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A lot of ink was spilled leading up to the Vikings’ 23-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles about the coaching matchup. A rematch between Doug Pederson’s offensive prowess, and Mike Zimmer’s defensive genius would captivate the nation. But on the other side of the ball, John DeFilippo faced some pretty stark challenges.

For one, he knew Kirk Cousins would be under pressure. With Minnesota’s struggling offensive line and Philadelphia’s monster defensive line, he needed to find ways to get the ball out quickly. He was also facing a complete dearth of a run game, complete with the starting back sitting out the game.

In the face of these issues, you have to come up with some ways to generate quick yards. Take this 2nd and 5 play, where Cousins is deciding to either hand off or flip the ball out to Diggs. If they play straight up, it’s a run, but anything overly aggressive and it leaves Diggs one on one with the corner:

One of the issues plaguing a team with a bad offensive line is that it takes time to get open. Routes have to develop, you need to get downfield and set up moves. For example, it almost leads to a sack here. Thielen sets up his route beautifully, but it’s not an instant process:

So you have to find quicker ways to get separation. One way to do this is to start the route pre-snap. The rules prohibit wide receivers from getting a forward running start, but they don’t say anything about going sideways:

Reading the field also takes time. A quarterback has to survey what’s going on, check it against his pre-snap expectations and think ahead about what his pass catchers are going to do. When you have less time to process all that, your chances of getting hit or sacked go way up. So as the coordinator, John DeFilippo had to find ways to make the field easier to read, even though Kirk Cousins is known for being pretty quick at that.

You can usually diagnose man vs zone coverage pre-snap, or very quickly post-snap. So you can put a concept designed to beat man coverage on one side, and a concept designed to beat zone on the other. That cuts the amount of nuance in half, and makes it a nice, easy pitch-and-catch:

The result of all this was a really short passing game. This won’t work against every defense, but it produced excellent results on Sundays:

Michael Kist is an Eagles analyst for Bleeding Green Nation, and worth a follow. He also details the uptick in play action from the last few weeks – the Vikings ran it 31.7% of the time on Sunday vs 16.1% the first four weeks. This payed huge dividends:

John DeFilippo appeared to have the perfect confluence of ideas to come out and beat the Eagles on their own turf. It’s never going to be easy to beat the defending champions on the road, but it’s very possible that a lesser coordinator leaves the team 1-3-1.

Thanks for reading!

ADDITION: Here’s an excellent Twitter thread from Nick Olson on the chess match going on during each play between John DeFilippo and Jim Schwartz. If you’re not already following him, get on it already!