MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - It’s going to be a very long season for the Minnesota Vikings if they continue to beat themselves with self-inflicted mistakes.
The Vikings lost four fumbles Thursday night that the Philadelphia Eagles turned into 10 points. The Vikings left Lincoln Financial Field with a 34-28 loss to drop to 0-2 on the season. The Vikings lost three fumbles in the first half, and now have six first-half turnovers in two games this season.
That’s the most by an NFL team in the first two games of a season since the 2003 St. Louis Rams.
"Clearly I’ve got to coach it better. Ball security is a major, major focus in our philosophy but clearly I need to do a better job. We’re really not giving ourselves clean opportunities to win these games the way we’ve started," Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said after the loss. "I’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to find a way to right the ship from a ball security standpoint, because that’s a losing formula no matter how you look at it."
Brandon Powell fumbled after a big gain on a punt return in the first quarter. Alexander Mattison fumbled on his first carry. Justin Jefferson caught a long pass from Kirk Cousins and got down to the 1-yard line late in the first half, but fumbled across the pylon and instead of it being a touchdown and 14-10 lead at the half, it was a touchback and the Vikings trailed 13-7 after Jake Elliott’s 61-yard field goal.
"I'm putting it a lot on myself. Fumbling in the end zone like that when we need points and we're driving and having that momentum. I was telling my teammates that's on me and it won't happen again," Jefferson said. "It's a tough situation. Just trying to score and get points for the team. But I just have to take what I can get and score the next play. It's a learning stage."
"Nobody is more torn up about that one than Justin. We try to emphasize only reaching the ball out on fourth down, but he’s a competitor. He’s trying to do whatever he can to win, but that was incredibly unfortunate at the time," O'Connell said.
The Vikings opened the second half with Josh Sweat beating Oli Udoh for a sack fumble on Cousins. Two plays later, Jalen Hurts scored from 1-yard out to give the Eagles a 20-7 lead. Hurts then beat Akayleb Evans on a go route for a 63-yard touchdown and 27-7 Eagles lead in the third quarter.
The Vikings now have seven turnovers through two games, with six lost fumbles and one interception.
Equally as concerning as the turnovers for the Vikings is the play of the offensive line, and the defense’s inability to stop the run. Cousins was sacked twice, and the Vikings had just 28 rushing yards with Garrett Bradbury out, Christian Darrisaw not seeing much of the field with an ankle injury and Udoh filling in before getting hurt himself. The Eagles had 133 yards on the ground in the first half, as the Vikings allowed more than five yards per carry. They finished with 259 rushing yards, and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.
The Vikings cut the deficit to 27-20 after Cousins hit K.J. Osborn from 10 yards out with 7:41 to play. The Eagles answered on D’Andre Swift’s 2-yard touchdown with a little more than four minutes to play. Swift had 25 carries for 170 yards.
Cousins hit T.J. Hockenson from five yards out to get the Vikings within 34-28 with 1:10 to play. But the Eagles recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the victory.
Justin Jefferson finished with 11 catches for 159 yards, and tied an NFL record with 5,000 receiving yards in his 52nd career game. He beat Randy Moss’s mark of 59 career games. Cousins hit Jordan Addison for a 62-yard touchdown in the third quarter, getting the Vikings within 27-14. Addison joined Percy Harvin and Sammy White as the only Vikings’ rookies to start the season with touchdown catches in consecutive games.
Jefferson led the Vikings in receiving yards, while Hockenson added seven catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Danielle Hunter had the defensive highlight with three sacks, and Theo Jackson had an interception.
Cousins finished with 364 yards and four touchdowns. But the story of the night was the Vikings’ inability to hold onto the football. The Vikings are going to fumble away their season early if they don’t fix things quickly. Since 2007, 125 teams have started 0-2, and 12 have gone on to make the playoffs.
The Vikings were 11-0 in one-score games last season. They’re now 0-2 in that scenario to start 2023.