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The Vikings dug out of their 0-3 hole to even their record at 4-4 with a 24-10 win against the Packers in Green Bay.
But before the game even ended, thoughts turned to the health and wellbeing of Kirk Cousins, who left his 150th career game after a non-contact injury in the fourth quarter. The Vikings will further evaluate the quarterback on Monday, but Head Coach Kevin O'Connell was forthcoming that the outlook appears to be an Achilles injury.
Teammates explained their emotions of seeing Cousins go down, and the defense stepped up multiple times to finish the game.
There may be no sweeter victory than a Vikings victory my first time at Lambeau! It was glorious and once again it was a complete win. Both sides of the ball, we dominated. I was having a ball with my brother and all the other Packer fans. And then … Kirk. Where do we go from here? Is [Jaren] Hall the answer? Nick [Mullens] is on IR. Who's out there? Right when things were looking like we were about to start rolling … BAM! It feels like the season is over for real this time.
— J.B. Brunet
I wanted to open the Mailbag with J.B. this week because he was making his first trip to Lambeau Field.
While I'm incredibly grateful that U.S. Bank Stadium provides such an incredible venue (my personal favorite in the NFL), I also sincerely appreciate what Lambeau Field offers.
But a "comfortable win," especially by Vikings standards of 14 points was joined by a tremendous loss in the form of an injury to Cousins at a point where he was playing some of the best of his career and leaguewide. We'll get more official word after further evaluations.
The Vikings aren't the first team to lose a quarterback — for that matter, this isn't uncharted water for Minnesota, either, but Cousins not missing games because of injuries had been one of the more reliable certainties since 2018.
Hall got a quick taste of regular-season action on Sunday after logging plentiful reps during the preseason. The Vikings have emphasized developing every player in the building.
Mullens was placed on Injured Reserve on Oct. 11 and must miss a minimum of four games, meaning he would first be eligible to return in Week 10 (after next week's game at Atlanta).
I'm sure the Vikings will have multiple conversations regarding free agents, as well as discussions on whether to make any moves by Tuesday's trade deadline.
View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings - win over the Packers in Week 8 of the 2023 season.
Another quality win. However, Kirk is hurt and did not finish the game; that's not good! Vikings played excellent defense most of the first half and all of the fourth quarter with multiple quality stops and turnovers on downs. Here are my 3 Ups and 3 Downs for the game:
- First rushing TD of the season! Nice run by Cam Akers.
- Beautiful TD drive to open the second half by the offense. Nicely done all around. Followed immediately by the [Josh] Metellus steal interception and a one-play drive with the TD pass to [Jordan] Addison. Cherry!
- Three fourth-quarter stops by the defense and the Hall/[T.J.] Hockenson third-down conversion in the fourth quarter.
- More kicking game woes. Missed FG on the opening offensive drive. Then the kickoff out of bounds after the holder takes his finger off the ball early — the ball is falling over when kicked and goes out of bounds because of it. Even Lucy from Charlie Brown fame knows the proper way to hold a ball on a kickoff? Followed by a blocked FG attempt in the fourth quarter.
- The Vikings are just terrible at getting plays off after big plays resulting in first downs in the red zone. It is a season-long and continuing problem that appears to be systemic and yet remains unfixed. Two times in the red zone in the first half it happened — first time gets us a delay of game penalty inside the 5, the second time resulted in a wasted timeout. Absolutely inexcusable, yet it continues to happen game after game after game?
- The final Packers drive of the first half we allow a sustained drive and cannot even take advantage of their missed short FG because we lined up offsides — not just a little, but a country mile offsides — and give them a second attempt? Foolish and careless play that gifted the Packers 3 points.
Hope Kirk is OK. Looking forward to the Falcons.
— Jeff L.
It's kind of ironic that the Vikings scored their first rushing touchdown of 2023 on a day when they'll go back to the film and probably see multiple things that could have been better for the collective run game.
That 6-yard score by Akers was a nice run, and it will be particularly important for the Vikings to be able to run the ball consistently if the injury to Cousins is as bad as feared. Cousins frequently showed his experience and played calm on third-and-longs.
View game action photos from he Vikings vs. Packers Week 8 at Lambeau Field
Jeff or other emailers/readers might have a better ballpark on the last time a third quarter went as splendidly as Sunday's did for the Vikings. Seems like it's been quite some time.
The touchdown drive to start the third quarter was full-fledged harmony, the Metellus interception and return was symphonic and the TD pass to Addison was virtuoso.
The kicking game definitely didn't have its best day. The Vikings can be grateful that wasn't needed on Sunday and didn't undermine an otherwise nice day by the offense and defense.
The same can be said for a few of the operational errors that occurred with getting the snaps off in time.
Bittersweet end to game 8. Get well soon, Kirk. You will be sorely missed if this injury is as serious as it seems. Where is Nick Mullens? Should we call Case Keenum??
— Franklin Doherty
O'Connell was asked about Mullens after the game.
"He's progressing along, and that will definitely — that's why I don't want to commit one way or the other [regarding potential moves]. We've been kind of allowing Nick to rehab, and he's done a really nice job. He's getting stronger. I'd imagine he'll be a real possibility for us. I don't know what next week looks like. That's why I don't really want to confirm or commit to anything yet, but I'll keep you guys posted as the week goes on."
Love the mention of Keenum because his name brings back some memories of a magical season. He is currently on the Texans roster, as their third quarterback behind C.J. Stroud and Davis Mills. Because he's under contract, I can't make excessive comments about him, per NFL rules.
The Vikings could in theory make a trade for any player who is under contract with a team before Tuesday.
It's always a major accomplishment to get out of Green Bay with a win! I have 3 concerns/questions:
1) Why is Greg Joseph still our kicker? It makes complete sense that he misses (extra points) & field goals on a regular basis when he can't keep a kickoff inside the 50-yard-wide field!
2) It was evident that our O-line was not given a winning formula for blocking vs. the Packers defensive front! Our running backs were contacted/tackled behind the line of scrimmage more often than not!
3) I'd like to know if Kirk's ankles were taped for the game!? Based on what I saw, I'm guessing NO! If so, SHAME on all allowing that injury to happen! But, after all is said & done, only one word really counts … SKOL!
— Randy in Las Vegas, Nevada
Jeff had referenced the kickoff that bounced out of bounds. The wind had picked up and blew the ball off the tee, requiring Theo Jackson to put his finger on the top of the ball to try to hold it in place.
There's always so much to get to after games, so that play wasn't widely talked about after the game. Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels' weekly session has been scheduled for Tuesday of this week, so he'll probably be asked a bit more about that sequence.
I was surprised the Vikings struggled to run the football the way they did against a Packers defense that had been somewhat generous in that aspect of the game. The good thing for Minnesota was that Cousins blistered Green Bay multiple times on third-and-long.
Again, as the Vikings prepare to attack this thing going forward, they'll need to avoid some negative runs going forward to try to stay on a better schedule.
Kirk actually mentioned getting his ankles taped before the 49ers game, mentioning he likes to wait as late in pregame as possible (it overlapped with the locker room playing Creed). I wouldn't classify injuries as being allowed to happen. Cousins puts in extensive time with the training staff to try to be at his best.
The unfortunate part of football — and almost any sport, for that matter — is that injuries happen.
First of all, I hope Kirk Cousins is all right. But it sounds like he may have torn his Achilles in his ankle. Given that, what is Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the Minnesota Vikings general manager going to do within the next couple of days regarding the quarterback situation? Might the Minnesota Vikings make a trade for a quarterback or sign one on the free agent market. After all, at 4-4, the Minnesota Vikings may have played themselves into a playoff spot if the season would have ended today. However, the Minnesota Vikings have nine games left, and if Jaren Hall is the starter for most of these games, hopefully, he will lead the Minnesota Vikings to victory more often than not the rest of the way. But if the Minnesota Vikings trade for a quarterback, hopefully, they will be familiar with Kevin O'Connell's offensive system.
— Brandan Fiedler in Chisholm, Minnesota
NFL seasons are wild rides, right? After 0-3, some people were calling for a pennies-on-the-dollar fire sale.
Now at 4-4 and ranking seventh in the NFC (which would land the final playoff spot), people wondered aloud last week if the Vikings would become buyers for a key addition, which would require some draft capital and could come with a financial cost for future years (undermining the progress that Adofo-Mensah has made regarding the long-term salary cap situation).
Hall has impressed with his maturity and learning ability since he arrived and had some nice flashes in the preseason, but it would be ridiculous to expect a rookie to step in at the level we've seen Cousins play at this season.
There was a point in the game where the Pack has two sacks and a blocked kick. Momentum was turning towards Green Bay. Our defense buckled down and kept them out of the end zone. Great team effort. How will we respond to Kirk's injury? It will take a great team effort. Skol!!!!
— Gerald Goblirsch
The stops by the defense were incredibly impressive. A team can't always rely on a play like Metellus made to snatch the ball from an opponent. That group is fun to watch.
I believed the whole season in our team. I believed after the bad start we would turn it around, I believed after J.J.'s injury we are good enough to win games until he is back. I was a bit shaken in that bad win against the Bears, in which we nearly lost against a backup QB and just didn't look like a good team.
I stopped believing now. I know (O'Connell) will be able to scheme us a couple of wins, but I don't see us winning the Conference without Cousins. Everyone needs luck to win a championship game, and every team has to deal with injuries, but I would argue nearly none can overcome the loss of their starting QB. How does one stay positive after this? We had our best game of the season, beat up a lesser team, something we hadn't done in at least two years ... And now? I see no flicker of hope.
The positive may be, we see what Hall is made of and if he could be a starting QB in the League. But I don't even wanna imagine this could be Cousins' last game for us. I was a fan of Cousins at times, and I was critical of him at times. But he gives so much for this team and organization, he can't go like this. Maybe even end his career, that would be just too sad.
I don't envy your job today, even with a W under our belt.
Stay strong Vikes. SKOL!
— Alexander Markhart
There are teams who have overcome losses of a quarterback for a short or longer term. The 1998 Vikings were able to capitalize on a revitalized Randall Cunningham after Brad Johnson went down. The 2017 team with Keenum filling in for Sam Bradford for most of the way and without Dalvin Cook after Week 4 found a way. The 1999 Rams were able to put on a show thanks to Kurt Warner after a training camp injury. I'm sure there are many more, but my initial deadline is imminent.
Thus, it has been done, but every team writes its own story. Cousins has repeatedly said he has an interest in finishing his career here, but this is the final year of his contract. Minnesota will have discussions with him in the offseason.
View game action photos from he Vikings vs. Packers Week 8 at Lambeau Field
I've been a fan for 50 years. I'm very happy how the team is playing.
Could someone please explain what O'Connell could be thinking up 14 points with 11 minutes to go with the ball on Packers 12.
You have a chance to ice the game with a field goal by running it, burning clock. Instead, we take two sacks, miss field goal, lose Cousins. Then our defense stops the Packers, we're up 14 with 6-7 minutes, and O'Connell has the rookie continue to throw the ball on his on 10-yard line even after the fumble.
O'Connell (tries) a field goal 5 minutes into the game on fourth-and-1, but then throws it with a rookie QB on his own 10-yard line after a recent turnover. Nothing makes sense with his play call? What's your take on his calls the last 11 minutes of the game.
— Kevin Flynn
I don't want to over-speak for O'Connell on this one but based on everything in that point of the game, the Vikings were having success throwing the football and had really been struggling to run the ball.
The first third-and-8 that Hall faced resulted in a sack fumble. The second resulted in an important completion to Hockenson, so O'Connell reinstituted his faith in the offense to pass on a third-and-long.
I thought he might go for it on the fourth-and-1 early, but in a season filled with turnovers on opening drives, I can see him being happy to get points.
I also know that if he had the benefit of knowing Cousins would get injured on the third-down pass, he definitely would have just run the ball or done anything but what he called. There's no way he could have anticipated the misfortune.
I said in the beginning of the season that [Alexander] Mattison is not a No. 1 caliber running back. It took until game 8 to get a running touchdown, and it was by Akers, not Mattison. Our running back order should be No. 1 Akers, No. 2 [Ty] Chandler and maybe Mattison at No. 3. Why can't the coach see that? Also, why is it that through 8 games we have such a hard time getting the ball snapped before the [play] clock runs out. I hope Cousins is OK. He has been great.
— Gene, south of Mankato, Minnesota
There's a few factors that can contribute to playtime percentage (including but not limited to pass protection), but I do think the Vikings envision a shared load in the backfield. Mattison wound up with 16 of the team's 31 carries and 31 of the team's 62 yards. Akers finished with nine carries for 19 yards.
It seems like the Vikings have been less inclined to have Chandler handle much on offense in the games when he's the primary kick returner. He nearly showed why with an incredible return that was negated by a holding penalty that seemed to be pretty far from the action.
For the second game in a row, our defense really held up. Our offensive passing has been greatly improved. I love to watch Addison. He reminds me of Randy Moss. I respect Kevin O'Connell's decision to pass when Cousins was out, and he was going with the backup quarterback. Green Bay was expecting runs the whole time. Had our line been able to give him more than two seconds to throw the ball I feel he could've done very well. Don't get me wrong. I don't blame it on the offensive line because Green Bay was looking for blood with the rookie quarterback. All in all, great play-calling and great win.
— Jerry from Side Lake, Minnesota
Addison's frame would never get confused with Moss if their silhouettes were overlapped but he has been significantly productive right away. He has seven touchdown catches in eight games — Moss finished his rookie season with 17, so we'll see how far he gets in that regard. Bottom line, the more you see out of Addison, the more there is to like about his game. He knows how to use his gifts, and the Vikings staff seems to be incorporating them quite well.
It would actually be kind of interesting to overlay the silhouettes of Addison and Moss and some other great receivers, kind of like zoos do to compare wingspans of birds or sizes of other animals.
O'Connell and players have done a good job of emerging from the hole the team dug early this season. We'll see where they can go from here.