The Vikings improved to 4-4 Sunday with a 24-10 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Instead of a jubilant locker room for a team that has won three in a row and four in five games, Minnesota was dealing with the emotions of an Achilles injury suffered by Kirk Cousins in the fourth quarter of his 150th career game.
Rookie Jaren Hall replaced Cousins to make his NFL debut, and the defense provided multiple impressive stops down the stretch.
Before Minnesota's Week 9 trip to Atlanta, here's a deeper look at Week 8.
Next Gen Stats
Handling the blitz
Cousins has been playing so well throughout the season, but he was downright incredible on Sunday.
According to Next Gen Stats, Cousins completed 13 of 15 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown against the blitz. NGS calculated his completion percentage of 86.7 percent at 20.7 percent above expected, for his second-highest CPOE against the blitz in a game since 2018.
NGS also broke things down by time to throw. On pass plays where he held the ball for more than 2.5 seconds, Cousins was 19-for-25 with 228 yards and both touchdowns, which should be a nice credit to the offensive line.
When he threw the ball in under 2.5 seconds, he was 4-for-6 with 46 yards.
Cousins totaled 274 yards without attempting a pass 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He didn't really need to with the Vikings finding repeated success on passes that were 10-20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, as well as a high volume of short passes.
Cousins went 8-for-11 with 155 yards and the touchdown to Addison when targeting teammates 10 to 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
He also was 12-for-15 with 80 yards and the touchdown to Hockenson on passes up to 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. For good measure, he was 3-for-4 with 39 yards on passes behind the line of scrimmage.
Green Bay's Jordan Love threw ample passes 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage but had little success against the Vikings defense.
Love was 2-for-7 for 65 yards and an interception when throwing 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and 3-for-9 with 45 yards on intermediate routes (10 to 20 yards beyond the line). He went 10-for-15 with 78 yards and a touchdown on passes from the line to 10 yards beyond it.
Although Love went 9-for-9 on passes beyond the line of scrimmage, the Packers totaled just 41 yards on those plays.
Minnesota's five starting offensive linemen — LT Christian Darrisaw, LG Dalton Risner, C Garrett Bradbury, RG Ed Ingram and RT Brian O'Neill — played all 72 offensive snaps. It marked Risner's second start for the Vikings at left guard and the second game in a row in which the group was on the field for every offensive snap.
Rookie Jordan Addison played 68 offensive snaps, and K.J. Osborn was in for 62.
Cousins' day ended on his 61st snap, which matched the number played by tight end T.J. Hockenson. Hall's first game involved 11 offensive snaps.
Alexander Mattison led the way at running back with 44 snaps, compared to 17 for Cam Akers and one on offense for Ty Chandler, who played 13 special teams snaps and served as Minnesota's lead kickoff returner after Kene Nwangwu was scratched because of an illness.
Tight end Josh Oliver (33 snaps) and fullback C.J. Ham (19) were involved when the Vikings went with heavier personnel groupings.
Three defensive players — linebacker Jordan Hicks and safeties Harrison Smith and Cam Bynum — played all 68 defensive snaps. Three more — safety Josh Metellus and cornerbacks Akayleb Evans and Byron Murphy, Jr. — each played 67 snaps.
Outside linebackers D.J. Wonnum (63) and Danielle Hunter (62) continued to carry a heavy workload while Marcus Davenport is on Injured Reserve. Each played more than 91 percent of the defense's snaps.
Defensive lineman Harrison Phillips had a productive day on his 46 defensive snaps, tying for the team lead with eight tackles, adding two quarterback hits and splitting a sack. Outside linebacker Pat Jones II (39) and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (35) both played more than 50 percent of the defense's snaps. Jones helped fill in for Davenport, rushing from the interior in some sub packages.
From the Inbox
With the loss of Cousins, most articles have turned to the trade deadline or available FAs. Another source is other teams' practice squads. From **Overthecap.com**, I count 12 QBs whose names I recognize that are on other teams' practice squads. Certainly not the source for your next Hall of Famer, but maybe better than a hurried trade in which you overpay and maybe better than a free agent. Stealing from another team's practice squad doesn't have a tomorrow deadline.
— David Sinclair in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
This is a good point from David that players on a team's practice squad are similar to free agents. I think the leaguewide trade deadline of 3 p.m. (CT) Tuesday has probably steered the amount of mentions in coverage because it is a fixed deadline.
Teams have pro scouting departments who take looks continuously at players who are or could become available to sign. The benefit of plucking a quarterback from a practice squad could be financial and not having to yield draft capital.
Feel very sad for Cousins and the boys in Purple. The future is now to be determined by our GM [Kwesi] Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell. Not what they had envisioned when arriving here yet clearly when we look at the past couple of drafts, the Viking management CHOSE not to invest in a QB for the future. Instead, we tried to fortify our defense with players like [Lewis] Cine and [Andrew] Booth. [Jordan] Addison looks like a star that we took in the first round of this year's draft but don't you think that [Will] Levis would have looked great in Purple. He could've been had but we didn't go for it in [Round 2]. Now it's up to Jaren Hall and hope that we've caught lightning in a bottle.*
*Love the effort from Akers and Chandler... Mattison has got to go!
— Nicholas Balkou
So many factors go into building out a draft board, and if you review the parts of the team that stood to benefit the most from investment of high picks, then it's hard to argue against drafting defensive players. Minnesota has switched defenses after selecting Cine and Booth. It doesn't mean they won't contribute more, but the coaching staff has been getting good production from other players.
Levis had an impressive stat line, going 19-of-29 for 238 yards and four touchdowns Sunday against Atlanta in his NFL debut. Every team with a first-round pick in 2023 passed on him. It's too early
Addison has been incredibly special so far, and he has been even more important in helping the team win three games without Jefferson.
Lastly, I hope folks allow Hall to have a few adjustments if the Vikings opt for him to start Sunday against the Falcons and beyond. There's a big difference in going from Cousins' level of experience to a rookie.
There were many who understood and appreciated Cousins before the injury. But there seemed to be as many who just didn't understand how good he was performing without an adequate running game and offensive line. You try throwing up a well and see how easy it is! The last play of last season is on Vikings management — not Cousins! He had no other option.
Now he may be gone and some stupid people might be happy, but he should be resigned along with J.J.
— Carol Bell
We might look back on all this down the road and consider Cousins the most-accomplished-least-appreciated quarterback in team history. And that's after considerable strides were made in hearts and minds this season.
We've seen the offensive line make some legitimate progress, too, this season, but we've also seen an inconsistent running game.
There were definitely multiple plays before the final throw to T.J. Hockenson in the playoff game that could have altered the day's outcome. I think I truly could have done a better job in my postgame coverage to illustrate the things that kept the Vikings from advancing. I still think about that, even though I'm more focused on the current.
The fact that Cousins will feel the support from teammates, coaches, fans and even humble staffers as he goes through his recovery. His long-term future can be revisited, but in the meantime, I think he's going to be a supportive teammate, and his teammates will want to do their best on his behalf.
While losing Kirk is a huge blow and caused a great deal of sadness to all of us, we have to adapt from here. We have a quarterback-friendly stretch coming up, so this is the perfect time for Hall to get in the mix and become more comfortable in the game. I have no doubt Kirk will be there giving his all to helping the team get better. We have hit our stride defensively and now offensively we have sort of a last-year 49ers situation going on. We have a young quarterback with a lot of good weapons around him. We just got to get our playmakers the ball. We have the top O-Line in the league, and we will be able to give Hall time. He just has to step up and take this opportunity and run with it. I have no fear. SKOL!
— Jacob Haight
It is terrible to lose Kirk right now. His performance has been stellar and key for our current winning streak.
Now, the team must rally behind a well performing offensive line, explosive receivers and a defense that keeps earning more respect. Put Hall in, and let's SKOL!!
— Tim in Acworth, Georgia
There are several aspects with how the Vikings have been playing that could really help a young quarterback, as well as the number of former quarterbacks on the coaching staff.
Players know they can step up for the betterment of the team, similar to the way they have while Jefferson has been on Injured Reserve.
I also have a good deal of faith in O'Connell, Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips and other coaches to do what they can to set the QB up for success.
Why does a team have a backup QB if they believe they are doomed for the season with that QB if the starter goes down?
— Dale Kappel
I truly believe an entire podcast could be recorded on this question, and the chatter would probably be different for every NFL team.
The Vikings clearly like aspects of Hall's game, or else they wouldn't have drafted him in the fifth round or kept him on the 53-man roster. His 11 snaps on Sunday, however, are the entirety of his regular-season experience at the NFL level.
Minnesota also has liked what Nick Mullens has provided as a backup to Cousins since last year. Mullens has 17 starts under his belt with a 5-11 mark with the 49ers from 2018-20 and an 0-1 showing in Cleveland in 2021, but he is on Injured Reserve at least through Week 9.
O'Connell didn't go full-on Dick Vermeil on Sunday or Monday (Kurt Warner worked out just fine for Vermeil's Rams, by the way). Instead, he's putting his energy toward giving his team its best chance for winning a fourth game in a row.
It's easy to understand the disappointment and frustration expressed by Viking fans after the loss of Kirk Cousins to a season-ending injury. Some fans have suggested that team should commit to tanking for the rest of this season to improve its 2024 draft position.
This could be over-reactive and premature. Although Cousins' play was clearly pivotal to the club's success over the past five weeks, there are other positives that the Vikings still maintain. The play of the offensive line has been solid, grading out among the best in the NFL. Strong O-line play is essential to controlling games, and the Vikings still have it. Also, the defense has gradually adjusted to Brian Flores' more aggressive tactical style of play and is now a strength of the team. Over the last five games, only Kansas City scored more than 17 points.
The Vikings upcoming opponent (Atlanta) has the same record as the Vikes (4-4), but Atlanta's schedule has not been as difficult as the Viking's schedule. Atlanta has played only two teams (Jacksonville and Detroit) with winning records and was dominated by both of them. Although the Vikings will have to start a backup quarterback (perhaps Jaren Hall), they should have a reasonable chance for a victory, if they maintain the high level of complete team effort and effectiveness they've exhibited over the past five weeks. Hopefully, Justin Jefferson will return fairly soon thereafter, and the club can build from there.
Don't give up the ship just yet.
— Brian Mason in Waterford, New York
Don't expect anyone with a team that dug out of its 0-3 hole (created in part by some self-inflicted mistakes) to give up on anything.