MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings have some climbing to do after a 27-20 home loss to the Chiefs dropped Minnesota to 1-4 on the season and 0-3 at home.
They'll also be lifting Justin Jefferson as they try to climb.
The star receiver left Sunday's game early in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell noted it's "still very early" in the evaluation of Jefferson.
"[We'll] see where he's at as we move along here and kind of diagnose exactly what that injury is and what that timeline looks like," O'Connell said.
Jefferson was injured on a third-and-6 play during which a pass intended for K.J. Osborn fell incomplete.
"It was tough on him. He's the ultimate competitor," O'Connell said when asked what it was like for Jefferson to be sidelined. "I just spent some time quickly with him in the locker room. We'll get him back as soon as we possibly can. There won't be a better teammate in that locker room during the time. Hopefully we'll have him right back this week, but I know he's a captain. He's done everything the right way on and off the field for us as a team.
"I absolutely love him and what he brings from a competitiveness standpoint in setting the standard of what we're all out for," O'Connell added. "It will no question be something we have to work through, but I also have a lot of confidence in our offensive unit to make sure we're right where we want to be when Justin is able to come back."
Down two scores with 12:55 remaining, the Vikings went for it on fourth-and-6, with Kirk Cousins completing a 10-yard pass to rookie Jordan Addison.
Cousins followed with a screen pass to Alexander Mattison. The running back lined up at receiver and picked up blocks from T.J. Hockenson and Christian Darrisaw on his way to the end zone. The 9-yard touchdown cut Kansas City's lead in half with 12:11 remaining in the game.
Minnesota's defense forced a punt in under than three minutes, and the offense drove to the Kansas City 19-yard line, despite opening the drive with an illegal formation penalty and briefly losing T.J. Hockenson on the following snap.
On fourth-and-7 at the Kansas City 19, the Vikings committed a delay-of-game penalty, setting up fourth-and-12 at the 24. Cousins targeted Addison in the end zone. Officials threw a flag after Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed wrapped him up, but they conversed and picked up the flag, announcing there was no foul for pass interference. Illegal contact, or the fact Sneed took his helmet off while he was disputing the flag, were not addressed in the public announcement by officials.
The Vikings got one last possession with 1:07 remaining. Hockenson caught a 9-yard pass, and the Vikings earned a new set of downs with a 3-yard reception by Brandon Powell on fourth-and-1. Minnesota spiked the ball to stop the clock with 22 seconds remaining, and Powell followed with a 26-yard reception to the Kansas City 43. A 5-yard penalty on the Chiefs gave the Vikings one more snap at the 38 with five seconds remaining, but Cousins was sacked.
Now the questions for the Vikings are where they go from here if the repetitive record breaker is sidelined for some time.
Cousins expressed confidence throughout Minnesota's skill group.
"Justin has done a phenomenal job for the last three-and-a-half years of staying healthy and being out there every week, which is hard to do," Cousins said. "Even with this injury, it makes you pause and be grateful for how healthy he's been.
"K.J. gets an increased role, Jordan gets an increased role, our tight ends do, our running backs do. Brandon Powell steps up," Cousins continued. "[Practice squad members] N'Keal [Harry], Trishton [Jackson], the list goes on, and I think we have the players that can try to fill in for a guy that has big shoes to fill, but as a group, I think it can be done."
Cousins and Hockenson noted the performance by Addison, who led Minnesota with six catches and 64 yards that included a 5-yard touchdown catch for a 13-10 Vikings lead with 1:39 in the second quarter.
"Jordan is the real deal. We hit on that draft pick. He's a great player. He's the real deal, great hands, runs great routes," Cousins said. "I've played with some really good skill groups in my career. I've been fortunate enough to do that. When I look at our group right now, it's as good as I've ever been with, so with progressions and things, a lot of times, No. 1 gets the ball, but it doesn't mean the guy who is third or fourth in the progression isn't a really talented player and probably capable and deserving of being the No. 1 in the progression.
"We're fortunate enough that we have that to be the case, so when Justin goes down, which is tough, he's a special player, there's a lot of confidence that K.J. and Jordan and Brandon Powell and our tight ends and backs can really fill that gap," he continued.
"There's a lot of confidence in the other guys. T.J. and Justin are special players for a reason, but I was impressed with Brandon. It was no surprise to me," Cousins added. "He's a great athlete, great with the ball in his hands. K.J. is special."
Hockenson caught five passes for 51 yards, Osborn finished with five receptions for 49 yards, and Powell recorded four catches for 43 yards. Jefferson finished with three receptions for 28 yards on six targets.
"It always affects you when you don't have [No.] 18. I mean, his presence on the field takes double teams, takes all that stuff, and then he makes plays when his number's called," Hockenson said. "Always tough to not have him, but I thought B.P. (Powell) and N'Keal and those guys stepped up. And then J.A. (Addison) had a great game. One of those guys who, they double-team J.J., and then it leaves him 1-on-1. Great performance by J.A. and by a lot of the guys who stepped up."
Powell said he appreciated the encouragement Jefferson provides to teammates, crediting him with an extra boost even at practices.
"I wear his cleats just to try to be a little like J.J., so you see that, you just want him to get healthy and get him back out there with us," Powell said. "That's tough to lose a player like that. He's one of the greatest. I've been in the league six years, and he's one of the greatest I've seen."