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Monday Morning Mailbag: Fans' Wave of Emotions During Vikings Win Over Lions

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Last week, I had steered the pre-game storylines to Detroit-related musical influences.

Turned out, I left out the one most applicable: Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey.

Kirk Cousins found K.J. Osborn open for a 28-yard touchdown with 45 seconds remaining, and Josh Metellus secured his first career interception to end his first career start. The Vikings got the run game going, despite a shoulder injury to Dalvin Cook, and Adam Thielen recorded his 50th career receiving touchdown to tie Vikings Legend Sammy White for fourth in Vikings history.

It was such a treat to speak with White and his wife, Penny, as well as other former Vikings who returned to Minnesota for Legends Weekend. I had not previously met them in person but had tremendously enjoyed a phone interview for a story on Sammy's induction to the Black College Football Hall of Fame.

It was great to see such an ample turnout of players who helped build the NFL and shape the identity of the Vikings over the years. Lonnie Warwick, who sounded the Gjallarhorn is all heart — and it was needed Sunday when a gritty and good Lions squad pushed the Vikings to the brink before Minnesota's comeback effort.

Head Coach Kevin O'Connell secured his second victory in as many home games. He had delivered some great remarks to the Legends during a dinner Saturday. Here was part of what he said after Sunday's game:

"It's good to have that feeling both times we have been at U.S. Bank Stadium … that we believe in each other, we believe in our team and we can continue to improve and be at our best moving forward. I'm so proud of our guys," O'Connell said. "Unbelievable to have our Legends in town this weekend and be around our team. As I told those guys last night, never underestimate their power and their influence to be what our guys may need to see, and to see their camaraderie, how together they are still years and years later. The great history of our team, we've got a lot to play for a lot for, including those guys (Legends), a lot to be proud of, but first and foremost, today was about [the current] players, and a great day for a lot of guys on our team who needed to step up."

As you can imagine, the inbox was looking bleak long about the first and third quarters and bounced back by game's end. I'll try to get to as many as possible. (If more come in Monday, I'll update this post with a p.m. edition.)

Week 3 was a screamin', hollerin', cussin', swearin', nail biter that we pulled off. Four scores by four players was awesome. Spread the ball around. I still question the pass defense. And Cousins being off on some passes. Pressure from Detroit defense or something else?

— Brian

I think Brian accurately sums up what a lot of Vikings fans felt.

After Sunday's game, I told The Athletic's new Vikings writer, Alec Lewis, that he's fully been introduced to the beat. This one had a different feel, for some reason, and the folks who were able to be at the game and pour themselves into that atmosphere should get a representative game ball.

Road teams have to play the home roster and the venue. Some venues are more challenging than others, and that definitely goes for U.S. Bank Stadium.

It was a major sign of progress for the offense to get touchdowns from four different players, as well as to have two rushing touchdowns on which Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison each made plays to create scores. The pass to Thielen was masterfully drawn and executed, and the winner to Osborn probably took many of you back to last year at Carolina.

Cousins mentioned after the game that he thought he underthrew Osborn earlier in the game on one that landed beyond the diving receiver's outstretched arms. Then, he said he hoped the winner had enough, which it did.

What is up with this defense?? Seriously? I thought this was supposed the like Denver's defense?? Nowhere near that. I don't know why they keep playing this zone defense?? I'm writing this as K.J. just scored. This same D killed us last Monday night. Run D is disappointing. Interception!! SKOL! VIKES WIN!!

— Ray Sparks

*It's a win. It's a division win. I'll take it. But our D scheme has me very worried. I remember running something very similar under [Dennis] Green and [Foge] Fazio. It made average QBs look very good and gave them confidence. It also negates a pass rush when a QB can take quick drops, make quick throws underneath, which ANY NFL QB can make, and march the ball down the field, taking time off the clock and wearing out a defense. The idea of "make them snap one more play" does not fill me with confidence. No!! Make them punt after three-and-out! We need a scheme that forces a QB to hold the ball and allows the pass rush to get home. I need to see a D scheme change, or I expect a long, rugged season. *


— Jeff in Sacramento

Loved Ray's range as he was preparing his message juxtaposed against how the Vikings swayed momentum and emerged.

To Jeff's first point, that's two division wins against good teams, which is what matters most. I can't fairly weigh-in on comparing this iteration of the Vikings defense to the one he mentions.

I know there's a lot of folks still trying to shake last Monday night in Philly and for ample reasons, but I'd also like to remind everyone this was the third game played by the Vikings in a base 3-4 since 1985.

Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell held the same role in Denver, but the Broncos had a long head start with that kind of personnel. Minnesota is using somewhat of a hybrid approach and adjusting.

I think there's a credit to some of what Detroit was able to do (as well as Philadelphia) the week before, but one thing of note, is the Vikings have yet to allow a point in a fourth quarter this season and only 17 after halftimes so far. Being able to lock things down will keep your team in a game, even if the offense starts by struggling.

The Vikings defense limited the Lions to 3-for-16 on third downs (18.8 percent), but Detroit was aggressive, going for it on fourth down SIX times and converting four.

View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 28-24 victory over the Lions on Sept. 25.

Minnesota got stops on a third-and-1 and a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter to help enable the comeback.

Concerning the game, I've gotta say it was way more similar to last year than I had hoped to see this year. But a win is a win, so I'll take it, even though I've gotta admit I am kinda disappointed. I mean, it's early in the season, and it's more important to come out of the first six weeks with a decent record, until everything is clicking, but I just expected more of our offense. It's obvious Justin Jefferson can't be as dominant as Week 1 every time, and he gets doubled a lot, but the rest of the offense should be good enough to have convincing, long drives in my opinion. Hopefully I see what I want next week, when I see the Vikes life in the flesh for the first time.

Also, I am glad for the win for Greg Joseph. I would've hated if he had gotten heat for missing two field goals in a narrow loss. Those were 56-yard tries. In my opinion, it is still normal to miss those kicks sometimes. There is literally one kicker in the league who I would trust to make those kicks. And he is sadly flying with the Ravens.

And last, best wishes for Dalvin Cook. Hopefully he recovers soon.

Have a nice week, stay healthy, best wishes

— Alexander Markhart in Germany

[Sent at 2:26 p.m.] I know K.O. is a rookie coach, but why kick a 56-yard field goal when your kicker already missed one? The score is a 3-point game at this this point. You just gave the Lions a short field and maybe the game. Your defense has been questionable to this point.

[Sent at 3:27 p.m.] Hey Coach, GREAT COMEBACK GAME. Sometimes there is a fairy-tale ending.

— Jerome Turvold in Belvidere, Illinois

Alexander, that's so great that you'll be able to make the trip to London to see the Vikings. Here's to a strong showing and enjoyable experience throughout to reward your efforts.

You are correct in that the best thing teams can do in September is add notches to the win column. Once they are banked there, they are vaulted and come in handy closer to the postseason.

Three NFC North teams won Sunday with victories secured in the final minute of their games. I think multiple Vikings players would tell you they think they have a long way to go with this new offense, but I also think they're excited about the potential. If defenses are going to mix coverage and add defenders toward Jefferson, then other people have to be at the ready.

There's been no shortage of confidence in Greg Joseph this season from O'Connell or Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels, and deservedly so based on the offseason he had, but you and Jerome are correct in that those are not easy kicks.

Maybe going forward if facing a third-and-10 at the opponent's 38-yard line, it's perhaps best to try to get a few yards via a run or pass to shorten the length of the kick even a few yards.

I don't think there's any confidence lost in Joseph at all. Maybe it's an opportunity to calibrate the yardage to reach goal.

Having worked for the Titans years ago, it seemed like Andrew Luck and the Colts always managed to get just within range for a field goal, even if it was in the mid- to long-40s (forgive me for not mining data at this point in time).

It was painfully obvious that Eric Kendricks is not playing up to what we're used to seeing from him, from missed tackles to poor pass coverage....and he's getting no help from the D-line, who since Week 1 can't get home...thoughts???

— Rob Langston

For those who didn't see, Kendricks was added to the injury report and questionable because of a toe injury.

He wound up being able to play, but I don't know if he was at 100 percent.

I also fully believe Minnesota doesn't have as many of the successes it did have Sunday with Kendricks not in the lineup. He recorded 11 tackles and had two impressive pass breakups. The press box stats didn't award Kendricks a pressure, but I thought he could have earned one on a blitz that resulted in an incompletion.

Everything has changed around him, but he and Jordan Hicks are a pairing that I've been excited to see in action since training camp.

Minnesota did not record a sack Sunday, but some of that credit can go toward Detroit's offensive line and Jared Goff avoiding some pressure or getting the ball out.

[sent at 2:26 p.m.] So as I watch the games, it looks like Justin Jefferson is the first read on every play. How about spreading the ball around? Also what happened to tackling? No one wants to tackle now. Everyone tries to strip the ball. Then they get burned and give up a bigger play. This umbrella defense has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Also, Kirk's play has been terrible, just throwing the ball up for grabs like in the Philly game. Then, when talking to media, he said WE played bad. Yes, the team played bad, but as a QB, your job is to not hurt the team with what could have been five picks in one game. Looks like problems with coaching and every part of the team. Is there a way to fix this this year, or are the Vikings all hype?

— Larry Riddle

I do agree that the offense and defense had bad showings in Philadelphia, but as I've mentioned to many people in responses this week between the games, the Vikings might be glad when it's all said and done that they were able to consolidate playing on Monday Night Football, visiting Philly and playing in a team's home opener (three potential losses) into one game.

Kirk definitely had a couple of misses against the Lions, but he and the coaching staff were able to find something when they needed to and make meaningful throws at the most critical juncture.

His stat line of 24-of-41 with 260 yards, one sack, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 93.5 with no turnovers ended more solid than it started.

How different from last year to see the Vikings battle back at the end of halves, from 2 TDs down in the first half and from 10 points at the end of the game! That was thrilling.

— Becky in Baldwin, Wisconsin

I think the heart was present a year ago, but the execution may not have been at major moments in some of those excruciating losses that got away from Minnesota last season.

O'Connell has placed a high emphasis on the ends of halves (not that Coach Zimmer didn't), but Minnesota has reaped much better results so far in this young season.

Maybe the only thing better than executing a comeback is not needing to make one happen.

If team's can harness the positivity from a win like Sunday, it can only help.

Editor's note: More emails came rolling through after the Mailbag was initially published, so adding some of those to continue the conversation that will change by the next Mailbag's publication.

Wow, can you believe it? Down 14 points, come back to tie it. Down 10 points, come back to take the lead. The Minnesota Vikings were beat. Twice. And they kept on chipping away at the lead until they got ahead.

Could it be, dare I say it, are the Vikings for real??

— Curt in Valdosta, Georgia

Well, the Vikings are really 2-1, along with the Packers and Bears. Philadelphia continued to look good for a third week.

Much will sort itself out going forward, but there's a lot to be said of the resolve and finding a way that it takes to comeback from 14 and 10 down.

I'm not sure if it shows there's a dramatic jump in a three-score deficit the Vikings could not overcome against the Eagles vs. two-score leads by the Lions, the difference in trying on the road and doing it at home away, or if it was mostly Philadelphia having a great night and Minnesota having a poor night.

I do expect there to be some benefits in a team knowing it has executed the type of comeback that Minnesota was able to do twice Sunday.

We win as a team and lose as a team. One stat that stood out is the two QB hits and zero sacks. Our defense needs to improve those numbers if we want to play for championships.

— Gerald Goblirsch

Some credit has to go to Detroit's offensive line, which includes first-round picks at center (Frank Ragnow) and both tackle spots (Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell), as well as Goff.

The Vikings had a nice inside rush lined up for Za'Darius Smith on fourth-and-2 from the Minnesota 46 early in the third quarter, but guard Dan Skipper got just enough to allow some nifty footwork by Goff, who eluded the rush and completed a pass to Josh Reynolds for a gain of 16.

The Vikings defense then got a stop and forced a field goal after a Master's class in PBUs by Patrick Peterson on third-and-2 from the 22-yard line.

The defense is very concerning — zone defense is not working and allowing QBs to tear our secondary apart. Why not try 1-on-1 defense? The defense looks very confused and not enthusiastic at all. Very disappointing this team is looking way too similar to last year.

— Suzie Bexell

Man it's scary being a Vikings fan! And even though it's the Detroit Lions, Jared Goff is a gunslinger. Hopefully our defense can play a little better. I still think we should be playing a 4-3 defense because our talent isn't made for 3-4.

— Toby in Alaska

I'm a Vikings fan and have been for 40 years...That said, SKOL Vikes!!! My question is, is the 3-4 defense really the right alignment for our skill set vs. the 4-3 that we use to play? I just see us giving up way too many yards on runs and giving teams second-and-short, third-and-short. In order to make the playoffs that trend must change, your thoughts?

— Alan

After three weeks I'm happy to be 2-1. But if we could please blitz more and actually put pressure on the opposing offense, it would help our offense. It sickens me to watch the opposition just trickle down the field and know we have to score every time we have the ball. SKOL!!

— Dan Ferrara

Our defense is quite porous. I can't recall Detroit having any three-and-outs. Too many second and third downs with short yardage. But, we were tough in the fourth quarter.

— Rich

I'm lumping these questions/comments because they all relate to the general overview of the defense.

Reminder that the Vikings have six new starters on defense and that increased to seven with Metellus filling in for Smith on Sunday.

To Suzie's point, teams have found some openings in the zones the past couple of weeks, but the goal is to not allow big plays (which unfortunately happened in Philadelphia on the 53-yard touchdown).

I think the back end of the defense is still working together on spacing that could deter some throws or enable them to contest more passes. Minnesota did have seven pass breakups Sunday out of 41 attempts by Goff.

I liked seeing Kendricks going forward on a couple of plays.

As for the 3-4 vs. 4-3, transitions take some time. It's not a complete overhaul because Minnesota is being so multiple, but it would be good to find more ways to disrupt an opposing passer early.

The Vikings are well removed from their 2017 dominance but have been for a couple of seasons. It's not like Donatell took over a group that was top five in the past two seasons. They are learning and playing together, and executing at a high level in fourth quarters.

It was too little too late in Philly but just enough against Detroit.

The Vikings have more picks (two) than points allowed (0) through three fourth quarters. Some NFL games must be won in that period.

With our Boys up front on the defensive line giving up as much yardage as they have in the first three it a scheme coverage or the wrong guys in??

— "Thee Trooper" in Winnebago, Minnesota

Lifetime Vikings fan here, drinks the Kool-Aid, and loves our hometown media covering the team. Amazing victory, but at what point does panic mode set in regarding a lack of consistent pressure on their QB? Is it time to just pay [Ndamukong] Suh?

— Bryon in Florida (formerly of WBL)

And here's a couple on the defensive line. I think that group is still taking shape as well. We've seen some plays with corners setting the edge and the team tackling.

No discredit to Suh's accomplishments as a player, but I'm not sure that would be the cure all.

This iteration of Vikings defense will invite opponents to run from time to time. As for pressure, there's always room for improvement, but again, I thought Detroit's o-line had a nice game.

It seems we are super weak against outside run and have almost no underneath coverage. Wondering your opinion on why that might be?

I realize Hicks is leading the team in tackles, but a lot of those tackles seem to come after a catch is made against him or 5-plus yards downfield, so not necessarily a positive stat for him. To go with that, [Brian] Asamoah looked like a standout player in preseason and has been pretty electric on special teams so far. Guy just seems to be going 100 mph at all times. Is there a chance we see him get any time on defense? Think he'd be an help in the outside run game being much better sideline-to-sideline than a player like Hicks.

— Zach Burrington in Minnetonka, Minnesota

Combo platter here from Zach.

Detroit was able to get some nice outside runs, and the Lions also won multiple times on some in-breaking routes, even on fourth downs. I'm honestly not completely certain if there was a miscommunication on the 30-yarder early to Amon-Ra St. Brown or a lack of execution.

As far as the second part, I've been impressed by Hicks and Asamoah for different reasons. Hicks credited the tackle made by Asamoah on special teams with being a major rallying point for the defense, so it was a big-time contribution by the rookie who showed his straight-line speed on the play. Asamoah showed some great mid-to-sideline range at Denver in the preseason.

Hicks likely had a tougher assignment at Philly because of the Eagles threat of run-pass options. I like the chemistry Hicks and Kendricks have shown, as well as Hicks' ability to make plays on the football and be involved in takeaways.

I know that Metellus played a solid game against the Lions, but my question is about Lewis Cine. I read so much about how he was a great draft pick, but he seems to be a third-team player not even making it on the field. This is very disappointing for a first-round pick. Was he a mistake, or is there a possible injury that I don't know about??

— David Winger

I wouldn't fret too much about Cine. He played on special teams and contributed that way, lining up as a gunner and at other spots. Cine did not play for the defense, but I wouldn't consider it a knock on him at this point.

The NFL (and yours truly) hype the NFL Draft more each year, and some high picks are asked to start immediately. It can work — Vikings second-rounder Ed Ingram now has three starts in as many chances but was just the second guard to start a season opener in the 62 seasons of Vikings football.

There's plenty to learn for defenders in the secondary, and Cine did have a knee injury that made him inactive in Week 1. There's a long runway for rookies, including first-round picks, before effectively grading.

So Game 1 against the Packers the play calling was spot on, defense looked strong, and my husband and I were very impressed, ecstatic about the new coaching staff.

Game 2 against the Eagles Vikings looked as though they had not played the game before?!?

Game 3 against Lions (home game) looked as though offense and defense were there 50% of the time.

My question for our new coach is:

How can a team look so professional one game due to EPIC play calling and strong defense in Game 1 and then have a 360-degree difference in game 2? Game 2, the same play was called over and over [to Jefferson] and continued to get picked. If that play isn't working, why is that play continued to be called … makes zero sense to me.

Please explain and thanks for listening!

— Chris Schmidt in Lakeville, Minnesota

It's hard to imagine much going better for the Vikings and worse for the Packers than in Week 1. That was the largest margin of victory by Minnesota in a game started by Aaron Rodgers. Remember when O'Connell politely asked fans at training camp to be mindful of posting videos to social media?

It was because he wanted to make the most of the advantage he had of an opponent having to go into the season without knowing exactly what would be done.

Philly had the full benefit of a week to prepare for Minnesota and made the most of its time. That game provided a learning opportunity — more unenjoyable than an organic chemistry final at the time — but one that could yield some positives down the road.

Detroit has continued to improve on what Campbell has been building. The Lions had a long way to go from where they started when he got there, but that team is good and will bring it against foes a lot this season.

Like a lot of fans, I've lost a bit of confidence since our Week 1 win against the Packers but I'm holding out hope that we make it deep into the playoffs this season. A few questions and a comment:

How did Cine play this week? Did he get much playing time after coming off his injury? Sometimes not having your name singled out is a good thing, right?

O'Connell has to be more careful when calling in the plays as he didn't shield his mouth enough these past three games. And why do they allow cameras to film the QBs communicating in a huddle? I imagine it would be pretty difficult for the opposition to lipread and react that quickly but hey, you never can be too careful.

Lastly, watching Tom Brady orchestrate his offense and dissect defenses is a thing of beauty as he seems to make the right throw (and rather perfectly I might add) almost every time! This made me wonder again, where Cousins' challenges are coming from, especially when he is pressured. Are his struggles more from not reading the defenses as well? Is he not going through his progressions fast enough? Is he being too conservative? I know there have been many dropped balls from our offense but still, over the years when the going gets tough, he can become a different QB by making hasty decisions (keying in on one guy, miss open ones or inaccurate throws). To his credit, he'll stay in the pocket and take hits and make a lot of great plays but still, he's too inconsistent. EVERY player has room for improvement. I'm just curious about the general consensus for his inconsistencies. Please don't respond with "it's a little of everything" LOL but if the "experts" could just choose 1 primary weakness, what would that be?

Thanks much,

— Bernie in New York City

It seems Kirk Cousins does his best in 2-minute drill under pressure.

— Frederick

As mentioned, Cine wasn't in on defense but he did log some meaningful reps on special teams.

It's not a fault of O'Connells, but I think he's still getting used to how many times a camera likes to find a head coach. Seems like there would be so many other options for the broadcast to show than the head coach calling a play or the QB in the huddle relaying it to the rest of the team.

I thought Kirk's postgame media comments that are posted on this site and elsewhere were highly insightful. I love when he relays the mindset he has and what he is able to see on plays because it helps us all better understand something we're all clearly interested in.

Detroit seemed not to shy from trying to bring pressures, but it seemed that Minnesota had some better answers for those tests.

One of the things he mentioned was after the first completion to Osborn, he immediately said no sacks because of the field position it could cost on a potential tying field goal. Turns out, he was able to play with that quiet mind (and a clean pocket) that O'Connell talks about on that go-ahead touchdown.

Minnesota placed so much emphasis on the 2-minute drills this offseason.

When watching Viking games, you see opposing defensive backs line up on the line ready to hit, and play a smothering defense on Viking receivers. They're not always effective, but in the last two games they've limited Jefferson and made our other receivers work hard to get open. It also buys some time for their linemen to put pressure on Cousins. Then, you watch our DBs line up yards away from our opponent's receivers in a shell defense as [Troy] Aikman pointed out on MNF, and it's painful to watch wide open reception after reception and QBs that look incredibly accurate. Why don't the Vikings play a stiffer defense, man-to-man, or at the least change it up giving the offense different looks? Opposing teams have to be salivating at facing this kind of formation, and minus the Packers game, have picked it apart. I realize the lack of consistent pressure on the QB doesn't help matters. Please explain the philosophy of sticking with this kind of defense. Thank you!

— Bob Batdorf in Windsor, New York

Why do we constantly see opposing wide receivers getting clean breaks off the line when the opposing team has third- or fourth-and-short? It baffles me that they are so wide open all the time. Detroit used that to their advantage and were able to complete a lot of fourth-down plays.

— Mike in St. Louis Park

Bob mentioned the word "philosophy," and I think he's on to something there.

The coaching staff would much rather yield yards in chunks than big plays/points. Would there be room to mix in any bit of press coverage along the way? Perhaps, but a major part of the philosophy is putting players in positions to be the most successful.

Jalen Hurts played extremely well, and Goff was somewhere between smoking the Vikings like he did with the Rams in 2018 or the non-factor day he had the previous year.

I fully believe Minnesota will continue to evaluate and evolve a bit, but staying true to core beliefs is probably going to happen.

Jefferson is no Cooper Kupp. He needs to learn how to get open.

— Steven Cyriaks

Detroit had some sticky corners that play with a lot of contact. Repeated penalties did not deter the Lions from continuing to do so all game. For a moment it looked like it worked, with Amani Oruwariye getting away with a bearhug on Thielen on a fourth-down play.

O'Connell said Monday that there were maybe eight or nine snaps out of the 72 he played on offense that Jefferson didn't face "some variation" of a doubleteam.

The Lions placed so much attention on Jefferson that it opened up opportunities for other Vikings to make winning plays.

Minnesota gave future opponents much more to worry about by having other players make plays.

I think Jefferson and Kupp are exceptional receivers, but there were a couple of throws Jefferson's way early that landed incomplete for one reason or another. Those could have gotten him going.