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Turnovers Doom the Vikings Again

This time four turnovers turn victory into defeat

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 34-28 on the road, putting their record at 0-2 to start the season. It was an entirely winnable game for the Vikings, facing a lackluster Eagles team- despite a talented roster. But once again Vikings turnovers killed their chance of victory and overshadowed some solid performances- particularly by Kirk Cousins, but some others as well.

Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers

It’s difficult for any team to win in the NFL when they lose the turnover battle. In fact, they lose 70% of the time. And when a team loses the turnover battle by three turnovers, as the Vikings have in both games this season, the chance of winning drops to just 10%. The fact that the Vikings lost both games by a combined total of just nine points speaks to how well the team played otherwise, but it doesn’t excuse the Vikings’ inability to take care of the ball. Here are the four turnovers the Vikings committed against the Eagles, and how they impacted the game.

Turnover #1: Brandon Powell fumbles after a nice punt return

After holding the Eagles to a field goal on their first drive, they forced a 3-and-out for the Eagles on their second drive. However, on the return of the Eagles’ punt, which Brandon Powell returned into field goal range, he had the ball knocked out at the end of the return, giving the ball back to the Eagles. Jalen Hurts threw an interception to end that subsequent drive.

Turnover #2: Alexander Mattison coughs it up on the first play after a Vikings’ INT

The Vikings actually got the first turnover of the game when Theo Jackson picked off Jalen Hurts, who threw into double coverage and paid the price. But on the first play for the Vikings after the interception, Alexander Mattison fumbled and the Eagles recovered at the Vikings’ 39 yard line. The Vikings defense managed to stop the Eagles offense, forcing a field goal attempt, which they missed.

Turnover #3: Justin Jefferson fumbles out out of the endzone, resulting in a touchback

The Vikings also got burned by the worst rule in the NFL rulebook- the fumble out of the endzone rule. Near the half, Cousins hit Justin Jefferson near the endzone and Jefferson made a move to the endzone, diving toward the pylon and trying to reach the ball over the pylon but fumbling it. The play was reviewed and ruled a touchback, killing yet another potential touchdown drive to end the half this season. The Eagles were able to drive before the end of the half and make a field goal to give them a 13-7 lead at halftime.

Turnover #4: Kirk gets whacked, fumbles

For the second game in a row, Cousins had a sack fumble, this time on a blindside hit, hitting his arm and forcing the fumble on the second play of the Vikings’ first drive of the second half. The Eagles recovered deep in Vikings’ territory and scored a touchdown shortly thereafter, putting them up 20-7.

At that point the Vikings were down 4-1 in the turnover battle, which arguably cost the Vikings 10 points, and gave the Eagles another 7-10 points besides. The turnovers also allowed the Eagles to play with the lead the whole game, and lean on their run game.

Turnovers Overshadow A Great Game by Kirk Cousins, Others

Kirk Cousins once again delivered a solid performance, despite facing the top defensive front of the Eagles, taking a lot of hits, and facing pressure on a lot of his dropbacks. The game situation was also not favorable in the second half due to the turnovers, but he continued on, bringing the Vikings to within six points late in the game. Overall he went 31 for 44 for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns. His passer rating was 125.6 and his QBR was 83.1. He also clearly outplayed Jalen Hurts, who had a bad interception after which he seldom was asked to throw the ball. Hurts ended up going 18/23 for 193 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, a 98 passer rating and a 44.1 QBR. He was also sacked four times- twice as many as Cousins- despite having a much better offensive line and time to throw.

Apart from the fumble, Justin Jefferson had another Justin Jefferson game (i.e. elite), with 11 catches on 13 targets for 159 yards. Jordan Addison chimed in with 3 receptions on 5 targets for 72 yards and a touchdown, while TJ Hockenson added 7 catches on 8 targets for 66 yards and two TDs.

The Vikings’ defense also collectively played well overall, doing a great job keeping the Vikings in the game despite the turnovers by the offense. They did give up a couple big plays, and a whole ton of yards on the ground. However, I blame Brian Flores for a certain amount of that, as he continued with a smaller defensive front and light boxes that put the defense at a disadvantage in defending the run. The Eagles, behind their stout offensive line, took advantage of that for about two and a half quarters. The defense was also at a disadvantage as the Eagles held the ball for nearly 40 of the 60 minutes- aided by the Vikings four turnovers- which wore them down.

Overall, the Vikings still outgained the Eagles on a per play basis, 6.8 yards to 5.7 yards, but the Eagles had the ball for 75 plays to the Vikings’ 55. The Vikings also did better than the Eagles on third down and in the redzone, where the Vikings were a perfect 3 of 3.

Vikings Run Game Continues to be Non-Existent

While part of this was due to game situation, the Vikings seem content to run it no more than a minimal amount, which isn’t terrible considering most teams have a negative EPA running the ball, but they haven’t been efficient in running the ball the few times they’ve elected to do so. Alexander Mattison has been underwhelming so far, as has the Vikings run blocking. Ty Chandler has been too. The Vikings ran the ball on just 25% of their offensive snaps last Sunday and ran it on just 20% of their offensive snaps against the Eagles. Had the Vikings had a lead in either game, they may have run it more frequently, but with the limited success they’ve had running the ball, it would be unlikely to have contributed much to their offensive production. That puts the Vikings in a situation where they’re really leaning on Kirk Cousins and the offensive line to produce, which puts them under added pressure. Both have done a good job so far under the circumstances, but a more efficient running game would certainly help.

KJ Osborn Needs to be Downgraded

Apart from the running backs, KJ Osborn has also been disappointing- predictably so after last season- and had at least two, and probably three drops against the Eagles. Osborn is simply not producing at the level expected from a WR2 position and needs to be downgraded to WR3 or WR4. Jordan Addison actually started as WR2 in the first 2WR set of the game for the Vikings, but Osborn was still out there more than Addison over the course of the game. That has to stop. Osborn simply isn’t as good a receiver as Addison, and with Jalen Nailor available as well and deserving of snaps, Osborn should be downgraded and have his snaps cut back significantly. Having Addison and Nailor out there with JJ gives the Vikings a better trio of receivers and ones more likely to get open and make catches in key situations.

Stop the Turnovers, Start Winning

The Vikings have clearly shown, both offensively and defensively, that they’re playing well enough to win if they can stop turning the ball over. Offensively the Vikings have been very productive in both losses, while the defense has played well enough to keep them in games despite the turnovers making their job much more difficult. Eliminating turnovers will help put the Vikings in more advantageous game situations where Brian Flores’ defense can be more productive, and also spend less time on the field.

But for now, the Vikings are paying the price for turning over the ball- seven times now in two games- killing what would otherwise be two good performances and likely two wins. But losses they were, and now the Vikings will have to climb their way out of a 0-2 hole to start the season.

Vikings Suffer a Key Injury, Still Struggling with Other Minor Ones

The Vikings lost swing tackle Oli Udoh to injury during the Eagles game, likely for the season from how Kevin O’Connell described it following the game. He said Udoh suffered a leg injury and it didn’t look good. Unclear at this point what sort of injury it was, but he went down and had to be carted off the field. O’Connell thought he’d be out for a while, and it could be a season-ending injury.

With Christian Darrisaw still not recovered from his ankle injury, that makes the Vikings offensive line thin at tackle. David Quessenberry took over at left tackle to finish the game, but it sounds like the Vikings may need to add another tackle to the roster. Blake Brandel can also play tackle, but he’s been shifted to be the backup interior guard. Hopefully Darrisaw will be able to return after a mini-bye week, but nevertheless another backup tackle may be needed.

Marcus Davenport was also not able to go against the Eagles, which hurt the Vikings depth on their defensive line. Davenport has now missed both regular season games with an ankle injury, which is an inauspicious beginning for the oft-injured Davenport. With each game missed by Davenport, it seems less likely that he’ll have a meaningful impact for the Vikings this season.

Other than those injuries, Josh Metellus and Jordan Hicks both suffered minor shoulder injuries and were able to return to the game. Hopefully they’ll both be able to go against the Chargers in ten days.

Still A Long Season

Historically, teams that start the season 0-2 have only made the playoffs 10% of the time in the Super Bowl era and with a 16-game regular season. A 17th game helps those odds, and any number of playoff teams have lost two games in a row during the regular season. The key for the Vikings is simply to clean up the turnovers. There are a lot of positives to be taken away from both of the Vikings losses apart from the turnovers, on both sides of the ball.

Clearly the defense is improved over last season, and may look even better when not trying to make up for three additional turnovers by the offense. Offensively, again apart from the turnovers which hurt scoring and production, they were able to move the ball and score. If not for the turnovers, the Vikings offense would likely be averaging 30+ points a game.

Overall, the Vikings lost these two games by a combined nine points, despite having six more turnovers than their opponents. Clearly these were two good opportunities lost, but the season need not be lost with them. In the NFL, it’s unusual for a team to commit three more turnovers than their opponent. In fact, over the past decade or so, the worst team in the league averaged a little over one more turnover per game than their opponent over the course of the season. Right now, the Vikings are averaging three more than their opponent. There has been a lot of talk about sustainability when it comes to the Vikings over the past year, and that stat is certainly not sustainable.

If the Vikings can stop the turnovers, they can turn things around in a hurry.

Stay tuned.


The Vikings currently have a -3 average turnover margin after two games. What will it be by the end of the season?

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