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The Vikings are back to work after the "mini-bye" that results in playing on Thursday Night Football, and they have a bit of climbing to do to reach their team goals. They also have time. Sure, history has shown that opening a season 0-2 is not conducive to making the playoffs.
Since 1999, teams that started 0-2 made the playoffs 11.5 percent of the time (31 out of 270 teams) and 5.9 percent won the division.
As we look to next week, when Minnesota (0-2) hosts the Los Angeles Chargers (0-2), keep in mind of the 348 teams who have opened a season 1-2 since 1990, 88 have made the postseason (25.3 percent) and 44 have won their division (12.6 percent). Of the 158 who have opened 0-3, only four made the playoffs and two won their division.
The team has some positives to build on as they correct the things that kept them from winning at home against Tampa Bay and made last week's game at Philadelphia an uneven battle.
Plus, Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago all lost in Week 2 on Sunday. The 0-for-4 by the division means the 1-1 Packers and Lions (Green Bay has the tiebreaker because it won a division game in Week 1) aren't as far ahead of the Vikings as they could have been entering Week 3.
Bigger than any football game is society's slow battle to eliminate racism. The past few days have been a reminder of just how much work we still have to do in this world.
Alexander Mattison shared the hateful, racist and deplorable comments he received via social media after the game. They are not going to be repeated here, but it was language that no one should be subjected to.
Mattison will probably be the first to say he wanted to have a better game. He's reflective and introspective and self-aware, a great person to talk to and be around, and has been good for the Vikings in limited previous opportunities before this season.
There's a colossal difference between failing to play football as well as one can and failing to attain or maintain a level of basic human decency.
Vikings fans and others who want to eliminate racism can be proud of Mattison for standing up to the bullying, and we can all continue to speak out against racist words and actions. Words of support for Mattison from several people are included below.
I was so dismayed to hear Alexander Mattison received racist comments after the Eagles game, presumably by some people who call themselves Vikings fans. Although I was glad Coach O'Connell addressed this, in my opinion, he didn't go far enough. It was more than "unfortunate" that these comments were made. It was outrageous and unacceptable, and no person who makes racist comments is a true fan of the Vikings. I hope team leadership goes further to support Mattison and make this clear. I don't care what any player's performance was or wasn't in any game, no one deserves treatment like that.
— Lisa Wiens Heinsohn in Shoreview
I would say, I hope you do. I will say, I know you will. As a lifelong (50+ years) Vikings fan, it sickens me to hear what Alexander Mattison had to endure, after the Thursday night loss. I appreciate Coach O'Connell, the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL, for immediately coming to Mattison's defense and condemning racism and hate.
I know you will (see above) get dozens of letters supporting Mattison. It's frustrating being a Vikings fan, and I have used some choice language over the years. Not once have I directed HATE toward a player. That's why I am proud to be a Vikings fan, we don't do that type of thing. Sounds like these were fantasy players and not actual Vikings fans. I can't wait for Sunday. I am sure the Vikings fans will let Alexander know, that we still love him and we've got his back.
— Troy Boblitt in Springfield, Illinois
I'm combining these first two comments from Lisa and Troy.
Whether they were Vikings fans or fantasy football players, they illustrated that eradicating racism is a process easier said than done. Vikings fans can continue to discourage racist comments and work toward building a culture where that is not accepted, but we'll only all win when the hearts and minds of culprits change, or their notions are not passed along to and copied by others.
O'Connell held his day-after-game media session via Zoom on Friday and said the following in his opening comments:
"I want to first and foremost express my support for Alex, someone that I deeply, deeply care about in our locker room amongst all our players, but having a chance to speak to Alex [Friday], wanting to check in with him and see how he was doing. I know this is not just an isolated incident just from last night for Alex, and just other professional athletes alike, I just don't see that there's any place for it.
"Racism has no place, regardless of how upset someone may be with fantasy football output or a player's performance. It is just unacceptable in any way, shape, or form really in our society, but especially in regards to the treatment of professional athletes and our players. I'm fully behind Alex, and I know his teammates are as well, and this organization is as well. He knows that we're going to do all that we can to support him, but I did want to make note of that."
While I won't pretend to know O'Connell to the core like a long-time friend, I have observed him closely in media sessions and at other times. I know that he doesn't believe anyone should be put through what Mattison went through, and I also know how much he values people as humans.
Part of my job is the privilege of being the editor for the Playbook game programs that are placed on every seat at U.S. Bank Stadium. We had previously decided that Mattison would be on the cover for this coming week's game against the Chargers. Lindsey Young wrote the feature on Alex. Although we could have changed the cover because he was coming off a rough night, we are keeping Alex on it as one of the ways we can show solidarity with him.
I was all set to rip the Vikes apart for two dysfunctional games to start the season. Many observations to talk about, but after reading what Alexander Mattison has been dealing with on social media, none of that other stuff is important.
Racism exists, obviously, and stupidity abounds in this giant country of ours, but it's still shocking to hear about this kind of ignorance and pitifulness! It's a football game, people! Get mad about it, sure. Hope for better, of course. Send racist messages urging suicide to players?! How disgusting and pathetic is your life?
I'm no longer on social media but I'd like to send this message of support to Alexander and anyone else dealing with this kind of dangerous nonsense. Not all of us out there are like these racist jerks! We still have your back as a player, a professional and a human being. Keep working hard and success will follow. SKOL.
— Brian Marconett
I know this isn't a question for Monday Morning Mailbag or anything but going through Facebook after Thursday night's game and seeing some of the disgusting tweets and messages going to Alexander, this is the only way I can think to get in touch with anybody at the Vikings. Please let him know not all of us feel that way. He is trying the best with what he has to work with. And his work is appreciated.
Will pass these messages from Brian and Shaun along, for sure. We generally approach the Mailbag as a space where our readers pose questions about the on-field happenings with their team. Critical questions have been included, even when I sometimes don't agree with the viewpoint. We also do draw a line when questions/comments received include offensive language.
Standing up in support of a player who has been confronted by overt racism and hate speech is an exception to limiting the conversation to on-field outcomes.
The first step to addressing a problem and finding a solution is admitting the problem still exists. Alex's willingness to bring these messages to attention and speak out on behalf of others can help others realize the problem hasn't been solved. The messages of support he's received hopefully serve as a reminder that he's not alone in this fight.
View game action photos from he Vikings vs. Eagles Week 2 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Hi, I am actually a diehard Packer fan here in Vikingland, but I do watch Vikings games and have friendly rivalries with friends. I was mortified to hear about the horrible comments directed at Alexander Mattison (on Breaking the News Tonight — yes, I am old!). I am so impressed with Mattison's commitment to helping the community and raising awareness about mental health and his dedication as a family man. Please pass on support from this Packers fan. He is a fine man and athlete and should not take those comments to heart!
— Deb Skadden in Brooklyn Park
A sincere welcome to the Mailbag, Deb. Really appreciate you taking the time to send in your thoughts to a Mailbag that is usually so Vikings-centric. That's very classy on your part, and it's good to remember that sports allegiances can be competitive, but there can also be a courtesy extended toward players on other teams.
I think it's really awesome that Deb has seen and appreciates Mattison's work to encourage mental health support and his dedication as a family man.
I'm sure there are Vikings and Packers players, coaches and fans gladly in agreement to continue to support social justice initiatives, including those that have been introduced by the NFL or individual clubs or our communities.
Good morning, I don't write the Mailbag often, but I figured this week is a bit different.
Now to start off, I would like to express my sentiment that we aren't in as bad a shape as some fans will panic about now. We are 0-2, but that's mostly because of freak and dumb turnovers (like the guard-hits-QB's-hand fumble, or Justin Jefferson's fumble near the goal line, which in 99% of cases is either a TD or a ball at the 1. I love how our defense plays, even if the run-stop still worries me. I love how our offense looks this early in the season. Now 0-2 is a bad start, but as I see it, I believe we can win every game, just like the last two years. We are certainly not the most consistent or best overall team in the NFC, but we are still really good in my opinion, so there should be no reason to panic for now.
The second part of the mail is more important. When I read the comments about Alexander Mattison Friday evening (in Germany), I could hardly believe my eyes. I just don't understand how you can be a fan of a football team and still have that kind of thoughts in your heads, and even less, how you can feel entitled enough to [make those comments]. Now football players are public figures, and they will always have to deal with criticism if they make mistakes on a much larger scale than most of us in our jobs. But slandering someone because of his skin color, telling him to shoot himself, is never even the smallest bit justifiable. I broke my headset in the first quarter of Thursday night's game because I flipped after the second fumble in the game, but how you can get from that emotional state to telling another human to kill himself is beyond me.
What I basically wanted to say: I don't think Mattison played the two games as well as he could have, but I hope he knows he has an overwhelming support in this community and those idiots who wrote that are not representative of us. I hope they stop being fans of this great team, so I don't have to feel ashamed to be a follower of this organization when I read something like this.
Have a great week, and thanks for all your work.
— Alexander Markhart, 30, from southern Germany.
Welcome back to the Mailbag, Alexander.
On the football-related points, yeah, there have been some fluky plays so far that have erased premier scoring opportunities in games that ended with one-score margins.
I'm sure the preseason pundits who espoused "the Vikings will have to return to earth/can't come close to replicating 2022 results in one-score games" opinions have been pleased. That NFL record 11-0 showing during the regular season was going to be hard to match, but if the mistakes Minnesota has made in the first two weeks of the season were as prevalent as in any of those 11 contests last season, the column on the right side would have had a numerical value above 0.
I don't think O'Connell fosters a blame-game culture, but even if that were the case, the number of fingers to point toward all who have made a mistake is shrinking fast. It takes a total team effort to win a football game. It takes just one lapse, either a mental error, missed assignment or lack of execution by one player at any point to yield a pivotal play to the other team.
We've seen this Vikings team before. It was 40 years ago in the early 1980s. On offense, [Mick] Tingelhoff and [Ron] Yary retired. Ed White to San Diego. On defense, [Jim] Marshall retired. [Alan] Page to Chicago, [Carl] Eller to Seattle. In other words, offensive and defensive lines that no longer controlled the line of scrimmage. A defense that scared no one, but enough playmakers on offense (Sammy White, Ahmad Rashad, Joe Senser, Rickey Young) to be competitive. And, like Cousins now, 2-Minute Tommy [Kramer] throwing under constant pressure.
Yes, the turnovers killed us both weeks. But we're losing the point of attack, just as the Bills were manhandled by the Bengals — on both sides of the ball — in last year's playoffs. We make a game of it, but we are much further from being championship-caliber than often advertised. Plus, the law of averages has caught up — counting the Giants game, we've now lost three one-score games in a row.
— Paul K. Oates in Lockport, New York
At some point last December, if you had told me the Vikings would be at September's midpoint with only one victory in the 2023 calendar year (at the Bears in the regular-season finale on their way to securing the No. 1 overall pick to trade), then I probably would have offered a few counterpoints to why I didn't think that would be the case.
As the 1980s opened, the Vikings were replacing the four Hall of Famers (Tingelhoff, Yary, Page and Eller) plus two others in White and Marshall that many believe have cases for Canton. Those groups wrecked the line of scrimmage for other teams.
The line of scrimmage/point of attack remains so important to sustainable success, even though the attention of many has shifted to points per reception and late-game receiving yards that skew fantasy football without necessarily shaping real outcomes.
Note: several other comments were sent regarding Minnesota's offensive line. They are grouped together and answered collectively.
I have been a Vikings fan for over 50 years. Someone please tell me why we are not smart enough to build an offensive line. Spend money on keeping Kirk upright. He's as good as any QB in the league and can get us to and win a Super Bowl with protection. [Tom] Brady, [Patrick] Mahomes, none of them can win from their back! I would love to have and see an answer to this lifelong problem.
— Jamie Dukes
Why are the Vikings, and the media close to the Vikings, not addressing the offensive line issues? It is painfully obvious we need an upgrade and depth. Both [Dalton] Risner and Jason Peters need to be signed to our active roster. They should be signed ASAP given that Udoh is done for the year.
— Ron Girard in Shamong, New Jersey
Have any of the defensive players or coaches or any of the other offensive players approached the Head coach or GM about getting some offensive line help?
— Lanny Stricherz in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Well, I guess the initial vision for this offensive line started with a healthy Christian Darrisaw at left tackle, but he was unable to rehab his Week 1 injury in time for Week 2.
Olisaemeka Udoh started in Darrisaw's place on Thursday but left the game with a quadriceps tendon injury that is going to cost him the rest of the season. David Quessenberry then stepped in for Udoh.
Minnesota is hoping to have Darrisaw back for Week 3. He and Brian O'Neill are reliable bookends.
The Vikings also didn't anticipate Garrett Bradbury suffering a back injury so early in Week 1. This season was to be his first with the same two guards on his sides as the previous season. Austin Schlottmann has been filling in for Bradbury.
There are plenty of teams who would struggle to deal with injuries to starting left tackle and center, and there are teams that have overcome such things, as well.
I'm quite certain the Vikings are trying to correct mistakes up front, and I'm also certain they continue to weigh their options to see if any changes need to be made.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Sept. 26, 2023.
I have been a fan since '69, our one NFL Championship year. I am usually optimistic every year, and I thought this was going to be a great year with an improved D under Brian Flores and an even better offense in Year 2. Mistakes are killing us, but so is the run offense and defense. On offense, why are we giving up on the run so quickly? You can't establish it with few tries. Is there no trust in the RBs, the O-line, or is it scheme? Whatever it is, [O'Connell] has got to change things now. On defense, I thought [Khyiris Tonga] was going to be our run stuffer up the middle, but he is hardly ever on the field. Also, where is Brian Asamoah? I like [Ivan] Pace, but he is too small to stop the run. We have the firepower and the pass defense to go far, but the run game has got to get better.
— John from Indianapolis
For two weeks in a row, we've seen a Vikings team pull within one score, but the defense that has given people more problems at other parts of the game has been unable to get the stop against an opponent's four-minute offense to provide one more chance at a comeback.
Let me be clear, the defense has been disadvantaged by so many turnovers.
The Vikings do expect Marcus Davenport's physicality and versatility to help the front, but Davenport's debut has been hampered by an ankle injury. He played four snaps on Thursday after missing Week 1.
Based on what we saw during the offseason program and training camp, I thought there might be more playing time for Tonga than we've seen so far. His size could help offset playing with smaller linebackers.
I saw one play where the DBs were tackling [D'Andre] Swift up high. I do not know how many times this happened. I was not focused on this. Shouldn't they take out the legs. It is hard to run without your legs.
No time to panic. Turnovers can be fixed. Play calling also. This team could have quit in the third quarter, but it fought back. That determination and never say quit attitude will serve them well moving forward.
— Gerald Goblirsch
I've seen some people bothered by the phrase "techniques and fundamentals," and I understand it can be vague and broad in meaning, but tackling high, especially when a running back is fresher than a defender can be a bad recipe. When fatigue sets in after two lopsided time-of-possession games, it can result in lapses in the proper technique and fundamentals.
As for the determination the team showed, that was really impressive, especially in a tough, road environment.