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In a season full of firsts, Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell looks for his first bounce-back win

First-year coach Kevin O'Connell said he's excited to get the opportunity to "get back to playing the way we want to play."
Credit: AP
Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell after an NFL preseason football game, Aug. 28, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

MINNEAPOLIS — For Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell, this season will be all about firsts. 

The first-year head coach notched his first win in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. He followed that up with his first loss eight days later in a lopsided game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

On Sunday, O'Connell will get his first chance to show how he — and the team — can bounce back.

"Excited for this weekend," said O'Connell of Sunday's matchup with the Detroit Lions. "Obviously a big opportunity to get back to playing the way we want to play."

Monday night was anything but how they wanted to play.

After a clean season-opening win over the Packers, the Vikings laid an egg in Week 2 against the Eagles. Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts torched Minnesota's defense for more than 300 yards in the first half, and the offense looked lost for most of the night.

Despite a few sparks created in the second half — a blocked field goal and an interception deep in Eagles territory — the Vikings never caught fire. Both potentially momentum-swinging plays were squandered with interceptions, two of three thrown on the night by Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

"Disappointing performance," said Cousins, who finished the night 27 of 46 for 221 yards, one touchdown and three picks. "Credit the Eagles, I thought they did a good job against us all night long, and now we've got to respond on a short week and be a resilient group and get back on track."

Fresh off a multi-touchdown game against the Packers, Justin Jefferson wasn't able to find much open space in the Eagles secondary. The third-year receiver caught six passes for 48 yards. Running back Dalvin Cook carried the ball just six times, and while he did also haul in four passes, he only accounted for 36 yards. 

"I put this one on me," O'Connell said of Monday night's loss. "I don't think I did enough for our team in-game. We felt good about our plan — they did some things defensively that just seemed to push us to the point where we just needed to make that one or two plays on a drive to get going."

RELATED: Slow Cook: Vikings star RB out of rhythm in lopsided loss

The offense could have a chance to get back on track Sunday against the Lions, who have allowed 32.5 points per game this season. The Vikings defense, however, might not be set up as well for a bounce-back game.

The Lions have the third-best rushing offense in the league, and are ranked fourth in total yards. The Vikings will also be without safety Harrison Smith, who left Monday night's game with a concussion. Smith's absence opens the door for first-round pick Lewis Cine to see more time on the field. It's unclear if Cine will start over Josh Metellus, but O'Connell said he's anticipating both players see the field.

"I would expect to see both those guys (Cine and Josh Metellus) play," O'Connell said. "When Josh has had a chance to get in there, he's really done some good things and I think he's been really, really good on special teams. ... I feel really good about where (Cine) is, coming off that injury in the opener, and then to be able to get back out there and really flash a few times on special teams as well, and just continue to integrate him in there."

Whether it's Cine or Metellus, the defense will need to get off to a much better start on Sunday if the Vikings hope to shake off Monday night's loss and give O'Connell his first bounce-back victory.

RELATED: Prime time embarrassment puts pressure on Vikings' O'Connell to adjust

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