MINNEAPOLIS - There was plenty of talk about accountability and leadership at TCO Performance Center on Wednesday as the Minnesota Vikings come off their first loss under Kevin O’Connell.
The team and fans were on a high after a 23-7 win over the rival Green Bay Packers to open the season. Monday night, everything that could go wrong for the Vikings did in a 24-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Jalen Hurts accounted for 390 total yards and three touchdowns. Kirk Cousins threw a trio of second half interceptions, all ending potential scoring drives. O’Connell was asked Wednesday how he reflects now that he’s experienced a win and a loss. You win, and everything is great. You lose, and you question everything.
"Wins, I would say I normally move on from those pretty quick and tend to not have too many warm and fuzzy feelings after a win. It’s onto the next. I would say it’s the exact opposite with a loss," O’Connell said. "You really find yourself, you just know you can be better in a lot of different ways. All the culture stuff we talked about, this is when it gets tested."
O’Connell said he’s already had several players come up and talk to him, or reach out to him before Wednesday and say they need to play better. The first thing O’Connell did after Monday’s loss? He held himself accountable, telling his players he has to do better.
But there was no shouting, no throwing tablets and no tantrums, at least that were seen publicly or by reporters. The message was learn from the mistakes, and move on. Wide receiver Adam Thielen even told KFAN Radio the staff’s message after the loss was about staying positive.
Dalvin Cook could’ve been frustrated after getting just six carries for 17 yards. Can the first loss impact the culture moving forward? That’s up to the players.
"Accountability is first. Just taking ownership, we’ve got to go make the plays and that’s what ownership is about. No matter what KO calls, we’ve got to go execute. Leadership, I’m not worried about that," Cook said. We’ve got a great bunch of guys in this locker room that’s going to push each other day in and day out to go out there and be successful whenever we play. I’m not worried about that part, we’ve just got to go out there and be accountable, holding each other to the standard we know we can play at."
Kirk Cousins, who fell to 2-10 on Monday Night Football, said O’Connell has handled his first loss with class and maturity.
"I’ve been a part of teams going to back high school, college, where you’re winning and you can be pretty dysfunctional and it’s never going to come to the surface because you’re winning. The opposite is true too, you can be a really healthy locker room that sticks together and if you’re not winning, you feel like the sky is falling," Cousins said. "You have to fight both of those sides of it. I’ve always felt good about the group in the locker room here."
The sky is not falling, far from it. The season is two games old, but the Vikings do have to have a sense of urgency with the Detroit Lions coming to town on Sunday. The Vikings can’t slip up and drop to 1-2 before heading to London to take on the New Orleans Saints. On a short week against a division opponent, it’s imperative to not let one loss turn into a skid.
"In a lot of ways, this short week is a real plus to just be able to get right back to work. We’ve got a great group in there, expecting our group to respond in the right kind of way," O’Connell said.
Less than 48 hours removed from their first loss, the Vikings did not practice on Wednesday and instead held a walk/jog-through style practice.
HARRISON SMITH STILL IN CONCUSSION PROTOCOL
Vikings safety Harrison Smith left Monday night’s game with a concussion and didn’t return. O’Connell said Wednesday Smith is still going through protocols, but didn’t leave out the possibility that he’ll play Sunday.
Smith tied a career-high with 13 tackles before leaving the game.
"Short week, so kind of a day-to-day process. He feels pretty good, but we’ll allow that process to play out. We’ll allow Harrison to have the entire process, see how it plays out," O’Connell said.