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Vikings Offense Shows Potential When Avoiding Penalties

Three receivers, three touchdowns.

Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn all got into the end zone for the Vikings Sunday afternoon in a game that ended in heartbreaking fashion.

And while it can be difficult to focus on the positives in this situation, it seems pertinent to highlight the way Minnesota's offense bounced back following an abysmal Week 1 performance.

Osborn, who recorded his first NFL touchdown on just the second play of the game, spoke with media members postgame and described the early 64-yard score, which ranks as the seventh-longest by a Viking on his first career touchdown.

"I had a wheel route, and all week in practice – really, anytime we run it – I try to sneak in alignment so I can come out right on [Justin Jefferson's] heels," Osborn said. "And I just sprinted. I just executed the play. I saw that they left me open, and Kirk [Cousins] put a great ball up, and I was able to finish it.

"Obviously scoring a touchdown's been something I've dreamed about my whole life, so it was a great moment," he added.

Osborn also emphasized an overall improvement by the offense.

"We got clicking. I felt like Dalvin [Cook] ran the ball very well, the o-line blocked, and everybody just did their jobs," he said. "Adam got in the end zone, Justin got in the end zone, myself. We were just clicking on all cylinders; we were executing. I feel like we got comfortable. We eliminated penalties, which is huge, and we just played ball."

The Vikings last week in Cincinnati committed 11 offensive penalties and four in the first drive alone; in Arizona, they cleaned things up and drew just two flags offensively, both of which occurred in the second half.

A decrease in penalties meant Minnesota wasn't playing behind the 8-ball all afternoon, and Cousins and Company took advantage of that. The Vikings run-first offense wasn't forced to rely on passing play after passing play, which gave the offensive line an opportunity to really does what it does best – gain ground.

Cook totaled 22 carries for 131 yards (6.0. average) on the day, boasting multiple runs for double-digit gains despite appearing to be banged up on two different instances.

"There are moments where you don't know if you have him for the rest of the game and then he's back in," Cousins said. "Just did a great job coming back and being tough and playing hard. We ask a lot of him. He's a warrior."

Added Osborn: "I could tell the way he was running the first quarter, he was poppin' 'em, was waiting for the big one, and it's special. Some of the young guys, they always want to see him play live. He's different. He's the best back in the league to me."

Cook wasn't the only one who added yards on the ground, though; Cousins made a few plays with his feet, as well. In the second quarter, the QB scrambled for 29 yards on second-and-10 and three plays later connected with Jefferson for a 14-yard touchdown.

Cousins finished the day with two rushes for 35 yards. Through the air, he was 22-of-32 passing for 244 yards, three touchdowns and a 122.4 passer rating.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Cousins "played extremely well" throughout the afternoon.

"He used his legs. I thought he was accurate. I thought he got the ball out when he needed to," Zimmer said of Cousins, who was sacked just once. "I thought he had great command of the offense, put the ball in the right place. Everybody has some [mis-fires], but I thought he did great today."

The Vikings came out of the gate clicking, scoring all three of their offensive touchdowns in the first half.

"It wasn't any one thing. I think it was running the football effectively kept us ahead of the chains. We avoided penalties. We protected the football," Cousins said. "We had explosive plays, protected well. So, it kind of all comes together.

"I think on two of our touchdown drives, we didn't even have a third down the whole drive," Cousins added. "That also tells you something about staying ahead of the chains and being productive on first and second down, and what it can do for you."

The downside, of course, is that the Vikings slowed a bit offensively in the second half.

View the game action photos from the Vikings-Cardinals game during Week 2.

Minnesota gained 292 of its 419 total net yards through the first two quarters, netting just 127 yards in the third and fourth. The offense also failed to capitalize on a couple of opportunities afforded it by the defense, and the Vikings on three occasions had to settle for field goal attempts after being held short of the end zone.

Greg Joseph made two field goals from 52 yards out but pulled the final 37-yard attempt – which would have won the game for Minnesota – wide right.

"The second half, we didn't do enough offensively," Cousins said. "Third downs, we need to convert more third downs, stay on the field, and be more productive on first and second down, to make those third downs more manageable.

Cousins said he and his teammates encouraged Joseph after the missed kick.

"He knows we're here for him. Great player, and has done a great job putting us in the last two games, really, with the way he's kicked," Cousins said. "There were so many plays out there that each one of us, individually, would like to have back, and that's the way it'll always be."

As the Vikings look toward next week's home opener, they know it won't be easy to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole to start the season.

But they haven't lost faith, either, and their confidence – especially offensively – was bolstered Sunday despite the outcome.

"We don't really look too far ahead. We're just going to be where our feet are," Osborn said. "Right now, we're going to take [these] 24 hours, we're going to flush this one, and we're going to get ready for the next one. … We're going to go to meetings, we're going to lift, we're going to practice and prepare each day. So we're not looking too far ahead – just take one day at a time."

The Vikings have 15 regular-season games remaining, starting Sunday when they host the Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"We just have to turn a few of these losses into wins, and we need to find a way to make enough plays," Cousins said. "I could have told you in April or July or August that I believe in the guys on this team, the group we have, so after two games, my opinion hasn't changed at all."