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Vikings' Defense, Kirk Cousins Take Turns Melting Down in 24-7 Loss to Eagles

Hurts did whatever he wanted in the first half and Cousins threw three picks in the second half.
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The honeymoon phase of the Vikings' Kevin O'Connell era came to a resounding end on Monday night in Philadelphia.

Last Sunday's decisive win over the Packers sent optimism about this new-look Vikings team through the roof. Eight days later, an ugly 24-7 loss to the Eagles may have offered an indication that these 2022 Vikings aren't all that different after all.

Just like the Green Bay victory didn't mean the Vikings were heading to the Super Bowl, this loss doesn't mean they're destined to be mediocre again. But a lot of legitimate concerns popped up in this game, even if it was against a great team in a hostile road environment.

The Vikings got punched in the mouth on a national stage. Now we get to find out how O'Connell and his team will respond to adversity for the first time.

In the first half of this game, the Vikings' defense looked old, slow, and poorly coached. They allowed 347 yards of offense to the Eagles by halftime, as Jalen Hurts did whatever he wanted through the air and on the ground. Hurts and the Eagles tore up the Vikings with play-action passes, run-pass options, designed quarterback runs, and a barrage of throws that Hurts made look simple.

Hurts completed his first ten passes and 14 of his first 15. He ran for two touchdowns in the half, dragging defenders into the end zone on both occasions, but it was his arm that did the most damage. The Vikings looked lost in coverage, giving up easy pitches and catches for chunk gains. The biggest play was a coverage bust by second-year safety Camryn Bynum on an easy 53-yard touchdown pass from Hurts to Quez Watkins.

It was an impressive half of football from Hurts and company, but it was just as much about the poor play of the Vikings' Ed Donatell-coached defense. It was 24-7 at the break, which ended up being the final score.

Obviously, the defense stepped it up in the second half by holding the Eagles scoreless, leaving the door open for the Vikings' offense to make things interesting.

That didn't happen. What took place in the second half resulted in much of the blame for the loss shifting from the defense to the offense — and specifically quarterback Kirk Cousins.

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After the break, Cousins played one of the worst halves of football he's played since signing with the Vikings in 2018. He went 10 for 22 for 98 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions in the second half prior to a garbage time drive with less than four minutes remaining. All three picks came inside the Eagles' 30 yard-line.

Cousins simply looked rattled and out of sync with his targets, and it got progressively worse over the course of the half.

The first of Cousins' three interceptions didn't look like his fault. Justin Jefferson — who fell back to earth from his amazing Week 1 with just 6 catches for 48 yards on 12 targets — stopped his route in the end zone, and the result was Cousins throwing the ball directly to Darius Slay.

Cousins' second and third picks were harder to understand. He tried to find Adam Thielen on the second one, but Avonte Maddox dropped back into the zone and high-pointed the ball for a pick. The third one ended the Vikings' slim chances of mounting a miraculous comeback. On third and goal from the nine, Cousins chucked one up for Jefferson and watched Slay come down with it again.

On multiple occasions, the Vikings' defense or special teams gave them some life with a big play, only for Cousins and the offense to immediately squander the opportunity. Patrick Peterson blocked a punt late in the third quarter, which Kris Boyd picked up and ran back to the 30. Eagles punter/holder Arryn Siposs saved a touchdown by hustling back for the tackle. Three plays later, Cousins threw the pick to Maddox.

Then, in the fourth quarter, a Jordan Hicks interception gave the Vikings the ball at the Eagles' nine. Three plays later, Cousins threw his third and final interception, sealing the deal.

It wasn't all on Cousins. The Vikings dropped at least four passes in this game, including an Irv Smith Jr. drop late in the first half that would've been a 63-yard touchdown. When his pass-catchers weren't dropping the ball, they were frequently struggling to generate separation. But it starts with Cousins, and he was bad in this game. The narratives about his ability to play well in primetime — specifically on Monday Night Football — aren't going anywhere after a performance like that, whether justified or not.

Overall, it was an ugly loss that raises some serious concerns. The defense was destroyed in the first half, but more importantly, Cousins and the offense couldn't do anything with their backs against the wall after halftime. As a team, the Vikings didn't show a ton of fight after getting down by three scores.

O'Connell and his team have some work to do. They'll look to bounce back at home against the Lions next Sunday.

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