If you listened to Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit, they were making excuses for the Vikings at the end of their 34-28 loss to the Eagles Thursday night. There were platitudes throughout the game about how the Vikings defense played a nice game and they fought hard.
Such ridiculous poppycock from two of the game’s most respected announcers, and no Vikings fan should go along with it.
This was a team that was unprepared to play against one of the best teams in the league. The Vikings were soft once again, turning the ball over with alacrity. Any time the Vikings were ready to put pressure on the Eagles, they turned the ball over with a great fervor and allowed the Eagles to put distance between the two teams on the scoreboard.
The Vikings turned the ball over four times in the game, and this was a week after they committed three turnovers against the Bucs. What is a coach to do?
In the case of Kevin O’Connell, it became time to put his arm around his best player and tried to comfort him. This was the play near the end of the first half when Justin Jefferson nearly scored the go-ahead touchdown but instead fumbled the ball over the goal line, turning the ball over to the Eagles.
That was a play with 34 seconds remaining and Jefferson was trying as hard as he could to reach the end zone. But Eagles defensive back Terrell Edmunds was not going to cooperate. As Jefferson stretched the ball, Edmunds simply did his job and knocked it away.
After Edmunds did his job, the Eagles made the most of their 34 seconds and added a 61-yard field goal by Jake Elliott at the end of the first half. It would have been good from 65 yards or perhaps even more. There was an inevitability to that score once Jefferson lost the ball.
Getting back to O’Connell, he was only to happy to reassure Jefferson after his gaffe. As if the best receiver in the football needed to get his ego stroked by the warmest, friendliest coach in the league. If you didn’t know, O’Connell is Mr. Rogers in s purple jacket.
Even his quote was reassuring. “Very much similar to last week,” O’Connell said. “Turning the football over. 7 to 1 in turnovers lost in two games. Clearly, I’ve got to coach it better. We talk about it every day, ball security is a major part of our football philosophy.”
The rest of the Vikings had to see O’Connell’s display of Mr. Warmth and they reacted just the way nearly every Viking fan expected. Two plays into the third quarter, Josh Sweat came around the corner hard and plowed into Cousins.
The quarterback fumbled the ball and Fletcher Cox recovered. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles rumbled into the end zone with ease, and a 6-point lead quickly became 13 points, and the 13-point lead became 20 when Hurts delivered a 63-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith shortly thereafter.
And that’s when the Vikings showed their gallantry. Cousins threw the second of his four touchdowns passes. He hit explosive rookie Jordan Addison with a 62-yarder that gave the Vikings life.
Touchdown passes to K.J. Osborn and T.J. Hockenson followed, but the one sure thing was that the Vikings were never going to win this game.
The Vikings looked like they wanted to play football, but the Eagles actually played the game hard and did everything they had to in order to secure the win.
The Vikings were soft when it mattered, and lo and behold, they had their excuses all ready for them. Injuries have damaged their offensive line, and Cousins was under pressure throughout. He had one of his best statistical games by completing 31 of 44 passes for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Those are the kind of numbers that almost always lead to a win, but the Vikings defense couldn’t stop the run. The Eagles outrushed the Vikings 259-28, and those numbers always result in victory.
The Vikings are 0-2 and in a hole. A 13-4 season is not beckoning, and unless O’Connell can get their attention with something besides kindness and warmth, the situation is daunting.
Can the situation be saved? Of course it can, but major changes must take place and they have to start with O’Connell. He is talented and creative, but it’s time for him to show his team who’s the boss.