Last year, Kirk Cousins emphasized extra effort with Justin Jefferson. He wanted him to have a second wind after getting hit near the end zone. Don’t just go down and make the team punch it in near the goal line. Get the ball over the goal line for six. It’s something he also emphasized with Jordan Addison.
“That’s the first thing I said to him when he came off the field, on the sideline,” said Kirk Cousins, referring to Addison’s 62-yard touchdown catch. “I put my arm around him, and I said, ‘The finish is what I love.’ You got us six points instead of running out that red-zone offense.”
Jefferson made an extra effort against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, and it turned into a game-changing turnover in a 34-28 loss. The Minnesota Vikings have been careless with the football this year, turning it over seven times in the first two games. But this one felt unfair. The officials initially ruled Jefferson out at the one. However, the replay review showed that Jefferson fumbled the ball over the pylon.
It was a fumble. The Eagles got the ball on their 20-yard line.
“You look at each one as its own entity,” Cousins said, “and you look at ‘Why did that one happen? And is there a pattern?’ In some cases, there isn’t.
“If Justin is going out of bounds at the five-yard line, he’s not reaching, right? He’s reaching because he thinks he has a chance there at the half-yard line. That one’s kind of its own entity.”
Philadelphia marched down the field in 34 seconds, and Jake Elliott converted a 61-yard field goal to make it 13-7 at halftime. The floodgates opened after that. They scored 14 points in the third quarter to pull ahead 27-14. Still, the Vikings made it interesting. Addison had his 62-yard catch. Cousins found K.J. Osborn wide-open in the end zone to cut the lead to 27-21, and he engineered a 10-play, 75-yard drive that made it 35-28.
Minnesota got close enough to justify an onside kick with 1:10 left in the game. Close enough to give everyone a little bit of hope.
“Very rarely can you lose the turnover battle four-to-one,” Kevin O’Connell said, “and have a chance at an onside kick with the chance to win the game.”
The Seattle Seahawks used to be Minnesota’s bugaboo. Beginning with Seattle’s 30-20 win over Christian Ponder’s Vikings in November 2012, they won seven-straight games over the Purple. Minnesota only played two of those games at home, both in 2015. In the first game, Seattle blew them out 38-7. The other was the infamous Blair Walsh miss at US Bank Stadium in the playoffs, a 10-9 loss.
Seattle hosted the other five games, including three straight from 2018 to 2020. They fired John DeFilippo after the 21-7 Monday night loss in December 2018. The 37-30 loss in December 2019 ended with a turnover on downs and a fumble on Minnesota’s final two drives. A year later, the Vikings lost 27-26 when Alexander Mattison missed a massive hole on fourth-and-one, up 26-20 with two minutes to go.
Minnesota finally beat Seattle, 30-17, in 2021. It lifted their record to 1-2 after an overtime loss in Cincinnati and a 34-33 thriller at Arizona. But the win felt less significant as the season wore on. The Seahawks finished 7-10 and moved on from Russell Wilson. The Vikings snuck by the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers in the next two games, but they finished 8-9 and fired Mike Zimmer.
Zimmer’s teams were always chasing the 2017 season. That year, Case Keenum led them to a 13-3 and entered the NFC Championship by way of the Minnesota Miracle. But the Eagles beat them 38-7 in Philly and won the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Last year, they crushed the Vikings 24-7 at Lincoln Financial Field before Minnesota reeled off six straight to start 7-1.
The final score indicates that this game was closer than it was. The Eagles had 259 yards on the ground; the Vikings had 28. They dominated time of possession, 39:28 to 20:32. Philadelphia native D’Andre Swift ran for 6.3 yards per carry.
“Week-in and week-out, if we don’t stop the run, you’re not gonna be successful,” said Jordan Hicks. “We did a lot of good things. It’s the second week saying this. We did a lot of good things. But there’s some obvious things that we have to [improve].”
T.J. Hockenson had seven receptions for 66 yards and two touchdowns. However, like Hicks, he had a similar refrain after the loss in Philly.
“There’s an unwavering belief in this locker room that we’re gonna come out with a win every week, and it’s a credit to these guys in here that we continue that,” he said. “We can’t come out here just thinking it’s a bounce the wrong way or doing anything like that. We have to put these two behind us and correct a few things.”
Minnesota has 10 days before they’ll play Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium. They’ll be back home, safe in the comfort of a climate-controlled stadium overlooking downtown Minneapolis. The Vikings may have had some self-inflicted wounds on Thursday. They couldn’t stop the run and turned the ball over four times. But one of the turnovers almost didn’t seem fair. Such is life in Philadelphia, though.