The Minnesota Vikings would rather forget their last trip to Philadelphia.
Less than nine months ago, the Vikings were one win from advancing to the Super Bowl but those dreams were crushed by the Eagles in a 38-7 mauling in the NFC Championship Game.
So when Minnesota makes a return trip to face Philadelphia (2-2) on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, the revenge factor will obviously be a factor — even though both teams have struggled through the first quarter of the season.
“Obviously they’re going to be hungry coming in from previous experiences with us,” said Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson. “But with our backs up against the wall, we’ll be hungry, too.”
The Vikings (1-2-1) are winless since a 24-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the season opener. They were crushed at home by lowly Buffalo in Week 3 and looked overmatched on defense in last Thursday’s 38-31 setback at the Los Angeles Rams.
“We just have to start doing things a little bit better than how we’ve been doing them,” Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I obviously addressed some things with the team the last couple days. We got some points of emphasis that we have to continue to get better at.”
The Vikings’ defense was shredded in Los Angeles, allowing 556 total yards. Rams quarterback Jared Goff passed for five touchdowns without an interception and was sacked once.
Minnesota has allowed at least 27 points in three straight games. Some observers note that the defensive downfall started in Philadelphia. The Vikings led the NFL in fewest points and yards allowed last season, but were gashed for 456 yards by the Eagles.
“I don’t know about that as far as what we did tipping things off,” said Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson in dismissing the idea that the Eagles exposed a weakness in Minnesota’s defense. “I think that, obviously as an offensive coach, you look at something like that and you go, ‘OK, how did they attack the defense? How did they handle such a good front and good secondary?’ They might try to mix it into their scheme. But I don’t think it was necessarily about that.
“I just think, right now, the team is dealing, they’re just missing some guys on defense and guys that helped them last year. I’m not going to speculate, I just know dealing with our own injury and guys that are out, how it can affect your football team. I would assume something like that could take place.”
Philadelphia is dealing with issues of its own on defense. The Eagles were singed for 436 total yards in a 27-21 loss at Tampa Bay in Week 2 and were unable to protect a 14-point second-half lead in last week’s 26-23 overtime defeat at Tennessee.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is familiar to the Eagles from his days with the Washington Redskins. Cousins is third in the NFL with 1,387 passing yards and has a pair of dangerous wideouts in Adam Thielen (40 catches) and Stefon Diggs, who have combined for five touchdowns.
“A lot of respect for Kirk for what he’s done,” said Pederson. “He’s played well against us in the past. He’s made some really good plays, some good throws against our defense when he was in Washington. He’s still doing that, and he’s got some explosive weapons to go to on offense.
“Defensively, our work is cut out for us. We got to generate some pass rush obviously and try to keep him in the pocket. He’s a better scrambler than people think using his legs and extending plays.”
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who missed last season’s matchup due to a knee injury, threw for 348 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Titans in his second start of the year. Alshon Jeffery had eight catches for 105 yards and a score in his season debut after sitting out the first three games while rehabbing his shoulder.
Wentz takes an undefeated record in his last nine home games into Sunday’s matchup and remains wary of the Vikings’ defense despite what the statistics say.
“They’re fast,” said Wentz about the Minnesota defense. “They do quite a bit. They’re similar to the way they’ve been the last couple of years; same scheme, a lot of similar players, very sound. It feels like we both know each other pretty well at this point having played each other the last two years. It should be a hard game and a fun one on Sunday.”