As a Vikings fan having just watched my team fall to 0-2, I am absolutely sad. Losing a turnover battle at all is bad, but when you lose it 4-1 (7-1 overall in first 2 games) it is nearly impossible to come out of the game(s) with a win in this league.
Yet when the game comes down to essentially needing to recover an onside kick and score a touchdown in the waning seconds of the game, that shows you this team has fight and does not give up. It’s the same thing we saw in last year’s team, Kevin O’Connell’s first year at the helm, when Kirk Cousins led the league in 4th quarter comeback wins and the team went 11-0 in one score games.
I really do think the Vikings would’ve won the game had it not been for the turnovers. The team was dominant. Brian Flores has those defenders looking like they’ve been in the system for years. They might’ve struggled against the run, but they had some crucial defensive stops/sacks that kept the Vikings in the game, including the first turnover forced by the Vikings this year in the form of Theo Jackson’s first career interception. Danielle Hunter had a crucial sack in the 4th that pushed the Eagles out of field goal range.
Let’s talk about the offensive/special teams turnovers. In his media availability at his locker after the game, Justin Jefferson made it clear he puts a lot of that loss on himself because of his fumble reaching for the endzone that resulted in a touchback instead of a touchdown because he lost possession, which is a rule a lot of people disagree with.
Brandon Powell had a terrific return after the Eagles were forced to punt early in the 1st quarter. Yet when he got to roughly the Eagles’ 35 yard line, he fumbled. Kevin O’Connell made it clear in his postgame presser that they preach ball security, but it’s incredibly difficult when someone behind you knocks the ball out while you’re heading towards the ground.
The same thing happened to Alexander Mattison. In the first quarter on first down, Mattison takes a handoff for a few yards but as he’s tackled gets the ball punched out resulting in the Eagles recovering the fumble.
On the Vikings first drive of the second half, we see a Cousins fumble on 2nd & 9. Edge rusher Josh Sweat comes out of nowhere to strip sack Cousins that results in a Fletcher Cox recovery and a 1st & goal for the Eagles. Jalen Hurts then punches it in for 6.
Yet, the offense did a lot of good. Kirk Cousins threw for 364 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions. Cousins completed 31/44 passes. 11 of those went to Jefferson, unsurprisingly, for 159 yards and *almost* a touchdown (referring to the touchback rule of course). For what it’s worth, that would’ve been Jefferson’s first touchdown of the season. Rookie Jordan Addison snagged his second career touchdown tallying up 3 receptions for 72 yards. T.J. Hockenson caught 7 passes for 66 yards and TWO touchdowns.
There was also some really bad things the offense did outside of the turnovers. K.J. Osborn had a couple crucial drops which gave me some flashbacks to the 3rd down need to have it play in the Wildcard playoff game last year where Osborn dropped a first down pass. We had a couple more of those tonight. Yet when Osborn was wide open in the endzone, he managed to haul in his first touchdown of the season. It’s early and Osborn has certainly been clutch in crucial moments before, but it is something to monitor.
Also, the running game wasn’t just a defensive issue. I don’t know if there was some confusion in the meeting rooms this week, but the offensive gameplan seemed more focused on stopping the run than the defensive gameplan. Outside of the fumble, Mattison had 8 rush attempts for 28 yards. 2nd year running back Ty Chandler had 1 rush attempt, but absolutely nothing to show for it. It would be unfair to the running backs to not mention the offensive line injuries. Despite being listed pregame as active, left tackle Christian Darrisaw was unable to give it much of a go in the game. Center Garrett Bradbury, who was injured in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game week 1, was out with a back injury. Oli Udoh, who took over for Darrisaw, was injured late in the game and had the cart sent out for him. O’Connell noted in his postgame presser that it did not look good for Udoh. The abysmal offensive line performance should also add to the impressive performance of Cousins tonight while helping us better understand why his fumble we previously discussed happened.
Needless to say, it is week 2 and the Vikings played on a short week. And in 2023, the NFC North is wide open. So while there is plenty to improve on, there’s hope out there that the Vikings can turn this season around.