Partially the fault of the Minnesota Vikings‘ 0-3 start to the season has been a failure to keep the ball in their hands.
According to ESPN, the Vikings’ seven lost fumbles are tied for the second-most through three games since 2000. Minnesota leads the league with nine turnovers total and -7 in turnover differential.
The team stressed ball security all week leading into a must-win matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers — and lost the ball on its first possession.
That can’t keep happening, and head coach Kevin O’Connell is willing to take drastic measures to remedy the problem, including benching players.
“I think that’s something we’re going to fix one way or the other,” O’Connell said in a September 25 news conference. “Either guys are going to [fix] it or we’re going to have to put other guys in the game that have ball security.”
T.J. Hockenson’s Telling Comment Leads to Shaky Performance
Ahead of the Vikings’ Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, tight end T.J. Hockenson offered insight into the weight of the message the team had sent around ball security after giving up three first-half fumbles to the Philadelphia Eagles the week before.
“The turnover battle has been big for us,” Hockenson said before Week 3. “When you hold that ball you have the fate of the entire organization in your hands that’s just the way you have to look at it and that’s the way were continuing to preach that in these meetings.”
The message clearly sank in, and not in a good way.
Hockenson had the ball stripped out of his hands to end the Vikings’ first possession in the red zone. Alexander Mattison lost the ball twice; a fumble that was reversed because the officials ruled his forward progress was stopped and another where he was ruled down by contact.
The game was deemed a must-win for two desperate teams hoping to avoid a dreaded 0-3 start that would squash their playoff chances to just 2.5%.
Hockenson also had the ball tip off his hands on the offense’s final play, which resulted in a game-ending interception in the end zone.
“We need to end every snap with the football in our hands,” O’Connell said. “And that’s going to be continued urgency and emphasis, like it was last week. And we’re going to continue to do it, and do it differently, and emphasize in different ways until that value is received, because that is a losing formula, as we’ve seen where we’re at in the turnover differential.”
Vikings, Panthers Searching for First Win in Desperate Matchup
Again, the Vikings are in a desperate matchup with their fellow 0-3er Carolina Panthers.
Minnesota is a 3-point favorite, per Sportsbook Wire, which is fitting despite the Vikings’ offense ranking third in yards. The Vikings rank 17th in points as turnovers have foiled several potential scoring drives this season. Minnesota’s red-zone scoring rate sits at 50% after three weeks, currently 21st in the league.
While scoring in the red zone has come down to a coin flip so far this season, a certainty will be that this game will be decided by a single score. Since 2021, 29 of 37 Vikings games have been decided by eight or fewer points.