Strong Philly defense hands Vikings 1st loss

Minnesota Vikings' Sam Bradford, center, fumbles the ball against Philadelphia Eagles' Mychal Kendricks, right, and Rodney McLeod during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Minnesota Vikings' Sam Bradford, center, fumbles the ball against Philadelphia Eagles' Mychal Kendricks, right, and Rodney McLeod during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

PHILADELPHIA — A strong defense can only do so much.

Josh Huff returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, Carson Wentz outplayed Sam Bradford and the Philadelphia Eagles handed error-prone Minnesota its first loss, 21-10, Sunday.

The Vikings relied on excellent defense and a mistake-free offense to start 5-0. But the Eagles exposed several of their weaknesses.

An offense missing both starting tackles and running back Adrian Peterson — not to mention QB Teddy Bridgewater — had big trouble against Philadelphia (4-2). Bradford was pressured all game and struggled for the first time in five games for his new team.

“We turned the ball over, we didn’t block people, we dropped balls, we got the quarterback hit, we gave up a 98-yard kickoff return, we fumbled a punt,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “So if you’re going to do those things, you have no chance to win.”

The Vikings have to figure things out quickly because they suddenly don’t look like the team to beat in the NFC North. They play at Chicago (1-6) next Monday, and then four of their next five opponents have a winning record with the other game against Arizona.

Meanwhile, the Eagles got back on track after two straight losses. They have a first-place showdown at Dallas (5-1) next Sunday night, and their next five opponents have winning records.

Here’s what we learned from Philadelphia’s win over Minnesota:

BLITZING BRADFORD

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz used the blitz far more than usual, and it worked. The result was 19 hits on Bradford, six sacks, two recovered fumbles and one interception. Bradford seemed more concerned with avoiding the rush than keeping his eyes on downfield receivers.

“We knew traps would give him in trouble,” LB Connor Barwin said. “We knew when he gets pressure he likes to get the ball outside right away. And so we brought some of that pressure.”

CARSON’S GROWTH

Wentz had a rough first half, throwing two interceptions after only one pick in his first five games. He also missed some open receivers. But the No. 2 overall draft pick settled in nicely and led a couple scoring drives.

“Carson played well, played efficient, made some good throws,” coach Doug Pederson said. “He seems to get better each and every week. I don’t want to overload him, obviously. I think he’s in a good spot mentally with the offense, and we’ve just got to keep building on what we’ve begun with him.”

AGGRESSIVE

PLAYCALLING

Pederson took a point off the board after a roughing penalty on the Vikings against Caleb Sturgis and went for the 2-point conversion. Wentz ran it in up the middle on a draw. Pederson then went for fourth-and-2 from the Vikings 44 with 1:21 left in the first half. Wentz gained 6 yards on a keeper and the drive ended with Sturgis making a 35-yard field goal for an 11-3 lead.

“For me, it was an easy situation and I had trust in our guys,” Pederson said.

LINE TROUBLES

Minnesota’s offensive line, missing starters Matt Kalil and Andre Smith for the rest of the season, had more problems. T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles started and newly signed left tackle Jake Long rotated in. His Vikings debut was forgettable: Long allowed two strip sacks .

“We need to do a better job,” Zimmer said. ” We’re not going to go down the street and pick up a bunch of guys.  We need to get these guys better and do it quickly.”

HOME-FIELD DOMINANCE

The Eagles are 3-0 at home for the first time since 2014, when the team opened with six straight wins at Lincoln Financial Field. They’ve outscored the Steelers and Vikings 55-13 in the past two games.