Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell (Post-Game Transcript)

Opening statement:

“On the injury front, [Vikings S] Josh Metellus had a little shoulder pop up. He returned to the game. [Vikings LB] Jordan Hicks as well. Unfortunately with [Vikings RT] Olisaemeka [Udoh], we cannot get into the details but that it is a left leg injury. We are still evaluating him, but it does not look good. It is really unfortunate and I am disappointed for him. We will provide some more details when we get more information. [Vikings T] Christian Darrisaw tried to go and kind of aggravated that left ankle in warm ups. We hoped to try and have him. [Vikings OLB Marcus] Davenport tried to go as well. I commend those guys on a short week, both trying to go, but he had that right foot giving him some issues. I think [Vikings CB] Akayleb [Evans] had cramps and returned. Across the board, very much similar to last week with turning the football over coming into this place, the N.F.C. champions from a year ago, at their place and their home opener, and you lose the turnover battle four-to-one with three of them being fumbles, or all four of them being fumbles. Seven-to-one in turnovers lost in two games and we have lost by a combined nine points verse two playoff teams from a year ago. Clearly, I have to coach it better from a standpoint of something that we talk about every single day. Ball security is a major, major focus in our football philosophy, but clearly I need to do a better job and our staff. We have to go back and continue to find ways to re-emphasize how important it is when you have the football in your hands playing for the Minnesota Vikings. Like I said, we’re really not giving ourselves clean opportunities to win these games the way that we started. I have to do a better job and we have to continue to emphasize it. There is a lot to be proud of from a standpoint of the guys at the very rarely can you lose the turnover battle four-to-one and have a change at an onside kick with the chance to win the game. Clearly, as much as they battled, defensively, we just put them on the field way too much and we have to find a way to right the ship from a ball security standpoint because that is a losing formula no matter how you look at it.”


On whether they practice ball security:

“Every single day we do some variation of a ball security circuit gauntlet drill. See two split two. Different variations of working the techniques and fundamentals that we try to apply when having the ball in your hands. We’re probably going to have to continue to emphasize different ways of drilling. What comes up? Really [Vikings RB] Alex [Mattison] and [Vikings WR] Brandon’s [Powell], that one comes up a lot when you are going to the ground, finishing forward and it’s that punch you can’t see coming where you need to have and maintain those five points of pressure and all the way through the finish to the ground is the hardest thing. Then [Viking WR] Justin’s [Jefferson] clearly a very, nobody is more torn up about that one than Justin, but we try to emphasize only reaching the ball out on fourth down. He is a competitor and he is playing a heck of a football game making plays, and he is trying to do whatever he can to win because that is ultimately what he cares about the most, but that was incredibly unfortunate on the timing. It is very similar to last week late in the two-minute at the end of the first half with a chance to have the lead going into halftime and before you know it, the game got away from us.”


On whether he had a conversation with the referees about Vikings WR Justin Jefferson’s fumble on whether had possession:

“They looked at that and basically said it was possession and then clearly with the reach it counted as a football move. My hope is that it wasn’t over the pylon. I thought until we saw that last angle, from where I was standing, it did not look like it went over the pylon. I think they were able to confirm that it did. We just have to continue to emphasize decision making techniques and fundamentals, as far as the ball carriers go. Like I said, Justin is just trying to make a play in that moment and the hardest thing to do is to get a guy not to reach the ball out when they are that close to scoring a touchdown in a critical moment.”


On the amount of time defense spent on the field:

“I thought they did a good job early on. They gave Philly some different looks. Played a different structure of defense to try to help in any way we could against the zone-read and all the plays off of it. They were just short fields and having to overcome, and eventually they were just put in too many tough spots. But a couple times the ball got thrown over our head. That’s going to happen when you’re trying to defend so many aspects of the run game, pressure looks, and all those things. Those big explosives down the field were what hurt us because we were doing some good things early on. We wanted to make them have to drive it. Wanted them to run it first, second, third, first, second, third. See if we could possibly turn the football over, but with the turnover margin being what it was, they were just on the field too much.”


On Vikings T Christian Darrisaw:

“Yeah, it was past the 90-minute. We kind of went into it where he would be a true game-time decision. Felt like with [Vikings T David] Quessenberry and [Vikings G] Blake [Brandel] up, hopefully we would be able to have really versatile guys behind those guys with [Vikings T] Oli [Olisaemeka Udoh] obviously able to step in. He just couldn’t quite – I don’t know if there was an actual play in warm-ups or something that happened, but the hope was he would be able to go and just couldn’t make it.”


On the small defensive lineup:

“Schematically, in that grouping, it was really invited to get a lot of – to try to get them to call some of those looks and get movement and have players responsible for the quarterback, for the dive, for the different elements of the RPO. Really, what the hope was, we could try to limit the impact and potential explosives and try to make them drive the football and then change some groupings up. Use some different elements to try to keep them off-balance if we could. That drive was clearly one where they were able to execute over and over again. Not having [Vikings OLB] Marcus [Davenport] able to go for a good chunk there and then ultimately just those guys just wearing down. We just left them on the field way too much. We had the ability to sustain drives a lot of the night via the play pass, and winnings and matchups and that secondary. Didn’t run the football well enough. I knew it would be tough being down some guys, but that’s a really good front over there. You don’t want to have to play that style against them, especially when you’re turning the football over, but the urgency started to pick up once we were down two scores.”


On the run game:

“To me, we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching it. It’s on me. We’ve got to go back to work and find ways to run the football. Whatever personnel grouping we feel like gives us an advantage. We’ve got to get more connectedness upfront. We’ve got to be able to attack certain fronts when looks present themselves, and just continue to hunt to be efficient because it’s not a good formula. Especially when you’re putting the ball on the ground, but it’s not a good formula to play like that when, as confident as I am in our pass game, it’s just not going to sustain.”


On Vikings QB Kirk Cousins:

“I thought just his decision making, his ability to see the field. I mean there were some unique coverages to [Vikings WR] Justin [Jefferson] going on out there and he was able to assess and use some of those play pass snaps to be aggressive with his arm when we could protect him a little bit. But even then, a lot of times when you’re not running it well, those same play pass protections mirror the run game in a lot of ways. He was standing in there. Thought he was just tremendously tough. Ran those two-minute drives to get us back into the game and at least gave us a swing. Had an onside kick that didn’t work out. Just really overall, for coming here, playing the way he did under those circumstances — I do know this: [Vikings QB] Kirk Cousins played absolutely well enough for us to win the football game. I think there’s a lot that he can pull out of it, and I know his teammates felt it as well.”


On Vikings WR Justin Jefferson:

“It’s a great point because if — the coverages that he’s seen, the amount of times he has – I mean, even on the throw where he does fumble at the pylon, that’s him beating another double team and Kirk finding him. Some of the plays over the middle, he’s fearless. In a lot of times when you’re facing shell coverage, double teams, you’re going to have to be willing to go into some traffic over the middle. His detail, his technique, his fundamentals, and then just his sheer competitiveness. I think it’s showing up a little bit with guys like [Vikings WR] K.J. [Osborn] and [Vikings WR] Jordan [Addison]. Jordan with another big play on the third and long, kind of like what happened in week one. [Vikings TE] T.J. [Hockenson] showed up great tonight. I’m excited about what Justin is really becoming. His overall football understanding of how he’s being defended, I don’t know if I’ve seen anything like it.”


On how much they prioritize situations and ball security and how difficult is it to sort through the first two games and that overall margin:

“Yeah, to me it’s number one on our football philosophy. We talk about it a lot. We have meetings about it, weekly meetings. It’s all about the ball is how we talk about it. To a man in that locker room right now it is an easy thing to tell them after starting the season out the way we have, combined losing by nine points in two games. Almost having your scoring differential be the same as your turnover margin is not something that you ever want to preach as a positive but I do know that locker room is confident. I do know that you get what you emphasize with them. So my anticipation is if we make ball security the living breathing way that we talk and walk about everything in our building, it will improve. And that’s what my hope is and that’s on me and our coaching staff to emphasize it, minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, how we practice and ultimately start seeing it show up on Sundays.”


On whether he feels he has enough options with the offensive line in the building or does he need to look outside:

“We’ll get with [Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah] his staff. I do believe [RT Olisaemeka Udoh] is going to be out for a while which is incredibly unfortunate with the amount of reps he had in training camp. [C] Garrett’s [Bradbury] progressing. [C] Austin [Schlottman] stepped in there tonight. And then hopefully [LT] Christian [Darrisaw] was close enough we can project him. I think we are always looking at ways to solidify not only certain position groups but our whole football team. If there’s ways we can do that to competitively attack this thing we’ll take a look at it. But I do have a lot of confidence in our guys but clearly we’ve got to do something little bit differently and really focus on how to run the football better to help our pass game and how we are going about moving it.”


On the extended break:

“Yeah, we asked a lot out of the players the last three or four days coming off of a really physical game against Tampa and then tonight was physical as well. So we’ll let those guys take a few days, make sure we get a recovery. We’re not going to get back until very early tomorrow morning. We’ll let them get some time away for Friday, Saturday, Sunday but as a coaching staff we’ve got some work to do to ultimately take a look at really an inventory of eight quarters where how do we get better in all three phases. I think there’s a lot of areas where we can focus on as a staff to play more complementary football which we have not done up until this point. I think there’s a lot of ways that we can continue to build each other up. But my hope is that our team stays confident. We recognize exactly why we’ve lost both of these games and have a really focus centered mindset to fix those problems.”


On WR Jordan Addison and what he’s done to become an instant deep threat:

“Really both of his touchdowns now have kind of come on looks where he’s able to get behind the defense with his explosiveness but then he’s also catching some balls underneath, he’s catching and running. His versatility kind of pairing with [WR] JJ [Justin Jefferson], and [WR] K.J. [Osborn], and [TE] T.J. [Hockenson] and [TE] Josh [Oliver] and some of the 12s. He just continues to show up. He’s growing every single time he steps on the grass in our offense. I’m really proud of where he’s at right now but I think [WR] Jordan [Addison] would be the first one to tell you there’s things that he can improve on just like everybody else on our team, coaches included and it all starts with me. And we’ve got to do that here over these next 10 days or so and show up to U.S. Bank Stadium against the Chargers and try to get our first win.”