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O'Connell on 1st Vikings Starts by Mullens & Chandler; Injury Updates

EAGAN, Minn. – Quarterback Nick Mullens will make his second Vikings start on Sunday when Minnesota hosts the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium, Head Coach Kevin O'Connell announced on Monday.

O'Connell spoke to media members on Monday afternoon following the team's 27-24 overtime loss to the Bengals on Saturday. It took 21 fourth-quarter Bengals points and a 29-yard game-winning field goal for the Vikings to fall at Cincinnati.

Mullens eclipsed 300 passing yards for the fifth time in his six-year career and threw two touchdowns to rookie Jordan Addison. But his two interceptions deep in Bengals territory likely cost the Vikings valuable points. O'Connell said he was encouraged by Mullens' performance but mentioned the turnovers must be eliminated.

Mullens, Minnesota's fourth different starting quarterback this season (a franchise record for one season), helped the Vikings offense total 424 yards, their third-highest total this year.

"I thought Nick did a lot of really good things in the football game on Saturday," O'Connell said. "Nick knows that we also need we need to try to limit and eliminate those critical, critical errors where we turned the football over in the red zone with the chance for points twice there in the football game. Nick will continue to work toward that, but I think with another good week of preparation, and building upon the positive things he did last Saturday, my expectation is that Nick is going to go out and play really well for us this weekend."

Here are three more takeaways from O'Connell's session.

1. Recapping Chandler's first start; Mattison's status still day-to-day

Running back Ty Chandler became the team's first 100-yard rusher of 2023, gaining 132 yards on 23 carries. He also added 25 receiving yards via three catches.

Chandler was a dynamic and downhill runner versus the Bengals. He took the game's first carry for a gain of 9, setting a tone that lasted all afternoon. He scored his second-career touchdown, a 1-yard surge on the team's first drive.

O'Connell said he remains impressed with the 2022 fifth-round pick. He noted Chandler was reliable as a pass catcher and in pass protection. Chandler also popped two runs of 20-plus yards and gained several chunk plays.

"I thought Ty had a huge role and impact on the game, and we've been giving Ty more and more carries throughout the middle part of the season, especially going back to losing Cam Akers for the duration of the year. Ty is absolutely a guy that is going to continue to see a feature role in our offense," O'Connell said. "I think Ty has done a lot of great things and will continue to do so and will hopefully be a huge reason why we are able to have success offensively down the stretch here."

Chandler started on Saturday due to Alexander Mattison missing the game with an ankle injury. Mattison did not practice during the shortened week following the Raiders game.

"Mattison is going to continue progressing. He has been getting treatment around the clock to see if he can work himself to being available this week," O'Connell said. "Alex is going to try to work himself back this week. We will see how he does throughout the week."

2. More injury updates

The Vikings played without Mattison, right tackle Brian O'Neill and receiver Jalen Nailor. 

O'Connell said O'Neill is "in the same category" as Mattison, positively progressing back from an ankle injury suffered at Las Vegas. Like Mattison, O'Connell also considers O'Neill day-to-day. 

Swing tackle David Quessenberry made his second start of the season against the Bengals. According to Pro Football Focus, he filled in nicely, only allowing two pressures and no sacks. 

O'Connell said he was still determining the practice availability for both Mattison and O'Neill. The team is scheduled to have a session Tuesday and then will submit injury reports for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

3. On the return of Jefferson

Justin Jefferson was back on the field for the Vikings after missing the second half of last week's game at the Raiders. The star receiver was injured making a leaping catch, and the resulting hit kept him out of the game. He was evaluated at a local Las Vegas hospital before being cleared to fly home with the team. 

On Sunday, Jefferson played 65 of 68 offensive snaps and finished with seven catches for 84 yards. O'Connell said Jefferson is still getting back into 100-percent game shape, but he thought he played well. 

"As far as Justin, I did think Justin really responded to, got very limited work in the Vegas game and then came out and played just about the entire football game for us," O'Connell said. "He's still working through getting back to game-like conditioning where he can truly be at 100 percent for every single snap, but I thought he made some huge plays, some great catches, some difficult catches and having him back on the field really dictated a lot of things that allowed Jordan [Addison] and T.J. [Hockenson] to have the ops that they inevitably had in the football game."

Jefferson's presence helped Addison have a big day. Addison notched six grabs for 111 yards and two scores. While Hockenson caught six of his seven targets for 63 yards.