EAGAN, Minn. — It's on to Philadelphia.
Following a Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings face a quick turnaround ahead of their Thursday night matchup with the Eagles.
"I think it's amazing what you can get done in a short amount of time," Cousins said with a laugh. "Makes you wonder if you need Sunday-to-Sunday sometimes."
A short week of preparation means the Vikings have an opportunity to quickly move on from Sunday. A game against the defending NFC Champions is a bounce-back chance similar to last season when the Vikings played Dallas and New England on a Sunday and Thursday combo. After falling to the Cowboys, the Vikings prevailed against the Patriots.
Cousins knows what it takes to play at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. He acknowledged the intense atmosphere the team is anticipating. He noted that two of the Eagles best defensive players (defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and edge rusher Brandon Graham) have been with Philadelphia since Cousins' Washington days.
Cousins has started 10 games against Philadelphia during his career, totaling 23 touchdowns (22 passing, 1 rushing) against nine interceptions for a passer rating of 98.5 against the Eagles.
"The ability to execute play-in-and-play-out, for about 75-ish plays week-in and week-out, will always be the challenge. And that's the precision and attention to detail and the preparation that you have to have to be able to do that. And it starts with me," Cousins said. "So that's really where our focus is. Can we go out there on Thursday night and really just execute with precision from the first snap to the last and really let that be our focus?"
Six Points: Memorable Week 2 Quotes
Receiver Justin Jefferson on flipping the page for a short week:
"We kind of already know what we missed out on and the things we needed to work on. Of course, watching the film, it's right there in front of you. [You don't need] long to look at the film, see what you can do better and fix it off that. And then, you don't want to focus on the Ls too long. You want to see what you can do better and then focus on the next [game]. This is a new opportunity for us to be 1-1."
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell on lack of efficiency in the run game:
"I thought there were some runs where it was kind of that one or two guys here and there, that if we just get a little bit more – a little bit better hand placement, a little bit more finish on a combination – we're getting downhill on a few of those runs a little bit more. The injuries, a couple of times, just a couple guys being in and out of there, is not an excuse, but just how those guys had gotten reps together. But we're going to have to deal with that and we're going to have to, no matter what five guys in there up front or tight ends or C.J. [Ham] in there, we have to make sure, schematically, we're giving them, not just the guys that we envision playing the whole game, but all the guys that we have up on that 48, 49 game-day roster need to be ready to go. We can't miss a beat, and efficiency is something we're going to continue to strive for. Did not get it done [Sunday] and I, once again, would credit Tampa in that front, basically over the last four times now that we've played against them, myself and some of our coaches that were in Los Angeles, it's been tough sledding in the run game."
Quarterback Kirk Cousins on defenses sending an extra rusher:
"Voided zones as a passer, you always feel good about. I think the key is being picked up, and you know we had a sack fumble on Sunday when they blitzed, and it's not picked up and that's a problem. So there's a key caveat that you're picked up, or if the ball is coming out quick, so one or the other, but many times when you pressure, you are avoiding zones. Sometimes not, but sometimes you are, and in that case, then it potentially gives an opportunity to take advantage but there are pros and cons to just about every style of defense, and so you just kind of roll with the punches."
Tight end T.J. Hockenson on having the talent to win games:
"[Self-inflicted wounds] are things you can fix. We have the talent in this room. We have the guys in this room. We have the coaching staff. We have the scheme. We have everything in this building to win games."
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips on Austin Schlottmann stepping in for Garrett Bradbury:
"You always tell guys, 'Prepare as if you're going to play, because at any point, you can. You are one play away.' You obviously saw that at several positions, but for a guy to have a week of actually working with Kirk, snap counts, actual snaps, working with the 1s and the game plan, the communication with the guys across the line, all those things are going to benefit us, and that's the role. You've got to be ready for those things when your number is called."
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels on utilizing NaJee Thompson and Jalen Nailor as gunners on the punt team:
"That's huge for us. You go back to winning the field position battle, and that's where we want to be able to dominate. Obviously it starts with great protection up front, and [punter Ryan Wright] has to hang it and bang it and directionally put it where we want. He's the one that has to lead the helm on that, and those are the guys on the outside that can make them right if things do end up in a funk right there. You look at Speedy (Nailor) and the progression he's had as a gunner, him and Kene [Nwangwu] splitting the reps there last year, and now he's kind of fully assumed that role and completely owned it. I'm excited about where he is and what he's doing. He's a physical football player."
Matchup that Matters: Cousins Vs. Darius Slay
An already opportunistic defense awaits Kirk Cousins and the Vikings on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Stadium.
Last week, the Eagles converted a pick-six of Patriots quarterback Mac Jones on New England's seventh play from scrimmage.
On the next drive, Eagles defensive tackle Jordan Davis forced running back Ezekiel Elliott to fumble. Linebacker Zach Cunningham recovered it. Quarterback Jalen Hurts threw a 5-yard touchdown to receiver DeVonta Smith four plays later.
Just 12 minutes into Week 1, the Eagles were up 16-0 thanks to two defensive turnovers.
"Turnover margin will always be a critical stat when it comes to winning football games. We lost the turnover margin badly. And you don't have to look too much further than that," Cousins said. "If you're scoring points and protecting the football, then you tend to win."
The Eagles interception came on a third-and-4 pass by Jones that bounced off intended receiver Kendrick Bourne's hands to Slay, who was lurking in zone coverage.
Cousins is familiar with Slay. Last season, the veteran cornerback intercepted Cousins twice. Turnovers plagued Minnesota in Week 1, too.
"If you have three turnovers, then it doesn't really matter what else you do," Cousins said. "Three turnovers is pretty critical to the outcome of the game."
Kirk Cousins has 254 career touchdown passes and needs one to eclipse Hall of Famer Dan Fouts (254) at 22nd all-time. The next scoring pass will tie Cousins with Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen.
Justin Jefferson enters his fourth season with 4,975 career receiving yards and can become the fastest player to 5,000. Sunday will be Jefferson's 52nd career game. Odell Beckham, Jr., currently has the record, reaching 5,000 career yards in his 54th game.
Note: In addition to the Monday Morning Mailbag, we are adding fans questions and our answers as a new segment for within Final Thoughts. In a nod to "Finally Friday," we're calling this "Fan-ally Friday." Please help the conversations continue with your thoughts on the upcoming game or anything that needed a follow-up after the Monday Morning Mailbag is published. I'll probably keep responses here a little bit shorter than you might be accustomed to seeing in the MMM. Thanks, Craig!
Reading a number of articles today pointed toward a concern to me. Suggesting that by halftime [Baker] Mayfield had figured out all of the Vikings defensive checks. This seems very concerning going forward. I hope they took this seriously. What are your takes on this?
— Michael in Ashland, Wisconsin
The Star Tribune's Andrew Krammer tweeted about this on Wednesday, building off a quote that Tampa Bay running back Rachaad White
In real time, it seemed like the Bucs were able to operate much more smoothly in the second half and were content to, borrowing from a cliché, "take what the defense gave them." That might be expanded to include pre-snap clues. Seems like it would be easier to show the kind of patience they were showing if they kept getting what they expected to get — both the adjustment by the defense and what that particular coverage would allow for.
The Vikings are implementing checks on defense, and when U.S. Bank Stadium is at max volume, it's the defense that has to rely on non-verbal communication and signals. The timing of the story growing was at a point when the Vikings are traveling to Philadelphia, so Head Coach Kevin O'Connell wasn't scheduled for a media session.
But, I'd imagine the occurrence of a team figuring out certain checks and signals is more common than it's discussed.
Regardless, disguise and keeping an opponent off-balance is quite important.
I am confused. We brought in extra TE to help the O-Line. Yet they were not there to start the game and add protection. If they were to open running lanes, that too had failed. We as armchair coaches all know that we need better linemen. So the question begs for answer, why do we not use the extra TE in the backfield? [C.J.] Ham is good but we need bigger bodies to max protect Cousins. No sense having a high-power WR if they don't get the ball. Please, 343 passing yards means nothing if those yards never get into the END ZONE.
— VIKINGJOE (FAN SINCE 1969)
Even though it was a disappointing result, it also was just the start of what this offense is going to look like. I thought the coaches mixed in the different personnel groupings and likely would have done so more often, if not for five three-and-outs and three more turnovers, or if Tampa Bay had not possessed the football for so much of the second half.
Colleague Ellis Williams hit on Vikings offensive personnel groupings as what he'll be watching in this week's "How to Watch, Listen & Stream" article.
Nine QB hits in a game is too many for anyone's liking, even when Cousins attempts 44 passes.
Another extremely challenging front awaits in Philadelphia. Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips said the following on Wednesday:
"I don't want to discount any other group, but maybe the best group in the league. Very powerful, they've got a nice mix of young talent and veteran players that have been great players for a long time, Fletcher Cox, I've got a ton of respect for Brandon Graham and what he's been able to do over the years. I was coaching on teams against him for many years with Dallas and Washington, and I was coaching tight ends for a lot of that time. Definitely a tough guy for a tight end to block. They're really talented up front. We've got our work cut out for us."
Lastly, you are correct that yards don't matter nearly as much as points, but there should be some positives with the way Minnesota moved the ball in Week 1 — so long as the Vikings do a better job of protecting it going forward.
Those uniforms were stunning. Felt really good watching the Vikes don the old-school stripes. It even makes the Vikings look like a better team. Any chance the Wilfs hear the fans and recognize how badly we want these uniforms to be permanent?
— Matt Boffa in Newtown, Pennsylvania
One of the great things about the Wilf family's ownership of the team is that they grew up with a deep appreciation of what it means to be an NFL fan. That passion, and their business success and acumen, eventually led to their purchase of the Vikings in 2005. That said, they have the perspective of fans, have welcomed feedback and really set forth a culture of trying to create memorable and lasting experiences for fans — and ultimately deliver a title.
The widespread positive reaction to The Classic has been received by multiple levels of the organization.
Minnesota will have the opportunity to wear those at least once in upcoming seasons, and there may be additional opportunities — we'll keep you posted on that front.
As for permanent uniform, those conversations are protracted between teams, the NFL and vendors.
Week 1 against Tampa Bay the Vikings didn't look like themselves. We had problems with the offensive line protecting Cousins, and our running backs didn't do that well either. Could signing Dalton Risner help with the offensive line?
Let's go Vikings!
For those who may have missed the story over the summer, the Vikings hosted Risner on an official visit, but it didn't result in a signing.
O'Connell was quite up front about the process of bringing in Risner and having a discussion with him.
Risner generated a buzz last week when he posted a picture of the screens of flights departing Denver International Airport.
I'd imagine fans of multiple teams will continue to ponder his status while he remains a free agent. Vikings offensive line coach Chris Kuper and assistant offensive line coach Justin Rascati coached Risner in Denver, so they have a good assessment of him available.
Longtime fan from Vancouver, Canada. (Loved Coach Grant and Joe Kapp). Can't help but notice who the Vikings seem to be bringing in as offensive pieces. Seems to be a lot of featherweight receivers shuffling in and out, for what reason I can't understand. We keep getting pushed around and have long needed to "beef up" both lines and seem unable to handle the loads presented by the better teams.
Even bringing in and keeping a large number of tight ends has not helped alleviate this issue. Why waste roster spots and capital on these tight ends when there is very little evidence that they are contributing. Where are the heavy packages? I can't recall them using multiple tight ends and getting the ball out quickly to these players who are supposed to present matchup problems. It is painfully obvious that our quarterback cannot operate efficiently when under duress.
There are solutions; beefing up offensive line, quick throws to tight end mismatches or transitioning to a more modern, mobile quarterback. Not looking forward to my team being slapped around this season and hoping our coaches can get more creative in these desperate times.
— Tom F.
The Vikings used 21 personnel (fullback and running back with tight end and two receivers) on 14 of their plays and either 12 or 13 on 12 more in Week 1.
As I mentioned, there's an extremely limited number of plays we've seen versus what the offense will look like over the course of the season or against a particular opponent.
I will politely disagree with the categorization of keeping four tight ends as a "waste" of roster spots.
The Vikings tried a couple of TE screens in the fourth quarter, but they were unsuccessful because Tampa Bay executed the defense of them better than Minnesota ran them.
Cousins looked good, passing for 300 yards plus and 2 touchdowns. Hoping that will continue. Continue to look for the open receivers.
The special teams looked good, too. The kickers are more relaxed in kicking field goals and PATs, the punting even looking promising. The running game is better at times. The defense is very good, and l am pleased with the coaching staff. Those are my observations.
— Don O'Connor in Crestview, Florida
It's still relatively early in O'Connell's career as a head coach, but he's demonstrated a positivity, even in a down time, that he uses to solve problems. Everyone knows the importance of winning Week 1 and home games to set up the best chance for success. Not delivering as a home favorite could require an offsetting upset along the way going forward.
But there are several things to build on as he and the team move forward, even as a road underdog Thursday.
Why is it that a team can come out with absolutely no enthusiasm or excitement? Something's just wrong when your QB goes three-and-out and then goes and sits on the end of the bench like it's OK. It's time someone in the organization builds a fire and holds coaches and players accountable — embarrassing as a fan, let alone owners and shareholders. It's time to find some players that love the game and will show some excitement and enthusiasm. Sickening!
— Ron Van Ranken
Three-and-out was definitely less than ideal to start a game, especially when a third-and-2 had 5 yards added because of a pre-snap penalty, but I would hesitate to judge someone's enthusiasm or excitement in that situation.
First of all, those were the first game snaps Cousins and company had taken since the playoff loss to the Giants in January, so there's probably a bit of processing that is occurring in that moment.
Everyone waited roughly eight months to rinse the lingering taste of last year's finish out of their mouths, from players to coaches to fans to owners and beyond. Players and coaches are the ones on the field with direct access to do that, and I get how passionate fans are and how much they want to see their team win, but every lift, sprint, recovery, disciplined meal, meeting and practice rep that occurred between those games was made with the goal of taking this team farther.
There's not a shortage of enthusiasm or excitement in the locker room. After that first series, Cousins' goal was for the offense to do better on its next opportunity, and Minnesota was driving the football into scoring territory when Ed Ingram inadvertently made contact with Cousins and forced the fumble. Patrick Peterson always used to talk about "cruising altitude." Although, I don't recall Cousins specifically using that term, I'm sure he's determined the ways he tries to keep himself at the most effective level for the next series.
Cameras caught Cousins was a bit feistier after the interception. After halftime, he led the Vikings on a tying touchdown drive on Minnesota's first possession of the second half.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Eagles.
What a terrible way to start the season! Way too many turnovers! 344 passing yards doesn't mean much when you turn the ball over three times. Also, no rushing game! We let Cook go without replacing him with another quality back, even though there were several guys available. If we can't beat Tampa Bay at home, who can we beat? Not many! We will get crushed by Philadelphia this week and teams that start the season 0-2 hardly ever make the playoffs. Looks like a long, lousy season. We might win a game or two, but that's about it.
— Mike in Portage, Michigan
So, I've been quiet all summer! Very disappointing start by our offense! Can't believe no linemen drafted or traded for!
Defense is what I expected! I think they will get better! But our offense was lame — (3) turnovers and no protection again for Kirk.
The most hit quarterback since Matt Ryan!
— Toby (Alaska fan, Skol!!)
Based off last season's results, the Vikings open with three consecutive teams that made the postseason, both Super Bowl participants in the first five weeks and three of the four teams who were in conference championship games in the first seven weeks.
That's quite a challenge, but it's one the team knew of as it builds out the identity of the 2023 Vikings.
Thursday's game will present an opportunity for Minnesota's defense to go with one of the best offenses in the NFL last season.
Hopefully this coming contest doesn't leave a bad taste in our mouth like the Tampa game did. But it's one game at a time and there are as of this morning 16 games to go and plenty of ups and downs.
If they beat Philly give them credit. If they lose to Philly, then give Philly credit as we have to give Tampa Bay credit.
Oftentimes we forget that mistakes are created by the other team.
Even Ed's trying to get to the spot as fast as possible due to a strong Tampa D.
Let's just relax and enjoy the season and remember there are a lot of games left to play.
— R.G. Hughes
Yep, one thing we know: The Vikings did not play at the level many expect they'll reach last week. They have plenty of more games to rectify that and will need to play better to accomplish their goals.