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Monday Morning Mailbag: Reactions to Vikings Win Over Saints in London

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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Good morning in the States and good afternoon in the U.K.

View postgame celebration photos from London following the Vikings 28-25 victory over the Saints on Oct. 2 in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

This Mailbag is being started while the Vikings charter is flying back from Stansted Airport to Minneapolis-St. Paul. We're above the North Atlantic, so please excuse the brevity. I'll update with more later Monday.

I'll open by wishing Vikings rookie Lewis Cine as smooth a recovery from his injury. Cine suffered a broken leg while working hard on Minnesota's punt return team. He was carted off the field and transported to a hospital to receive immediate care that will require him staying in London.

Teammates and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell expressed their best wishes for him, and people could tell how difficult it was to see a player/teammate suffer such a bad injury.

There's not a great transition from that, but I also wanted to take a few moments to express gratitude for the hospitality the Vikings received at every leg of this trip.

Finally, a tip of the hat to the more than 60,000 fans — of the Vikings, Saints and NFL in general — who filled sparkling Tottenham Stadium with exuberance. The venue was lit, ringing with SKOL Chants, and kicker Greg Joseph really appreciated the crowd's rendition of "Sweet Caroline."

Same here. It was "so good, so good, SO GOOD!"

On to the questions.

A win is a win, but that was about as ugly as they come. As Bud Grant used to say, "It's not who you play, it's when you play them."

Lucky for the Vikings, most of the Saints starting offense was injured and the Vikings were going up against second and third stringers for most of the game.

— Curt Fahsholz in Valdosta, Georgia

Bud Grant's wisdom stands the test of time for so many reasons.

The Vikings Have been on both sides of games with starters missing, including the Christmas game in New Orleans in 2020. The Saints didn't feel sorry for the Vikings that night, and the Vikings didn't take anything for granted Sunday.

Minnesota has tremendous respect for Andy Dalton and Latavius Murray because of what those players have done against or for the Vikings over the years.

Chris Olave, a first-round pick, impressed with opportunities that may have been slotted for Michael Thomas.

Missing Alvin Kamara, I'm sure, was a tough one for the Saints, but Murray filled in nicely.

The bottom line is the Vikings returned from their longest road trip at 3-1 on the season.

View action photos from the Week 4 Vikings-Saints game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Oct. 2.

We're four weeks into the season and with the exception of Week 1, this new 3-4 defense is not getting it done up front against the run or in defending midfield where teams are consistently extending drives. Am I missing any adjustments to our defensive scheme? I'm just not seeing it. But I'm glad we won for sure.


Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell mentioned Thursday before we left how every game is different after halftime.

Opponents have had opportunities to assess approaches and make tweaks.

Minnesota's defense was able to stymie Green Bay (also benefiting from a couple of key injuries for the Packers) but struggled with Philadelphia. I think a lot of emailers are still keeping that memory close.

I think one of the best things that the Saints did was keeping their entire playbook open for much of the game by keeping the score close.

Had the Vikings been able to capitalize on a couple of earlier possessions, New Orleans might have been more one-dimensional.

I'm a true Vikings fan, but I'm sorry, this defense is very porous. They can't stop anything, run or pass, especially when it is on the line.

Very disappointed fan.

— Kevin in Sterling, Illinois

Editor's note: Appreciate everyone's patience. Some tech difficulties connecting to Wi-Fi on the plane made it where I had to retype the above entries in notes app on my phone and send as a text message after having already written them on my computer. Lindsey Young then took that text and helped get it prepared to post. I'll now add more questions and responses for the p.m. edition.

What an amazing day and what a game on Sunday in Tottenham. Thanks, Vikes, for the show and the win, and hope Cine is able to come back from the injury.

Question I have is: I think the Kevin O'Connell debriefs with [Pete] Bercich are great and very interesting but worry that opposition coaches might find them even more interesting. What do you think?

— John Bell

John had emailed earlier last month saying that the game would be his first opportunity to see the Vikings live.

Glad, John, that you and more than 60,000 fans contributed to an incredible atmosphere, so our thanks to you and everyone else in attendance.

We're very fortunate to have the Vikings Entertainment Network and the content created by some of my colleagues. We're also very thrilled that Coach O'Connell participates in the film breakdowns and reveals such great details that help most of us, myself included, learn more about football.

I think there's a general assumption is that most opposing coaches would be able to tell from their film study what O'Connell and Bercich discuss. Once it's on tape and in a game, it's fair game for any other coach to pick apart.

*Victory Monday! Plenty to critique. But today let's not. And after four games, you get a sense that this team is going to provide suspense all year. I hope fans join with me and embrace the torture. It's going to be who we are most of the season. *


— Jeff in Sacramento, California

Jeff's mindset is along the lines of what I've been encouraging people to enjoy the season as it progresses. I don't know if the past two weeks are what to expect for a full season. There were definitely opportunities where Minnesota could have put New Orleans away earlier, but in the past two weeks, when the Vikings have needed to step up at critical moments, they have.

The special teams group is electric, capable of positively affecting outcomes.

It was early December in 2017 when Paul Allen was emceeing an event I attended. His message was, "I don't know how this ends." The Vikings were about seven or eight games into the winning streak that helped that squad finish 13-3. Allen's message was to enjoy the ride. We'll try to help y'all do the same.

It's clear you are paid by the team to give a sunny position on this horrible season and seasons past, but what a joke. As I've said before anyone that can make a Mike Zimmer offense worse is totally in over his skis. This kid has no clue, maybe 1 and 1,000 chance he'll pull out of it during a season but his conservative calls and fear of being aggressive is just disgusting! And a defensive coordinator is just the same. [He's had] a long history in a league but hard to say this but that anyone could be worse than Zimmer. … I could walk and off the street and win 16 games with this team or any of Zimmer's last five teams. It's not rocket science; got a top 5 talented team in the league and you just waste every opportunity!

— Brian Lupacchino

Yes, I'm an employee of the team and have been since 2014. This is my first full year of handling the Mailbag directly.

In this and other content, I've always tried to give an accurate depiction of what's going on each season and connect fans with players and coaches because of the tremendous opportunity to do so.

There are certain positives we look to accentuate, but we also don't blow smoke because our fans don't deserve that. We relay what happens good or bad, hopefully in the context of providing whys.

Being 3-1 for the best start by the Vikings since 2016, which already includes two division wins (with one against the Packers) and a trip to London and one of the hardest trips of the season (I've explained why playing in Philadelphia, on Monday Night Football in the Eagles home opener consolidated three potential buzzsaws), is not what I'd label as a "horrible season."

The Vikings have three wins in their savings account while they continue to evolve their new offense and defense.

I will respectfully say that I think it's wrong to refer to O'Connell as a "kid."

He's matched the first-year win totals by Norm Van Brocklin in 1961, Grant in '67, and Steckel in '84. Not that those are hallmark years, but I don't think that's the standard that O'Connell has in mind for his first season and certainly not beyond. It's more to just point out that coaches often struggle to stack wins in their first seasons with new systems.

He's also brought a fresh energy and approach to solving problems.

O'Connell is one of 10 new head coaches this year. Only one team (Philadelphia at 4-0) has a better record.

Great job with the Mailbag, as usual!

My question: Do you think Ed Donatell is being stubborn sticking with this soft-shell zone scheme? Doesn't seem like are getting to the quarterback enough, and even an average QB, if given a lot of time, will pick that zone apart. And that is what happening. I think we need to dial up more and different kinds of blitzes. Oh, for just one Double-A Gap blitz!!

— Steve Crescenzo

Will the Vikings blitz more in upcoming games? It seems as though quarterbacks get into a rhythm against that defense and guys are covering way too long. It may wear the defense down in the long run.

— Jay

Why do the Vikings run so much Cover 2 and zone defense? I know that is the preference of our defensive coordinator's "bend don't break" mentality. But it just seems to me that if you are not going to do much blitzing and have your safeties deep off the ball, that you will open yourself up to receivers finding holes in your zone coverages. Plus, I think most NFL quarterbacks and offensive coordinators can exploit this. Harrison Smith has always made an impact when he is allowed to come down to the line of scrimmage. We saw a case of that late in the game yesterday. I think his talents are wasted playing zone, Cover 2 defense. My question is do you think the Vikings need to change their defensive approach? Thanks, SKOL Vikings!

— Trevor in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

I kid you not that Steve's email was the one in the inbox right before Brian's message above. Trying to illustrate different perspectives.

A bit later I received the ones from Jay and Trevor, who are thinking similarly to Steve.

I wouldn't use the phrase "stubborn." I'd say the defensive staff is continuing to assess this group. I have not had the benefit of rewatching yesterday's game yet, but it did seem there were a few pressure looks before the snap that backed off into zones.

One aspect from Sunday's game is that Za'Darius Smith was coming off a knee injury. He played just 24 of Minnesota's 60 defensive snaps. When that happens, the Saints or any other team can put more attention on Danielle Hunter, who played 51 snaps.

The ways to free Hunter up are likely for whoever replaces Smith (D.J. Wonnum seemed to have a solid game on 42 defensive snaps) becoming a big problem or to create with blitzes.

View postgame celebration photos from London following the Vikings 28-25 victory over the Saints on Oct. 2 in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Perhaps the positive results by having Harrison Smith blitz late in the game (Dalton had to throw the ball away) will prompt some more opportunities.

Look, all of us Vikings fans are happy we won. We are happy we are atop the division, BUT we can't buy on luck going our way all the time. The offense has not been able to put it together for weeks. The defense is transparent, and every offense we go against finds the holes. If we are to hold this amazing lead, we need games to be on point. Find a way of getting Dalvin [Cook] some open running lanes. O-line, can we get Cousins more time to get passes out to receivers? In turn, receivers can you please catch the ball and hold on to it? Defense, stay strong and healthy, but coach, can you dig into your playback and change things up so other teams have to fight to score?

— Victor C. in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Loved that we got the W but why are we not rolling out and running more play action with Cousins? It seems to me that is when he is most comfortable. A five or seven step drop puts added pressure on our pass blocking and gives KC minimal time to go through a progression and/or throw.

— Ivan Brogger

I am glad we won the game against New Orleans, but they gave us so many opportunities which we failed to complete. We are a better team than they are and played sloppy. Every game shouldn't be so "iffy" and should be played with more confidence.

— Carol Clary

Focusing on the offense part of Victor's question and combining it with the inquiries from Ivan and Carol.

I think there are hints that the running game is starting to come together, but the Saints are pretty tough to run against. That doesn't mean the Vikings don't see room for improvements.

Cook's 14-yard run on the play before the dagger throw by Cousins to Jefferson was well-timed, but I thought he almost broke a big one much earlier in the game before he got tripped up. He grinded, and Alexander Mattison again contributed significantly to the victory.

Further establishing the run could be a big benefit to play action. O'Connell has frequently mentioned playing within the rhythm of this offense. Nothing disrupts offensive rhythm like negative plays (runs for losses or sacks).

View action photos from the Week 4 Vikings-Saints game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Oct. 2.

I do think the staff is well-aware of Cousins' strengths, which include play-actions and boots, since O'Connell and Wes Phillips were with him in Washington in 2017. You can read more about why I have reason to believe that here.

As one who tries to wrap the observations from the game up as quickly as possible and then sprint down multiple flights of staircases to postgame media sessions, I won't mind if Carol and the rest of us have fewer "iffy" games.

It's never ideal when the television broadcast can run a montage of drops and other near completions in the red zone.

I'm sure Johnny Mundt would like to have the third-and-1 play from the New Orleans 10 back and would make the grab an overwhelming majority of future replays. Instead, O'Connell opted for a 28-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with 1:04 remaining in the first half. The Vikings then forced a turnover on the next snap by the Saints but again had to settle for a field goal.

Change one of those kicks to a touchdown, and the complexion of the game might be totally different.

*I was [angry] at what I saw yesterday! After calming down, I put everything in the proper perspective. I'd like to see some relentless pressure from the defensive front, which is the key to the DC's scheme. It's easy to pile on Cousins, the reality is no QB can operate consistently with lack of protection! It's hard to go through the progressions with pressure on almost every drop back! Give the Saints credit. They're very good upfront. Bottom line is they did what it took to get W! They're taking heed to the positive vibe Coach O'Connell is putting out, this time last year they didn't pull this kind of game out! So I'm grateful they're 3-1, and keep it going against the Bears. *

— Lord Bishop

We'll close with this pointing out some of the negatives that the Vikings have overcome so far.

I'll never fault fans for having passion for Vikings football, and I understand why things can get so intense on game days. It's great to know fans care so much and is appreciated, but nuance like referenced has helped me from time to time in my allegiances.