MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Vikings are 2-4, have won two of their last three games and are 1-0 in the NFC North Division after a 19-13 win at the Chicago Bears last week.
They have a tall task this week, hosting one of the best teams in the NFC in the San Francisco 49ers for Monday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium. The 49ers lead the NFC West at 5-1, joining the Eagles and Lions as one-loss teams. The 49ers will be hungry, coming off a surprising 19-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
The Vikings have a chance to win their third game in the last four weeks after an 0-3 start, and get one step closer to .500. Kirk Cousins and T.J. Hockenson talked Thursday at TCO Performance Center about playing on Monday Night Football.
That national stage has not been kind to Cousins. He’s 2-10 in his career on Monday night, with both wins coming over the Chicago Bears.
"I think there will be great energy at U.S. Bank on Monday night. Every game has energy, but certain ones you feel it more in warm-ups, you feel it more early," Cousins said. "I thought the Chiefs game had energy, and the Monday night game against the 49ers will be no different."
Hockenson likes having the national attention, and is eager to prove that the Vikings are a better team than what their record shows.
"I think everyone in here likes playing under the lights. We’re the only game on, so that’s a blast to have the whole country watching you," Hockenson said. "Play under the lights and really perform, kind of gives you a little extra juice to go out there and play."
The 49ers and Browns got into a scuffle during pregame warm-ups last week. The Vikings and 49ers last year during training camp joint practices made a rule that anyone who got into a fight would be kicked out of practice.
Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said Thursday it will be intense, but there’s mutual respect with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.
"It’s Monday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium, we’ll be just fine getting revved up for that one and we know the challenge that it will be," O’Connell said.
HOCKENSON TALKS NATIONAL TIGHT END DAY, GEORGE KITTLE
Sunday marks National Tight End Day, and Hockenson said he has plans to celebrate. He has family coming to town for the Monday night game, and is having T-shirts made for the tight end room and coaches.
This week also marks a reunion with former Iowa teammate George Kittle, now a tight end with the 49ers and one of the best in the league. In six games, Kittle has 18 catches for 216 yards and three touchdowns. Hockenson, traded to the Vikings last year, has 36 catches this season for 304 yards and two scores. With Justin Jefferson out, Hockenson now has a larger role in Minnesota’s offense.
Hockenson was a freshman at Iowa when Kittle was a senior. The Hawkeyes are known for their tight ends, with Sam LaPorta having a standout rookie season with the Lions.
"George was a big part of my career at Iowa. He was a senior when I was a freshman, just kind of taught me the ropes. To be able to be there when I was a freshman, I watched him and what he was able to do on the field," Hockenson said.
49ERS DEFENSE: "IMPACTFUL PLAYERS AT ALL 3 LEVELS"
Many offensive players get the headlines for the 49ers: Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle to name a few. But the 49ers have hung their hat the last few years on a suffocating defense that’s one of the best in the NFL.
Without Jefferson, Cousins and the Vikings will have to find a way to move the ball and score points against the likes of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Dre Greenlaw, Fred Warner, Randy Gregory and others.
The unit has allowed just five touchdowns in six games, has 10 interceptions and 15 sacks on the season.
"It’s a combination of great players and great scheme. When you marry the two, you can get a great outcome. That’s kind of the way they’ve built it, and it’s worked well for them," Cousins said.
"When you say impactful players at all three levels, they have some of the best at their position when you’re talking Bosa, Armstead, Fred and Greelaw might be the best linebacker combination in the league," O’Connell said. "They have impact players that you have to account for in multiple areas of their defense."