Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson Share the Blame

Vikings and Falcons
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The Minnesota Vikings lost a close game to the reigning NFC champion. The Philadelphia Eagles pulled off the victory behind a strong running game but also because the road team shot itself in the foot for the second straight game. At the end of the day, the Vikings are a decent football team that makes too many mistakes and, therefore, sits at 0-2.

Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson Share the Blame

Minnesota has committed seven turnovers through two games, an unacceptable number and certainly the main reason the Vikings didn’t win either of those contests. Kirk Cousins fumbled on a blind side strip sack when his backup left tackle gave up a quick pressure. Brandon Powell had a fabulous punt return but had the ball punched out of his hands. Running back Alexander Mattison fumbled once, and so did wideout Justin Jefferson.

Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson Share the Blame
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The star receiver was double-covered yet still open, and Cousins hit him 35 yards down the field at the five-yard line with 36 seconds left to play in the first half. Kevin O’Connell’s unit was in a position to tie the game with a field goal or even go into halftime with a lead, a surprising scenario as most folks expected a solid blowout win for the Eagles.

Jefferson caught the ball, turned upfield, and reached for the endzone. But instead of scoring a touchdown, JJ fumbled the ball over the pylon out of the endzone. Perhaps the most controversial rule in all of sports, that results in a touchback, giving the ball back to the Eagles. Philadelphia marched quickly down the field and capped off the half with a 61-yard field goal. Instead of going into the locker room with a lead, the Vikings were suddenly down six points.

Jefferson talked about the incident and blamed himself, something he also did on the field in the immediate aftermath of the play:

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“I’m putting a lot of it [the loss] on myself. Fumbling in the end zone when we need points. I’m putting a lot of blame on myself. I have to know the situation and take care of the ball. I was telling teammates that was on me, and it won’t happen again.”

The wideout made a crucial mistake and is owning up to it, showing his leadership qualities. While the fumble was clearly his fault, the loss was not. Jefferson dropped a usual stat line for himself, catching 11 passes for 159 yards. He made big play after big play and was the best player on the field.

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He continues to break records throughout his young career, becoming the fastest player to reach 5,000 career yards. JJ is the focal point of the offense and Cousins’ favorite target. Interestingly, the quarterback blames himself for the fumble and defends his star weapon:

“When you talk ball security, when you talk fundamentals, you always say ‘Don’t reach for the endzone unless it’s fourth down,’ and yet, players do it all the time and score touchdowns. We often joke, ‘Don’t reach for the endzone if you’re not gonna score.’ It’s tough, and the players are instinctual in the moment. I’m going to be hard on myself. I’m gonna say, that ball shouldn’t have stopped him. The ball stops, so he has to go up and get it and has to pull through. What if I threw a perfect ball, what if it had dropped right in the bucket? Maybe he runs in untouched.”

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Cousins himself had a wonderful game, throwing for four touchdowns and no interceptions and 364 yards. He looked calm in the pocket and fired from all cylinders despite his struggling offensive line against one of the better defenses in the NFL. The narrative that Cousins can’t perform in primetime was clearly untrue in this one.

Both Cousins and Jefferson were voted team captains, and blaming themselves for the loss shows their leadership qualities. They don’t put the fault on others, despite playing well throughout the contest. The duo was in the spotlight entering the game, and they did a good job.

It is on the Vikings to use the mini-bye week and regroup for the huge Week 3 game at home against the Los Angeles Chargers, a must-win game, and the QB-receiver duo will be asked to carry the offense once again.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt