The Minnesota Vikings fumbled away a chance to even their record to open the season, turning the ball over four times in Thursday night's 34-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Vikings fumbled four times -- all coming within the first 31 minutes of the contest -- allowing the Eagles to blow the game open early. The turnover barrage came a week after Minnesota turned it over three times in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"A tough, tough loss. Solid opponent, shot ourselves in the foot with the turnovers," quarterback Kirk Cousins said, via the official transcript. "Similar story now the first two weeks in that case. ... Just difficult to win in this league when you lose the turnover battle by one, let alone by the margin we have lost it by, so we have to fix those mistakes and not let it continue."
Brandon Powell kicked things off with a fumbled punt. Alexander Mattison coughed up the ball one play after Minnesota got an interception. Justin Jefferson fumbled out of the end zone late in the second quarter as the Vikings were driving to take a lead. Then Cousins gave the ball away on the second snap of the third quarter on a sack, allowing the Eagles to take a 20-7 lead.
The Jefferson turnover was particularly painful, as the fumble out of the end zone gave Philly the ball. Instead of taking the lead going into halftime, Minnesota wound up down six points and eventually sunk to 27-7 before things settled down.
"I'm putting it a lot on myself," Jefferson said of the turnover. "Fumbling in the end zone like that when we need points and we're driving and having that momentum. I was telling my teammates that's on me, and it won't happen again."
With two fumbles in Week 1, the Vikings' six lost fumbles in the first two games are the most since the 2003 St. Louis Rams, who lost seven.
The 2023 Vikings are the 34th team since 2000 to have seven-plus turnovers in their first two games, per NFL Research. Out of the previous 33, only seven made the playoffs. Minnesota is the first team since the 2019 Dolphins with seven-plus turnovers in the first two games.
"You lose the turnover battle four-to-one with three of them being fumbles, or all four of them being fumbles," coach Kevin O'Connell said. "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."
O'Connell will surely emphasize that, despite the ghastly turnover stats, Minnesota lost its first two games by a combined nine points. After going 11-0 in one-score games last year, the Vikings are 0-2 to open 2023.
Cousins and Jefferson have put up monster stats through two weeks, which is particularly encouraging given the offensive line injuries they dealt with Thursday. But to get on track in the win column, Minnesota needs to protect the football moving forward, beginning with next week's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
"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," O'Connell said. "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."