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Vikings Coach Kevin O'Connell on Loss to Eagles: 'I Put This One on Me'

O'Connell made it clear he wanted all the blame for the Vikings' disappointing loss to fall on his shoulders.
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PHILADELPHIA — Shortly before midnight, Kevin O'Connell walked up to the visitor's podium after his first loss as an NFL head coach knowing the message he wanted to convey: that the blame for the Vikings' disappointing performance falls on his shoulders.

"When I look back on tonight, ultimately I put this one on me," O'Connell said of the Vikings' 24-7 loss to the Eagles on Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field. "I don’t think I did enough for our team in-game."

A neutral observer could likely identify plenty of people who didn't do their job effectively at times during this game. Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell watched his unit get dominated to begin the contest, surrendering 347 yards and 24 points in the first half. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. dropped a potential 63-yard touchdown pass that could've changed the equation before halftime. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, by far the team's highest-paid player, threw three second-half interceptions, two of which appeared to be his fault.

O'Connell wasn't going to place the blame anywhere but on himself. 

"I do mean it, I do feel like this one’s on me," O'Connell said. "I told our team that I’m going to work like crazy to make sure that this does not happen again. I have no doubt that we’ll be prepared and ready to respond."

One week after executing at high level across the board in a 23-7 victory over the Packers, the Vikings' offense could only manage 264 yards in this game, a good chunk of which came with the outcome already all but determined. They struggled on third down, converting just four of 12 opportunities. They never got the ground game going, finishing with only eight carries for 25 yards from running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. Their attempts to mount a dramatic comeback were halted by three turnovers and two sacks in the second half.

O'Connell reiterated over and over that he feels he is at fault for the offense's underwhelming performance.

"We’ve got to find ways to make it easier on our guys, try to give them an advantage when we can," he said. "Didn’t run the football enough. They kind of had some things schematically that got us into some different phases of our offense by just trying to get good plays off versus some good looks. That’s where I gotta do a better job. Make sure we stay true to what we are and what we want to be offensively."

The Vikings had several opportunities to make the game closer than it was. Smith securing the catch and touchdown on a fantastic throw from Cousins late in the first half could've swung things in a big way. In the second half, a blocked field goal by Patrick Peterson and a Jordan Hicks interception set the Vikings up in great positions to score, only for Cousins to throw a pair of ugly interceptions.

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Somehow, the Vikings had four second-half trips inside the Eagles' 30 and didn't score points on any of them.

"Those are kind of what I’m talking about, just one play away," O'Connell said about Smith's drop. "And then guys started to really want to be the guy that makes the play to change the momentum in the game. It felt at times, me included, like we pressed a little bit. And that’s where we just gotta go back to it. ... We know what our standard is and it starts with me tonight. I gotta make sure I do much, much more to help our guys play to their standard."

The Vikings got off to an extremely slow start, going three and out on three of their first four possessions and getting gashed left and right on defense. They were punched in the mouth early on by the Eagles — which got a raucous nighttime crowd juiced up — and they never picked themselves up off the mat. O'Connell said he'll need to evaluate what he and his coaches can do to help the Vikings start better — and to respond better if that doesn't happen.

Naturally, there is going to be a lot of attention paid to Cousins, who was excellent against the Packers but regressed mightily in this game. His final stat line reflects his performance pretty well: 27 of 46 for 221 yards, 1 TD, 3 interceptions, and a 51.1 passer rating. Cousins mixed in some great throws — and superstar receiver Justin Jefferson took the blame for the QB's first pick of the night — but he was unable to lead the Vikings to a comeback, or even get one started.

Playing quarterback in the NFL is always tough, but that's especially true when your team trails early in the game, because that usually leads to abandoning the run and becoming one-dimensional. But Cousins is the team's most high-profile player because of the position he plays, and the reality is that his performance furthered some harsh narratives in the eyes of many fans across the country. Regardless of how you feel about using wins and losses to evaluate QBs, the veteran fell to 2-10 on Monday Night Football and returned to .500 for his career as a starter; he's exactly 60-60-2 in regular season games.

O'Connell, who has been tasked with helping elevate Cousins' game this season, once again directed blame back to himself.

"I thought Kirk battled tonight," O'Connell said. "(We) put him in some tough spots. I think our overall offensive philosophy when we do not succeed in activating those things, it puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback and that’s where once again, I put this 100 percent on me to be better for our offense, for our team."

O'Connell came into his press conference ready to put this loss entirely on his shoulders, and that's what he did. It's a noble gesture and a sign of leadership from a young head coach. Whether or not it's fair or accurate is open for interpretation.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter where the blame goes for any given loss. All that matters is whether or not the Vikings, as a team, are able to correct their mistakes and right the ship. Their first opportunity to do so comes next week against a much-improved Lions team in Minneapolis.

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