Monday Morning Mailbag: Fans’ Wave of Emotions During Vikings Win Over Lions

Monday Morning Mailbag: Fans’ Wave of Emotions During Vikings Win Over Lions

Published September 26, 2022
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Last week, I had steered the pre-game storylines to Detroit-related musical influences.

Turned out, I left out the one most applicable: Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey.

Kirk Cousins found K.J. Osborn open for a 28-yard touchdown with 45 seconds remaining, and Josh Metellus secured his first career interception to end his first career start. The Vikings got the run game going, despite a shoulder injury to Dalvin Cook, and Adam Thielen recorded his 50th career receiving touchdown to tie Vikings Legend Sammy White for fourth in Vikings history.

It was such a treat to speak with White and his wife, Penny, as well as other former Vikings who returned to Minnesota for Legends Weekend. I had not previously met them in person but had tremendously enjoyed a phone interview for a story on Sammy’s induction to the Black College Football Hall of Fame.

It was great to see such an ample turnout of players who helped build the NFL and shape the identity of the Vikings over the years. Lonnie Warwick, who sounded the Gjallarhorn is all heart — and it was needed Sunday when a gritty and good Lions squad pushed the Vikings to the brink before Minnesota’s comeback effort.

Head Coach Kevin O’Connell secured his second victory in as many home games. He had delivered some great remarks to the Legends during a dinner Saturday. Here was part of what he said after Sunday’s game:

“It’s good to have that feeling both times we have been at U.S. Bank Stadium … that we believe in each other, we believe in our team and we can continue to improve and be at our best moving forward. I’m so proud of our guys,” O’Connell said. “Unbelievable to have our Legends in town this weekend and be around our team. As I told those guys last night, never underestimate their power and their influence to be what our guys may need to see, and to see their camaraderie, how together they are still years and years later. The great history of our team, we’ve got a lot to play for a lot for, including those guys (Legends), a lot to be proud of, but first and foremost, today was about [the current] players, and a great day for a lot of guys on our team who needed to step up.”

As you can imagine, the inbox was looking bleak long about the first and third quarters and bounced back by game’s end. I’ll try to get to as many as possible. (If more come in Monday, I’ll update this post with a p.m. edition.)

Week 3 was a screamin’, hollerin’, cussin’, swearin’, nail biter that we pulled off. Four scores by four players was awesome. Spread the ball around. I still question the pass defense. And Cousins being off on some passes. Pressure from Detroit defense or something else?

— Brian

I think Brian accurately sums up what a lot of Vikings fans felt.

After Sunday’s game, I told The Athletic’s new Vikings writer, Alec Lewis, that he’s fully been introduced to the beat. This one had a different feel, for some reason, and the folks who were able to be at the game and pour themselves into that atmosphere should get a representative game ball.

Road teams have to play the home roster and the venue. Some venues are more challenging than others, and that definitely goes for U.S. Bank Stadium.

View action photos from the week three Vikings-Lions game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sept. 25.

It was a major sign of progress for the offense to get touchdowns from four different players, as well as to have two rushing touchdowns on which Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison each made plays to create scores. The pass to Thielen was masterfully drawn and executed, and the winner to Osborn probably took many of you back to last year at Carolina.

Cousins mentioned after the game that he thought he underthrew Osborn earlier in the game on one that landed beyond the diving receiver’s outstretched arms. Then, he said he hoped the winner had enough, which it did.

What is up with this defense?? Seriously? I thought this was supposed the like Denver’s defense?? Nowhere near that. I don’t know why they keep playing this zone defense?? I’m writing this as K.J. just scored. This same D killed us last Monday night. Run D is disappointing. Interception!! SKOL! VIKES WIN!!

— Ray Sparks

*It’s a win. It’s a division win. I’ll take it. But our D scheme has me very worried. I remember running something very similar under [Dennis] Green and [Foge] Fazio. It made average QBs look very good and gave them confidence. It also negates a pass rush when a QB can take quick drops, make quick throws underneath, which ANY NFL QB can make, and march the ball down the field, taking time off the clock and wearing out a defense. The idea of “make them snap one more play” does not fill me with confidence. No!! Make them punt after three-and-out! We need a scheme that forces a QB to hold the ball and allows the pass rush to get home. I need to see a D scheme change, or I expect a long, rugged season. *

Skol,

— Jeff in Sacramento

Loved Ray’s range as he was preparing his message juxtaposed against how the Vikings swayed momentum and emerged.

To Jeff’s first point, that’s two division wins against good teams, which is what matters most. I can’t fairly weigh-in on comparing this iteration of the Vikings defense to the one he mentions.

I know there’s a lot of folks still trying to shake last Monday night in Philly and for ample reasons, but I’d also like to remind everyone this was the third game played by the Vikings in a base 3-4 since 1985.

Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell held the same role in Denver, but the Broncos had a long head start with that kind of personnel. Minnesota is using somewhat of a hybrid approach and adjusting.

I think there’s a credit to some of what Detroit was able to do (as well as Philadelphia) the week before, but one thing of note, is the Vikings have yet to allow a point in a fourth quarter this season and only 17 after halftimes so far. Being able to lock things down will keep your team in a game, even if the offense starts by struggling.

The Vikings defense limited the Lions to 3-for-16 on third downs (18.8 percent), but Detroit was aggressive, going for it on fourth down SIX times and converting four.

View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 28-24 victory over the Lions on Sept. 25.

Minnesota got stops on a third-and-1 and a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter to help enable the comeback.

Concerning the game, I’ve gotta say it was way more similar to last year than I had hoped to see this year. But a win is a win, so I’ll take it, even though I’ve gotta admit I am kinda disappointed. I mean, it’s early in the season, and it’s more important to come out of the first six weeks with a decent record, until everything is clicking, but I just expected more of our offense. It’s obvious Justin Jefferson can’t be as dominant as Week 1 every time, and he gets doubled a lot, but the rest of the offense should be good enough to have convincing, long drives in my opinion. Hopefully I see what I want next week, when I see the Vikes life in the flesh for the first time.

Also, I am glad for the win for Greg Joseph. I would’ve hated if he had gotten heat for missing two field goals in a narrow loss. Those were 56-yard tries. In my opinion, it is still normal to miss those kicks sometimes. There is literally one kicker in the league who I would trust to make those kicks. And he is sadly flying with the Ravens.

And last, best wishes for Dalvin Cook. Hopefully he recovers soon.

Have a nice week, stay healthy, best wishes

— Alexander Markhart in Germany

[Sent at 2:26 p.m.] I know K.O. is a rookie coach, but why kick a 56-yard field goal when your kicker already missed one? The score is a 3-point game at this this point. You just gave the Lions a short field and maybe the game. Your defense has been questionable to this point.

[Sent at 3:27 p.m.] Hey Coach, GREAT COMEBACK GAME. Sometimes there is a fairy-tale ending.

— Jerome Turvold in Belvidere, Illinois

Alexander, that’s so great that you’ll be able to make the trip to London to see the Vikings. Here’s to a strong showing and enjoyable experience throughout to reward your efforts.

You are correct in that the best thing teams can do in September is add notches to the win column. Once they are banked there, they are vaulted and come in handy closer to the postseason.

Three NFC North teams won Sunday with victories secured in the final minute of their games. I think multiple Vikings players would tell you they think they have a long way to go with this new offense, but I also think they’re excited about the potential. If defenses are going to mix coverage and add defenders toward Jefferson, then other people have to be at the ready.

There’s been no shortage of confidence in Greg Joseph this season from O’Connell or Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels, and deservedly so based on the offseason he had, but you and Jerome are correct in that those are not easy kicks.

Maybe going forward if facing a third-and-10 at the opponent’s 38-yard line, it’s perhaps best to try to get a few yards via a run or pass to shorten the length of the kick even a few yards.

I don’t think there’s any confidence lost in Joseph at all. Maybe it’s an opportunity to calibrate the yardage to reach goal.

Having worked for the Titans years ago, it seemed like Andrew Luck and the Colts always managed to get just within range for a field goal, even if it was in the mid- to long-40s (forgive me for not mining data at this point in time).

It was painfully obvious that Eric Kendricks is not playing up to what we’re used to seeing from him, from missed tackles to poor pass coverage….and he’s getting no help from the D-line, who since Week 1 can’t get home…thoughts???

— Rob Langston

For those who didn’t see, Kendricks was added to the injury report and questionable because of a toe injury.

He wound up being able to play, but I don’t know if he was at 100 percent.

I also fully believe Minnesota doesn’t have as many of the successes it did have Sunday with Kendricks not in the lineup. He recorded 11 tackles and had two impressive pass breakups. The press box stats didn’t award Kendricks a pressure, but I thought he could have earned one on a blitz that resulted in an incompletion.

Everything has changed around him, but he and Jordan Hicks are a pairing that I’ve been excited to see in action since training camp.

Minnesota did not record a sack Sunday, but some of that credit can go toward Detroit’s offensive line and Jared Goff avoiding some pressure or getting the ball out.

[sent at 2:26 p.m.] So as I watch the games, it looks like Justin Jefferson is the first read on every play. How about spreading the ball around? Also what happened to tackling? No one wants to tackle now. Everyone tries to strip the ball. Then they get burned and give up a bigger play. This umbrella defense has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Also, Kirk’s play has been terrible, just throwing the ball up for grabs like in the Philly game. Then, when talking to media, he said WE played bad. Yes, the team played bad, but as a QB, your job is to not hurt the team with what could have been five picks in one game. Looks like problems with coaching and every part of the team. Is there a way to fix this this year, or are the Vikings all hype?

— Larry Riddle

I do agree that the offense and defense had bad showings in Philadelphia, but as I’ve mentioned to many people in responses this week between the games, the Vikings might be glad when it’s all said and done that they were able to consolidate playing on Monday Night Football, visiting Philly and playing in a team’s home opener (three potential losses) into one game.

Kirk definitely had a couple of misses against the Lions, but he and the coaching staff were able to find something when they needed to and make meaningful throws at the most critical juncture.

His stat line of 24-of-41 with 260 yards, one sack, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 93.5 with no turnovers ended more solid than it started.

How different from last year to see the Vikings battle back at the end of halves, from 2 TDs down in the first half and from 10 points at the end of the game! That was thrilling.

— Becky in Baldwin, Wisconsin

I think the heart was present a year ago, but the execution may not have been at major moments in some of those excruciating losses that got away from Minnesota last season.

O’Connell has placed a high emphasis on the ends of halves (not that Coach Zimmer didn’t), but Minnesota has reaped much better results so far in this young season.

Maybe the only thing better than executing a comeback is not needing to make one happen.

If team’s can harness the positivity from a win like Sunday, it can only help.