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Monday Morning Mailbag: Fan Reactions to Win at Commanders & Hockenson Trade

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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The Vikings did it again, claiming a 20-17 victory over the Commanders after coming back from 10 down in the fourth quarter Sunday to improve to 7-1.

Kirk Cousins started strong in his first trip to Washington since leaving for Minnesota in 2018. He withstood multiple hits — 11 according to press box statisticians — and made key plays late.

Harrison Smith recorded an interception for the third consecutive game and helped sway momentum by returning it 35 yards to the Washington 12-yard line before Cousins hit Dalvin Cook for the game-tying touchdown.

Minnesota showed it continues to excel in moments that matter, incorporating a counterintuitive yet effective form of situational football to close out the victory.

Kudos to Adam Thielen for reaching and passing the 500-catch mark. The only two Vikings players ahead of him in team history are Pro Football Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Randy Moss.

And a major congratulations to Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, his wife Leah, and the whole family on the birth Friday of the O'Connell's fourth child.

On to the questions (as a reminder, we'll update with more Monday).

I'd like to start this with sending my condolences to the Zimmer family for the sad news of their loss of Adam Zimmer.

The win over the Commanders now puts the Vikings in a pretty good spot to run away with the NFC North title. Now I'm confident in this coaching staff and the players to not let this lead in the division make them "comfortable," considering crazier things have happened in this league than collapsing when it seems as if "it's in the bag."

Shout out to the staff and players — 6-0 in the past six games all being one-possession games (6-8 last year). It hasn't always been pretty, but they're making the plays when needing it most and not giving up as a team when things are looking not so good.

Lastly, I'd like to see a new rule implemented immediately that if there's contact by an official in the field of play, they must replay the down. I've never seen anything like that.

— SKOL, Brandon in Winona, Minnesota

Appreciate Brandon extending condolences to the Zimmer family and will echo those.

This is the first Mailbag since the tragic news of Adam's passing. Please continue to lift that family. I hope they realize how many in Minnesota — people within the organization and beyond — genuinely care about them.

Minnesota enters Week 10 with a four-and-a-half-game lead over Green Bay and Chicago with head-to-head wins already in the bag. I don't think there's a risk of complacency with this squad for a couple of reasons. The Vikings have had to emerge through fourth quarters of games, overcoming double-digit deficits against Detroit to start this win streak and at Washington to extend it.

Most teams can start with a goal of winning their division, but as things unfold, that goal can be joined by additional goals or replaced with the hope of making it into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Minnesota is one of two teams with one or fewer loss at the season's midpoint, along with Philadelphia, which improved to 8-0 and owns their head-to-head against the Vikings.

The Vikings need to keep winning to maintain their position, which would be as the No. 2 seed in the NFC Playoffs, plus hope for a little help in order to secure the bye and home-field advantage that are awarded to the No. 1 seed.

To Brandon's last point, that play was wild. Everyone in the stadium could see Camryn Bynum sizing up the deep throw by Taylor Heinicke into triple coverage — except the back judge, who collided with Bynum, knocking down the safety on what became a 49-yard touchdown that gave Washington its first lead of the game early in the third quarter.

View action photos from the Week 9 Vikings vs. Commanders game at FedExField on Nov. 6.

It was a major play — one of two scores and roughly a third of Heinicke's 149 passing yards — that Minnesota eventually overcame, and it was one that should be prevented in future games as best as possible.

While I get the desire to implement a rule change, there might be unintended consequences, say if an offense was really struggling and initiated contact to get a play that the defense has covered, or if it initiated contact to help run down the clock. If such a rule existed, then a defense could also initiate contact if it looked like the offense was set to get the upper hand.

Wow! Cardiac Vikes win again!! And we still haven't played our best game. What a nailbiter. Next week is a huge test, and there's no better time to "put it all together." Sunday's win was big, winning in Buffalo next week would make the rest of the league take notice. K.O.'s done a great job getting us ready to play so far. Next week's a chance to show just how different this Vikes team is. Time to step it up! VIKES BIG!!! SKOL!

— J.B. Brunet in Keller, Texas

Even though not much has seemed easygoing for the Vikings so far, they've continued to prevail. The schedule gets a lot tougher based on everything we've seen so far in 2022. Minnesota visits Buffalo (6-2), hosts Dallas (6-2), hosts New England (5-4) and the New York Jets (6-3) in its next four games between now and Dec. 4.

The Bills are likely to pose a tremendous challenge next week.

View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders at FedExField on Nov. 6.

Last year, we found ways to lose games. This year we are finding ways to win games to the tune of 7-1. Washington has an outstanding D-line, and they benefited from some suspect calls. But we persevered and made the big plays when we needed them. Moving forward, I would like to see more sustained drives. What would you like to see?

— Gerald Goblirsch

The Vikings opened with a 78-yard touchdown drive, bringing their points total on first possessions to an NFL-best 35 points.

That's a credit to Minnesota's coaches for scripting successful ways to attack opponents. The ability to do that is so important.

The other teams get paid, too, and we saw quite a bit of pressure caused by the Commanders active front. Washington seemed to sniff out every screen that Minnesota tried to call and make a tackle for a loss. Playing behind the chains can lead to punts; moving them can lead to points.

All that said, it would be much better to avoid four consecutive punts, an interception on a 50-50 ball in the end zone and two more punts.

We'll get to more on T.J. Hockenson in a little bit, but what a performance by a player who arrived in Minnesota at 9:30 p.m. last Tuesday, hit the playbook hard, started, converted Minnesota's first third down and finished with 70 yards on nine catches. That was quite an introduction, and I think you should be excited about what he could mean toward sustaining more drives in the future, especially in games that might require more points.

Well, they are who we thought they were. Even a 6-1 record couldn't make me buy all-in on this team. New offensive-minded coach can't seem to find any consistency and rhythm on offense with all the weapons at his disposal. Porous defense we've all come to know and lament is severely suspect. We needed more help at the trade deadline than another turnstile tight end. The players this team has on paper looks more dominant than in real life. Great teams know how to keep throwing haymakers and knocking their opponents out. A couple opportunistic, chance turnovers away from being a bottom-of-the-pack team, and Washington (end of third quarter) is showing all of us who this team really is. Maybe it's time for a rebuild to get us back to the great teams of the '70s and even 1998! The good old days.

Packing my Vikings gear away for next year.

— Weston (Longtime Vikings fan in Colorado)

There's a lot to unpack here from an email sent while the Vikings were trailing by 10/about to be trailing by 10.

Again, I include fans' takes in here that I don't always agree with because I do believe in dialogue and trying to relay the pulse of fans in this space.

Washington's defensive front played extremely well, causing multiple disruptions.

I think "porous" is not befitting of the Vikings in yesterday's game. The unit limited Washington to 263 net yards, including 49 on the play that should have been a pick. Washington was 3-of-10 on third downs and 0-for-1 on fourth. The Commanders had one other offensive play gain more than 20 yards, a well-executed sweep by Armani Rogers to pick up 24 on third-and-1.

I also wouldn't classify Hockenson as a "turnstile." I do recall one play where the pressure got in on Cousins when the rusher came from the left of the tight end, who was to the left of Christian Darrisaw. It might have been a miscommunication or something else. I don't know, but I do know that Minnesota likes what it has seen from Hockenson's blocking as a foe.

Turnovers and being opportunistic with them is just one of the keys for a team in a league that prides itself on parity and goes through multiple policies to make it happen.

I get the love for the 1970s dynasty — and appreciate that's part of the great Vikings history, but there was less week-to-week parity, and that's not to discount the accomplishments of those teams. Minnesota had six Pro Football Hall of Famers (quarterback Fran Tarkenton, offensive linemen Mick Tingelhoff and Ron Yary, defensive linemen Alan Page and Carl Eller and safety Paul Krause), plus defensive end Jim Marshall, who should also be in the HOF, for all or most of those years.

The 1998 squad was incredible and is worthy of revering. They blew out multiple opponents on the way to a scoring record, but that also resulted in a 7-1 mark through eight games.

T.J. Hockenson — great pickup for Vikings plus draft picks for a second and third. Is he still on a rookie contract? Could be expensive down the road but for today, no problem.

— Skol, Nicholas Balkou

Rightfully so, I think a lot of people are pumped up about the [Hockenson] trade. I am, too. But maybe the reason I love this trade so much is the potential value that the Vikings got back. With [Irv Smith, Jr.] needing to be re-signed, they likely would have paid him at least $5-6 million next year, even if he's constantly been injured. Hockenson only counting for roughly $9 million in his fifth year is not a huge difference. Plus, if they move on from Smith, I would think a team would give him a chance to continue to develop and stay healthy. Thinking about a contract roughly two-thirds of what [Tyler] Conklin got [with the Jets]. If Hockenson doesn't work out for the Vikings, I think the same, he's too talented to not get another shot with some team. That could mean decent compensatory picks coming back to Minnesota. Even if they are sixth-rounders, with the picks the Vikings got back originally that's a pretty good haul in my mind. Great trade!

— Jake in Ada, Minnesota

Wow, and wow again. The Tuesday trade pick for Hockenson made me drop my pants while getting dressed. I never would have thought that Detroit would release him, much less to a rival division team. I can hear the stadium chants now, T-J, T-J, T-J on a big play. Now with the Hockenson trade in the books, how did this affect the Vikes cap space for the 2023 draft?

On another note, separate from this, how about having a Friday Morning Mailbag? Something that fans can weigh-in about upcoming games?

— Skol, Jerry in Ohio

Folks were quite excited when news of the Hockenson trade broke during a record-setting day for NFL trade deadline activity.

Fans had written in to ask about the potential of adding a WR or TE before the deadline, and I saw a few proposed trades on Twitter that I honestly would not have supported.

I'll admit, like Jerry, that I was surprised Detroit traded the No. 8 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.

They did so because they liked the value they got from Minnesota, and the Vikings were pleased to add to their locker room without disrupting the chemistry in place that we've seen from this squad.

Minnesota sent a second-round selection in 2023 and a third-rounder in 2024 to Detroit, in exchange for Hockenson, a fourth-rounder in 2023 and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2024.

The Vikings snagged Hockenson — an established tight end with one Pro Bowl under his belt and one year remaining on his rookie contract — by moving down a couple of rounds in each of the next two drafts.

View photos of Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson who was traded to the team on Nov. 1.

Minnesota will have Hockenson under contract for next year, and the parties also would have the option of working out a long-term deal if both are interested. He was super excited to join Minnesota and get to play home games about four hours from his hometown in southeastern Iowa.

Smith is in the final year of his rookie deal. He and the Vikings also will have discussions down the road. The most important thing right now for Smith is that the Vikings are supporting him in his recovery from a high ankle sprain. O'Connell spoke Friday about how he still envisions a role for Smith once he's able to return—and big things from the tight ends group in general.

While the Vikings don't talk too heavily in public about salary cap or potential long-term negotiations, there's quite a few resources out there for more information that Jake is referencing, including

Quite a few factors could affect cap space for 2023. I'm confident that Rob Brzezinski will continue to help the team navigate those waters with success.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the addition of Hockenson helping the team.

Man, thought we do something with our defense — some DB help. Not another tight end.

— Toby in Alaska

I can see how folks could deconstruct the offense from the defense and want to add to the latter based on certain metrics, but what if the addition of Hockenson does indirectly help the defense?

Suppose he helps Minnesota reduce its three-and-outs in a game? Sustaining drives for longer can help the defense stay off the field and catch a deeper breath. What if his 15.2 yards per reception is transferable and adds a couple of more explosive gains a game? Those gains could turn into more points.

Hockenson turned in a 19-yard reception on his first catch as a Viking — on Minnesota's third snap of the game to pick up a third-and-5. He also opened Minnesota's 2-minute drill at the end of the first half with an 18-yard reception. Although that drive ended without points, it showed another way he'll be able to help this team.

I'm from Rock Falls, Wisconsin, born and raised! My entire family are diehard packer fans, and I'm the one wearing purple every Sunday because I fell in love with a team that stuck together. Just wanna say that I can feel all that "family" type "atMOSSphere" in the locker room. This Vikings football team is special, and I've never been more proud to wear that purple. 💜


— Beau

Appreciate your support and the "atMOSSphere" reference. One of the great things about the Vikings-Packers rivalry is that it stretches allegiances between family members, friends, neighbors and sometimes coworkers (not mine on the latter of those options).

The Vikings defense sent a proper tribute to Jared Allen.

— Jerry LaFreniere

I hope the Vikings keep [Jordan] Hicks as long as he wants to play. What an addition.

— Conrad Myrvold

These messages from Jerry and Conrad came in after last week's Monday afternoon update between the Arizona and Washington games.

Jerry's referencing an impressive showing of four sacks, two interceptions, a strong day against the run and limiting the extent of damages that Arizona can cause.

Was it because Allen was being inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor? Probably not, but the current team seemed to grasp the significance of the honor and delivered a fitting and victorious tribute. O'Connell did a good job of having Allen address the team back in July when the cowboy was surprised with the news at U.S. Bank Stadium. O'Connell had Allen speak to the team again on the day before the Cardinals game.

Hicks and Eric Kendricks have forged such an impressive bond as Minnesota's inside linebackers.

Two highly instinctual players, Hicks and Kendricks have blended into a unifying force in the middle of Minnesota's new-look defense. We can go back to training camp practices for early examples that have showed up in meaningful moments of games.

Every week, Hicks continues to make an impact on the field. He's also been an impressive leader behind the scenes, crediting his background that involved multiple stops during his youth with helping him adjust quickly and do a bit of everything (shameless plug for the Arizona Playbook story on Hicks in case you missed it).

Also absolutely loved the way he teetered during Minnesota's bowling celebration after Harrison Smith's big interception.

Another game worth celebrating. Yes, we have victories that are close, but do fans remember that's one of the characteristics often of some dynasties of the past?

Congratulations to the players, coaches, and the front office! That front office brings in a tight end and he has a bunch of big catches — in the same week.

Yes, there's a lot more football to play, but I'm also impressed at how many of the players are making plays — not just a few.

And exactly one team now has 8 victories and only one, ours, has 7.

Thanks for listening.

— Brad Lewis in Schenectady, New York

If the scores haven't been as impressive as some would have liked, one could argue that Minnesota's responses to a wide array of adversities within games — some self-imposed; others a credit to other teams making plays; and an occasional fluke TD — can't be discounted. Players have not flinched during tough moments during this streak.

It's interesting how you bring up Hockenson's quick impact. That was one of the takeaways I had from Minnesota's first game of the season, was that the coaching staff had strong plans for maximizing the players who were added in free agency. Hockenson continues that thanks to an ample amount of hard work by he and practice squad QB David Blough last week to translate differences in terminology and Minnesota's staff for knowing how to integrate him quickly into the attack.

Great win by the Vikings! Question for you, how can we do a better job of protecting Kirk Cousins?

— Tom

Vikings have the tools to win it all but lack the 2-3 seconds more that Kirk needs to pass while the receivers get open. Maybe T.J. can help with his play and blocking to get the run game going and get the D guessing run or pass might be the answer short term until a completely solid O-line can be put together.

— Brad Hellesvig

Eleven quarterback hits — way more than the Vikings would like to see on the box score. There are some quarterbacks who would be rattled by that much contact, but Cousins rose up and delivered key throws with needlepoint accuracy late in the game. Credit to him for his toughness, determination and ability to be precise in those clutch moments.

Washington's defensive front played extremely well, but to Brad's point, the first step in protecting Cousins more going forward would probably be to be more effective when running the football. Minnesota finished with 56 yards on 22 carries (2.5 yards per carry) with a long of 10 by Jefferson. Running the ball better would have positioned Minnesota in better down and distances and might have slowed some of Washington's rush. Out of all those hits, Cousins took just two sacks while attempting 40 passes.

Are you thinking what I am thinking? Akayleb Evans with more reps at corner? I have not been happy with [Cameron] Dantzler [Sr.] all year with the exception of the strip. Evans was a baller and physical all game. They have to take a look at that, don't you think?

— Thanks, Monte

View Vikings players in Big Head Mode during their comeback win over the Commanders at FedExField on Nov. 6.

First of all, I think Dantzler has grown a lot this season in a new system, and I think coaches have been pleased with his performance. He's covered, and he's not been shy to mix it up in run support.

O'Connell said Monday it is "probably a long shot" for Dantzler to be available this week, so you might get more reps from Evans. Tip of the hat to the fourth-round pick who played 45 snaps in his most extensive action on defense so far. Evans recorded four tackles, including two for loss, and a pass defensed, and added one more tackle on special teams.

What happened to Andrew Booth? Is he still hurt or just not playing?

— David Roller

Booth's dealt with a few injuries coming out of college and since arriving. He played 11 snaps on special teams Sunday and 12 in Week 8 against Arizona. He's not played a snap on defense so far this season.

Evans showed he was prepared for the opportunity against the Commanders, and I'm sure the coaching staff is developing Booth, as well. I know Booth was picked higher than Evans, so there might be more of an expectation for an immediate impact, but he'll be able to add to a special teams group that has been electric in 2022.

What's the biggest difference in the team from last year to this year? Is it the O'Connell, Kwesi [Adofo-Mensah] effect? The culture seems a lot different, and I'm glad we are winning these one-score games.

— John Charles in Glenn Heights, Texas

O'Connell and Adofo-Mensah have emphasized winning on the margins/edges/inches since they arrived, and the staff has repeatedly stressed the details through "situational masters" meetings. Players have taken ownership of becoming "situational masters," and the team has been able to develop deep connectivity between the offense, defense and special teams. More signs of that are showcased when a team is 7-1, but those elements also could come in handy if/when the win streak does hit a speed bump.

The bottom line is execution of what's been prepared at the major moments.

I'm still advocating more passes to Cook. His pass catching has always been an under-used skill set. Yesterday was awesome to see him catch a TD. Too many weapons if they throw more to Dalvin — not just screens, more downfield throwing.

— Mike Griffith

That was an incredible route and catch by Cook on a perfect ball from Cousins. It really adds an element to the offense for teams to have to worry about.

O'Connell has frequently mentioned all five eligible receivers coming to life and being activated, so I wouldn't be surprised if that's part of the continued evolution of this offense.

Been a fan since 1994 and born and bred in Ireland. Been over to Minneapolis in 2009 and 2010. I may have bumped into some of you then. This is my first post to the Mailbag. I'm really proud of the way this team is battling and has a never over til it's over attitude. Are we brilliant? No, but we are 7-1. Please give Cousins a break. He's down on numbers, but I think is playing really well while trying to learn a new scheme. The offensive line, while still only average, is a lot better this year, as we are scheming around the weak parts. Doesn't always work, but I'll take 7-1 all day. The defense, after a rocky start, finally seems to be picking up the 3-4 scheme. I think if we just break even out of next four games we're in great shape, but I really expect three home wins. Let the media write us off. I love it. Underdogs are dangerous. On a final note, I want to wish my prayers to the Zimmer family. His tenure was rocky at the end in Minnesota, but I remember what he brought us from. No parent should ever bury their child.

— Declan O'Halloran in Ireland

Thanks so much for your longtime support from Ireland and appreciate your first thoughts sent to the Mailbag.

That's a holistic view of the offense and defense of a team that is still saying it thinks it can play better for longer parts of games. This squad doesn't seem to be too concerned about sentiments of the media, but it has made sure to appreciate the support from fans at home, on the road and abroad.

I appreciate you mentioning Coach Zimmer and his family. He and Adam worked tirelessly to help the Vikings improve, and they achieved some special success at doing so.

The new coaching staff didn't start at square one but was able to build on some of the results yielded from the work put in by Mike and Adam.

Again, please lift that family. I can't imagine what they are going through and will go through.