joseph’s touchdown came with the score tied at 3-3 and the Eagles on the march, reaching the Vikings’ 31. It was there that defensive end Stephen Weatherly, playing more snaps with Everson Griffen out, beat right tackle Lane Johnson with an inside move straight at Wentz, who never stood a chance. Weatherly popped the ball up and it landed in Joseph’s hands.
“I paired it off with speed off the ball,” Weatherly said of his big play. “The tackle kind of overset and I was able to power inside and come down on the quarterback. I wasn’t trying to go for anything special, just trying to wrap him up and get him to the ground the proper way so I wouldn’t get a flag. I looked up and [Joseph] is running in the opposite direction.”
Joseph lumbered 64 yards for a touchdown with 4:12 to play until halftime.
“We needed some points, we needed a big play,” Joseph said. “That was a big play. I felt like that jump started us to go out there and get the win.”
Johnson saw the play a bit differently.
“We thought it was a blitz,” he said. “I was siding out for the blitzer, never came. I looked inside of me, sacked the quarterback, and I think led to us losing the game. I’ll bite the bullet. There is no excuse. Put it all on me. I’d like to have that play back, no question.”
The Vikings’ defense stood tall again after Bradham recovered a Roc Thomas fumble and set the Eagles up at the Minnesota 30-yard line trailing 20-14 with 10:03 to play in the fourth quarter.
Penalties, which have haunted the Eagles all season (they were flagged eight times for 52 yards on Sunday), pushed them backwards. One of the infractions was an intentional grounding call that put the Eagles in a third-and-20 at the 40. After an incomplete pass, Pederson opted to punt with 9:16 to go rather than send in Jake Elliott for a 58-yard field goal try or go for it on fourth down.
“Right decision to punt the football with time left,” Pederson said.
Minnesota added another touchdown right before half, thanks to a poor response from the Eagles’ offense after Joseph’s crowd-silencing touchdown, as it went three-and-out, a drive that was sabotaged by two false start penalties.
The Vikings got the ball right back and, with an assist from a roughing the passer call by referee Walt Coleman when Michael Bennett went low on Cousins, drove 56 yards in eight plays, with Thielen’s 3-yard touchdown ending it.
The score gave the Vikings a 17-3 lead at the break.
The roughing the passer call was questionable, according to members of the Eagles. Instead of third-and-14 from the Eagles’ 31, the Vikings had a first down at the 11.
“He went low into the quarterback’s knees with his shoulder, with force,” Coleman said to a pool reporter.
Except replays showed there might not have been much force at all behind Bennett’s tackle.
Several Eagles players in the locker room weren’t happy with the call.
Pederson was more diplomatic.
“Those are hard situations,” he said. “I’m going to look at the TV copy and I’ll look at obviously the coach’s tape briefly and see. But it’s tough. Unfortunate. The rule’s the rule and we have to abide by it.”