MINNEAPOLIS -- Vikings running back Matt Asiata -- two months removed from tragedy and until recently relegated to third string -- was one of numerous unexpected contributors who led Minnesota past the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Mall of America Field.
Hungry backups, including Asiata and the majority of the Minnesota secondary, led the Vikings to a 48-30 upset of the Eagles that could derail Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly's bid for the playoffs in his rookie season in the NFL.
Asiata, a third-stringer making his first start because of injuries to Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, tied a Vikings record with three touchdown runs. Asiata scored twice in the fourth quarter, including a short plunge with 1:08 to play as the Vikings (4-9-1) whipped the Eagles (8-6), breaking Philadelphia's five-game winning streak and putting its NFC East title hopes in peril with a big game next week against Chicago.
Asiata was merely the leader of the backup brigade that technically included starting quarterback Matt Cassel. The Vikings were without two running backs, two tight ends, a starting guard, quarterback Christian Ponder and both starting cornerbacks.
Cassel completed 26 of 35 passes for 382 yards and two scores and ran for one himself for the Vikings, who scored on nine of 12 possessions. Wide receiver Greg Jennings posted a career-high 11 receptions for 163 yards and a 57-yard first-quarter touchdown. Cordarrelle Patterson also had a touchdown reception.
And then there was Asiata, whose father died in a bus crash two months ago.
"I look at this as a blessing," said Asiata, who scored his first NFL touchdowns in his starting debut. "It was my dream to make it to the NFL, and I wish my dad was here to witness it."
Philadelphia was punchless in the first half for the second consecutive game.
After trailing the Detroit Lions 16-0 last week, the Eagles managed only three Alex Henery field goals and were behind 27-9 midway through the third quarter.
Quarterback Nick Foles threw for 428 yards with touchdowns to wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10 catches, 195 yards), tight end Zach Ertz and slot receiver Jason Avant. But Foles, sacked four times, felt a lot of pressure, was too often inaccurate in the first half and never found his rhythm. Running back LeSean McCoy, who entered the game as the league's leading rusher, gained 38 yards on just eight carries as the Eagles abandoned the run and looked uninspired throughout much of the game.
"That's a good question," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said, when asked why his team came out flat. "I thought we had a great week of practice. But we don't make excuses. We didn't play well enough to win today."
The Eagles were the team with something at stake, but it was the Vikings who came out fast. Cassel's 57-yard pass to Jennings, Blair Walsh's 35-yard field goal and Asiata's 1-yard run with 1:06 left in the half gave the Vikings a 17-9 halftime lead.
Cassel's 42-yard pass to Jarius Wright set up his own 6-yard touchdown run that made it 24-9. Then, after McCoy was held to no gain on fourth-and-1 from their own 24, Walsh hit his second field goal.
Foles ended a quick 70-yard scoring drive with a 30-yard pass to Jackson. After a Cassel interception, Foles drove the Eagles 45 yards in three plays to score on his 3-yard pass to Ertz with 15 seconds left in the third quarter. A failed two-point conversion made it 27-22.
But Cassel calmly hit Wright for 16, and then backup tight end Chase Ford for 37 to the Philly 5. Two plays later Asiata scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
"It's a good day for the Minnesota Vikings," Cassel said. "We had a lot of guys step up today. I think everyone took it as a great challenge to day to step up and everybody rose to the occasion."
What the Eagles said:
"I really can't answer that. I have to go watch film and see what is really going on. But we just have to regain our bearings. We have to play hard, play better than them and execute. If we did that, we could have come out with the win.'' - Eagles safety Patrick Chung on why the defense struggled Sunday.
"Everybody has to check themselves, how they played and how they prepared. Because we have a big game Sunday nights. Playoffs start this week for us." - Outside linebacker Connor Barwin.
"It was just part of the game with a lot of emotions involved. I cannot really discuss what happened. It is what it is. I am just upset we lost the game. We felt like we should have come out there and won." -- Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was caught on camera having a disagreement with a teammate on the sidelines in the second half.
What the Vikings said:
"It's just next man up. We made plays. That is what you have to do when you are a team." -- Vikings tight end Chase Ford, whose 37-yard reception on third-and 14 set the Vikings up for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
"When we have a lot of guys fighting out here, and we are not going to make the playoffs, it shows we have a lot of character on this football team.'' - Defensive end Jared Allen, who had two of the Vikings' four sacks of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.
What we learned about the Eagles:
1. The Eagles defense continues to be the Achilles' heel of a playoff contender. Suddenly the team's five-game winning streak -- achieved against the likes of the Raiders, a Packers team without Aaron Rodgers and the struggling Redskins -- looks a bit less impressive. Injuries in the secondary have rendered the Eagles' pass defense suspect and foolish penalties, including two 15-yard fouls on cornrback Cary Williams, added injury to insult.
2. Quarterback Nick Foles ended up with some pretty impressive numbers, but he has to improve his accuracy and start getting the ball out quickly. He held the ball too long too often, one reason he was sacked four times.
What we learned about the Vikings
1. Leslie Frazier might be on the way out as the head coach. A CBS Sports report Sunday said the Vikings contacted Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. However, Minnesota is still playing hard. A beat-up team without Adrian Peterson and both starting cornerbacks used a strong start to deal a blow to Philadelphia's playoff drive.
2. Minnesota's wide receivers can be productive when a competent quarterback is throwing them the ball. Matt Cassel is no Pro Bowler, but he is a pro. And, Sunday, Greg Jennings had a career-high 11 receptions. Jennings and three other Vikings receivers had at least one catch of 19 or more yards.