Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings were blinded by the primetime lights of Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night as Philadelphia outlasted Minnesota 34-28. Another slow start from Minnesota’s offense stemmed from Philadelphia forcing four turnovers in the first 31 minutes of the game. You could say the Vikings experienced some deja vu after having three turnovers in their Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This deja vu also found its way into Justin Jefferson’s night as he produced another 150 plus yard game but was unable to find the endzone. Jefferson has hauled in 20 catches for 309 yards in the first two weeks of the season but no touchdowns scored. This drought could have ended with a promising drive at the end of the first half, resulting in Jefferson fumbling out of the endzone trying to reach for the pylon. This unlucky mistake then led the Eagles to drive down the field with 41 seconds and convert a 61 yard field goal to take a 13-7 lead instead of being tied at 10 going into the break. The Vikings slow start was then continued as the Eagles expanded their lead to 20 early in the second half. The Vikings ended up only losing by six, covering the spread, as well as looking more like the explosive offense they showcased last season late in the game. Vikings fans could take this as something to build off of after starting the season 0-2.
"My hope is that our team stays confident, we recognize exactly why we’ve lost both of these games and have a really focused centered mindset to fix those problems." -Head Coach Kevin O'Connell on turning the page from tonight’s loss. pic.twitter.com/AkgEQnkw47— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 15, 2023
Poor in Primetime
Kirk Cousins has been notorious for not winning football games in the primetime slate as his record now moves to 12-21 overall and 2-6 in primetime road games as the QB for the Vikings. Even though Cousins has not proven to be a primetime superstar, he did salvage a terrible first half performance ending the contest 31-44 for 344 yards and 4 touchdowns and a total QBR of 125.6. Too little too late was the case for the Minnesota Vikings with their slow starts in two straight weeks all while still getting massive production from Justin Jefferson and TE T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson went for 7 catches, 66 yards receiving, and 2 touchdowns. Hockenson seems to be a reliable second option for Cousins but the real let down of this Vikings offense is Alexander Mattison.
Mattison came into the 2023 season as the new lead back replacing Dalvin Cook after Cook and the Vikings could not reach a deal this offseason. Mattison showed great potential as a starting back, 136 carries for 539 yards and 6 TDs in eight games. The Vikings believed the transition from the four time pro bowler to Mattison would be almost seamless but quite the opposite has transpired, at least in the first two weeks of the 2023 season. Mattison has started the season with 19 carries for 62 yards averaging 3.3 yards per carry and no touchdowns. It is only Week 2 but if Mattison wants to keep receiving the majority of the backfield workload he and the Vikings O-line need to gain chemistry in order to establish the run game. With no run game, Kirk Cousins will have to carry too much on a back that has already shown to have a weight capacity.
Mattison and Cousins are not the only ones to blame in the Vikings dismal start to the 2023 season. The Minnesota Vikings went 11-0 in one-possession games and 5-0 in games decided by three points or less in 2022. These statistics alone should have told every football fan coming into 2023 that the Vikings were due for some regression in success. The aspect that surprises me the most is how much the absence of Dalvin Cook in the backfield has affected this offense. Cook was a phenomenal player for the Vikings, when healthy, but it seems like the Vikings have hit an offensive ceiling that they cannot break through. Jefferson will almost always have a 100 yard plus receiving game as well as Kirk Cousins continuing to operate a cumbersome offense until the fourth quarter when they’re down by multiple possessions. If I was a Vikings fan I would not be burning all of my gear just yet but you would be silly to not look at the numbers and realize the lucky trend that the Vikings experienced last season has quickly flipped against them in 2023.