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Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell had the Vikings secondary sit back in soft zone coverage, often watching Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts dink and dunk his way down the field during Monday night's 24-7 loss in Philadelphia.

Hurts opened the game with nine straight completions — none reaching 20 yards downfield — that set up an opening-drive touchdown and threatened to add another when Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson sensed something else coming in the second quarter.

"If you go back and look at that, I knew that play was coming," Peterson said. "I said, 'Here come the shot, here come the shot.' Just got behind us, a communication breakdown on the back end."

Eagles receiver Quez Watkins reached nearly 21 miles per hour, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, when speeding past the Vikings secondary on a touchdown that accounted for 53 of Hurts' 333 passing yards and put the Eagles ahead 14-0. There wasn't a Vikings defender nearby even if they could catch Watkins.

"It looked like they nailed down our safety in a quarters look," said head coach Kevin O'Connell, referring to a scheme with four deep defenders each responsible for a quarter of the field. "That's what happens when you get the coverage to kind of declare a little bit with the run game thrown in there, but I thought Jalen [Hurts] threw the ball very well tonight. I thought they protected him well, and it was kind of body blows with their run game, and then when those explosive opportunities came, he made a lot of those plays."

The Vikings' coverage bust was one of the more egregious errors by a defense that gave up 486 yards — 390 to Hurts, who operated efficiently as he consistently took what Donatell's off-coverage schemes gave him. Hurts managed to take even more on this play.

At the start of the second quarter, the Eagles faced a second-and-8 play near midfield. A trio of Watkins (#16) and tight ends Dallas Goedert (#88) and Jack Stoll (#89) align to the defense's right. The Vikings run a "quarters" coverage, according to O'Connell. This and Cover 2 — with two deep defenders — have been the most predominant coverages run by Donatell.

Safety Camryn Bynum (#24) and cornerback Cameron Dantzler (#3) have the deep half of the field over the Eagles trio. The problems seemingly arise when Goedert crosses his route under Watkins; Bynum locks onto the interior threat he originally aligned over — Goedert — which he was supposed to do, according to defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

Dantzler, just outside of the screen in the video below, also locks onto Goedert and lets Watkins run free.

Hurts sees Watkins and unloads the 53-yard touchdown as soon as he passes the Vikings' coverage. Dantzler, who was eventually pulled from the game and replaced by rookie Akayleb Evans, should've stayed deep with Watkins, according to Donatell.

A couple more notes from watching back the Vikings defense:

  • Peterson noted some "mismatches" gained by the Eagles offense; one was the Eagles going empty backfield in the second quarter against a "3-3-5" defensive subpackage, which Donatell deployed to keep a heavier front (think base defense but nickel corner Chandon Sullivan replaces linebacker Jordan Hicks instead of defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard). This was seemingly to counter the Eagles' run game. So the Eagles went empty backfield and receiver DeVonta Smith was guarded by edge rushers D.J. Wonnum and then Patrick Jones on catches of 16 and 19 yards.
  • Hurts' mobility hurt the Vikings right away. The Eagles quarterback neutralized the strength of the Vikings defense — the pass rush — by evading pressure and throwing on the run for early completions of 16 yards to Watkins and 18 yards to Goedert. "Especially early on in the game, we were right there," O'Connell said. "A couple plays I can remember where we were right there and they just made the play and that's where I think you got to give them credit. We'll obviously have to evaluate the things we can do better."