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Defense, Led by Darius Slay, Shine in Eagles' Win Over Vikings, 24-7

Kirk Cousins threw three second-half interceptions, two by Slay and one by Avonte Maddox, but the offense, led by Jalen Hurts, did its part as well
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PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles’ defense showed that, yeah, it can play.

After last week’s showing in Detroit, when they surrendered 35 points to the Detroit Lions in Ford Field, the Eagles celebrated their home opener with a defensive gem and stung the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football, 24-7, to improve to 2-0 and sit atop the NFC East with the New York Giants.

Darius Slay intercepted Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins twice, including once in the end zone on a third-and-goal throw. Avonte Maddox had the other interception. All three thefts came in the second half.

The Vikings managed just 264 total yards, with only 93 coming in the first half as the Eagles raced to a 24-7 lead.

The Eagles dominated time of possession with 36 minutes, 14 seconds to the Vikings’ 23:46.

"It wasn't up to our standard last week," said head coach Nick Sirianni about the defense. "...that was an important bounce-back game for us, defensively. Again, it was a full-team defensive game."

The win was also Philly’s first in Week 2 since 2016 when they beat the Chicago Bears, 29-14, on Monday Night Football six years to the day.

Slay, who was named a team captain for the first time in his career when voted on by his Eagles teammates, blanketed all-world WR Justin Jefferson, who had just six very quiet catches for an even quieter 48 yards.

 "I really honestly believe he’s a second receiver in the league," said Slay. "…What he's done in the past three years is unmatched. All he did was make me a better player (Monday), made me a smarter player. Salute to him."

The Eagles offense was not overshadowed.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts completed his first 11 throws and finished with 26 completions in 33 attempts for 333 yards. He ran for 57 yards and two touchdowns, including a 26-yarder that lifted Philly’s lead to 21-7 with less than two minutes to play in the first half.

Hurts is now 8-2 in his last 10 starts.

"I think we just came out and played very efficiently," he said. "...we operated at a high level early on in the game. I think that’s something that we have to be able to sustain throughout the whole game regardless of the situation. 

"That starts with everybody. I think as a whole, as a team, coming out here and playing on Monday Night Football. I remember what happened last time we played on Monday Night Football. I haven’t forgotten about that. To be able to come out here and perform at a high level as a team, that’s big for us."

The last time on Monday night, the Eagles were blown out in Dallas.

Hurts' first TD pass of the season was a beauty, finding a wide-open Quez Watkins for a 53-yard strike on the first play of the second quarter. The TD upped the Eagles’ lead to 21-7.

He opened the scoring with a 3-yard plunge on the Eagles’ first possession of the game.

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That drive covered 11 plays and 82 yards and was kept alive with a pair of third-down conversions. The first was a 19-yard completion to A.J. Brown on third-and-13. The other was an 8-yard throw to Zach Pascal on third-and-four.

DeVonta Smith, held without a catch last week, made seven for 80 yards. Dallas Goedert had five for 82.

"Like I said last week, you never know whose game it’s going to be," sid Smith. "(Monday), it just happened to be everybody. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. 

"Next week, you never know. Just being ready when your number is called and making the most of your opportunities."

Brown, who had 10 catches for 155 yards against the Lions, settled for five grabs and 69 yards.

Miles Sanders led the rushing attack for a second straight week with 17 carries for 80 yards.

Cousins fell to 2-10 on Monday Night Football, the worst record of any QB with 10 games played on Monday night.

Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was feeling the heat from a fan base that wasn’t happy with how the defense played in Week 1, but Week 2 was a different story.

Slay’s first pick came after Minnesota had breached the red zone on the opening possession of the second half as the Vikings were trying to cut into the deficit with an early score.

Like James Bradberry’s pick-6 interception in Detroit, when Marlon Tuipulotu affected the throw, Javon Hargrave hammered Cousins as he was about to pass and may have hit his arm while the QB tried to deliver the ball to Jefferson in the end zone.

Maddox’s interception came inside the 20 and stopped any momentum the Vikings had after Patrick Peterson blocked Jake Elliott’s field goal try with just over three minutes to play in the third.

Kris Boyd scooped up the block and returned it 27 yards to the Eagles’ 30. He would have gone for a touchdown if not for the hustle of punter and FG holder Arryn Siposs who ran Boyd – a cornerback – down and tackled him from behind.

Defensive standouts came from every quarter, led by Slay and linebacker T.J. Edwards, who had a team-high 10 tackles.

Fletcher Cox and Josh Sweat also stepped up. Each of them recorded a sack. Cox’s forced a fumble but Minnesota recovered. He now has a team-high 1.5 sacks this season.

"We just played together as a unit, played together as a team," said Cox. "We still have a lot to learn, we still have a lot to fix, but the biggest thing is us just enjoying this win knowing we played a really good football team. You have to respect those guys. That’s a really good team we just played."

Slay’s second interception came after Hurts threw an interception to former Eagles LB Jordan Hicks. Attempting to throw a middle screen to Kenny Gainwell, who bobbled the ball into the arms of Hicks who returned it 19 yards for first-and-goal at the Eagles’ 9 with 7:25 to go in the game.

On third down, Slay stepped in front of Jefferson and made the interception. On second down, he appeared to have a pick, but couldn’t secure it.

The Eagles will travel to Washington on Sunday to meet Carson Wentz and the Commanders in a 1 p.m. game.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Fan Nation Eagles Today and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglesmaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.