EAGAN, Minn. — Byron Murphy, Jr.'s, smile said it all.
Energy from the Vikings first Victory Monday of the 2023 season filled Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center following a 21-13 win at Carolina.
"It's a great day. Smiles all around," Murphy said. "So we've got to keep that great energy going. Obviously, we got our first one. And the energy is gonna be crazy, but like I said, we've got to keep that energy going here as well."
The team knows that it's time to get back to work. And that means preparing for the defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs and the best quarterback in football, Patrick Mahomes, and Head Coach Andy Reid, who just claimed his 250th regular-season victory Sunday.
"I told our team, I think it is very important that we continue to strive and work toward playing the type of performance at home in front of our fans, for our fans, to really truly make that the best possible atmosphere that we can," Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said. "Between Coach Reid and Patrick and everything that comes to town when you play the Kansas City Chiefs, it is going to be a heck of a challenge, but one I feel our team is excited for the preparation and taking on such a significant challenge to see if we can continue building on some momentum from yesterday."
The Vikings can build on rushing for a season-high 135 yards on Sunday. Justin Jefferson still leads the league in receiving yards. Quarterback Kirk Cousins' league-high 11 passing touchdowns are two more than the three Pro Bowlers behind him (Josh Allen, Tua Tagovailoa, and Russell Wilson), and the defense is coming off a signature performance that featured five sacks, eight tackles for loss and a defensive touchdown.
Murphy believes the defense can play even better. He's still searching for his first interception as a Viking.
"I got more stuff I can do just to keep helping the team. Obviously [I] want to make more plays. Definitely gotta get that ball. That's my biggest thing, right? I gotta go get a pick," Murphy said. "But like I said, just keep working. Keep going through this game plan and finding ways for me to make sure I can get a pick because I want to make a play for the team. Especially a home game this week in front of the Viking fans."
Turning the Chiefs over would help Minnesota land its first home win of the season. But Kansas City presents a much different challenge than facing a rookie quarterback and a new head coach.
Mahomes threw two interceptions on Sunday night against the Jets yet still led a fourth-quarter comeback at MetLife Stadium, winning 23-20. Mahomes carries a .681 winning percentage in one-score games, the best all-time among quarterbacks with at least 40 starts.
Murphy and the Vikings defense fully understand the challenge ahead.
"Hall of Famer, for sure. One of the best quarterbacks, for sure. But I think that's a challenge for us. And I think we're willing to take that challenge. We like this challenge," Murphy said. "He's a no-look passer. I really haven't seen that too many times. But he's a great quarterback, too. He's gonna make really good decisions. And he keeps his poise. He can make any throw. He's just a playmaker."
Pressuring Mahomes will be key. Edge rusher Marcus Davenport – fresh off receiving his first Vikings game ball – echoed Murphy's room-for-improvement mentality.
"It was nice to get some recognition. But personally, I just look and see whether I should have done better," Davenport said. "[Like] when I think I get tired, and my technique kind of wanes, and when I don't win how I want to, or how I feel like I should."
For many reasons, there will likely be more eyes than usual tuning into what happens at U.S. Bank on Sunday. The Chiefs are the only NFL team yet to play at the Vikings Stadium, which was built in 2016.
Regardless, there is a lot of season left. But it's never too early to start stacking victories.
"We know what type of guys we have in this room. We believe in each other. Obviously, adversity comes in this game, but I think our guys are doing a great job sticking together," Murphy said. "Sometimes things go bad, and people start pointing fingers, but this team is all together. We're all one. I think we just got a lot of ball ahead of us still. So, we're gonna keep going and keep getting this thing done."