MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings started the season just six days ago. It’s literally slipping away.
Thanks to the costly fumbles that have accounted for six of their seven turnovers, the Vikings have already taken two frustrating losses.
“We have to go back and continue to find ways to re-emphasize how important it is when you have the in your hands playing for the Minnesota Vikings,” coach Kevin O’Connell said after the 34-28 defeat Thursday in Philadelphia. “We’re really not giving ourselves clean opportunities to win these games the way that we started. I have to do a better job.”
O’Connell said Friday his staff was already working on ways to practice ball security next week, including urging his defensive to be more aggressive about trying to knock it loose.
Punt returner Brandon Powell, running back Alexander Mattison, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and quarterback Kirk Cousins were the fumble culprits against the Eagles, after Cousins was charged with two in the 20-17 opening loss to Tampa Bay. Cousins also threw an interception against the Buccaneers.
“I have to keep two hands on the ball as much as I can,” Cousins said. “As a passer it’s hard because you’re pulling your hand back, but going back to two hands on the ball as much as possible.”
The strangest part of this discouraging development for the Vikings is they haven’t recovered any of their fumbles. Jefferson’s went into the end zone and out of bounds late in the second quarter, giving the Eagles the ball on a touchback.
The Eagles coughed one up themselves on a punt return at their 16 in the first quarter, but the Vikings didn’t jump on that one, either.
The 1959 Chicago Cardinals have the all-time record with 36 fumbles lost in their 12-game season, and the Vikings are on pace to match that in 12 games. The 1938 Chicago Bears and 1978 San Francisco 49ers share the NFL record with 56 fumbles, regardless of recovery.
The Vikings actually share the NFL record for fewest fumbles lost, with just two in 2014 to match the Kansas City Chiefs (2002) and New Orleans Saints (2019). The Saints set the all-time record by fumbling the ball only six times in 2011, a dubious mark the Vikings have matched in two games.
Cousins, despite a strip sack in each game that has set up a score for the opponent, is second in the NFL in passer rating (114.2) with six touchdowns and 708 yards. Tight end T.J. Hockenson and wide receiver Jordan Addison provided plenty of complementary contributions to Jefferson’s usual prowess.
When the ball is on the ground, bad things are happening to the Vikings — and that’s not even getting into the fumbles. They’ve netted 69 rushing yards on 26 attempts, .
On the flip side, the Eagles gained 259 rushing yards by repeatedly sending D’Andre Swift into the heart of Minnesota’s defense with productive results. Eight times in the second half, Philadelphia rushed for either a first down or a touchdown. Only two other times in the last 20 seasons have the Vikings allowed 250-plus rushing yards: at New Orleans (264) in 2020, and at Atlanta (285) in 2005.
Danielle Hunter’s decision to skip practice until his contract was redone appears to be a wise one. Hunter, who will be a free agent next spring, had three sacks against the Eagles and has four in two games.
Brian Asamoah II was the assumed starter next to Jordan Hicks at the inside linebacker spots after the departure of mainstay Eric Kendricks. The 2022 third-round draft pick missed a significant amount of practice during training camp and has found himself behind undrafted rookie Ivan Pace Jr. Asamoah has played 16 snaps on defense. Pace has played 107.
The Vikings have three extra days to recover, which ought to help their availability for the next game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Center Garrett Bradbury (back) didn’t play in Philadelphia. Neither did left tackle Christian Darrisaw (ankle), who was cleared for the gameday active roster but aggravated the injury during warmups. Both blockers were clearly missed.
Darrisaw’s backup, Oli Udoh, left on a cart in the fourth quarter with the most serious injury, a torn quadriceps tendon that will require season-ending surgery, O’Connell said Friday.
Outside linebacker Marcus Davenport (ankle) played only four snaps. He missed the opener.
6-12-1: Minnesota’s record in September games since Cousins arrived in 2018.
Getting the offensive line back to full strength would be a good start toward reviving a running game that clearly hasn’t escaped the struggles of last season. Their next opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, could provide an opportunity. The Chargers were last in the league last season, giving up 5.4 yards per rush.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL