Kevin O'Connell praises Vikings' 'very hard-fought win' vs. Saints

Kevin O’Connell praises the Vikings’ resilience to earn a ‘very hard-fought win’ after Minnesota dug itself out of a self-inflicted hole for the second straight week in a barmy contest against the Saints in London

  • The Vikings overcame self-inflicted mistakes once again to beat the Saints
  • Justin Jefferson caught 10 balls for 147 yards in the 28-25 win in London
  • And Kevin O’Connell got another win in his first year as head coach
  • The Saints, meanwhile, dropped to 1-3 as starting QB Jameis Winston was out
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Kevin O’Connell has only taken charge of four games in the NFL but he is stealthily earning a reputation as a lucky coach after winning a barmy contest on a balmy day.

For the second straight week his Minnesota Vikings have dug themselves out of large, largely self-inflicted holes and somehow sit at 3-1 after beating rivals the New Orleans Saints 28-25 after a crazy fourth quarter. In a weak NFC they are a contender, albeit one with significant weaknesses.

The offense spluttered in the red zone once again, the defense struggled against the run and the victory owed much to special teams, with kicker Greg Joseph booting five field goals and punter Ryan Wright converted on fourth down for a fake punt-pass.

Kevin O’Connell earned yet another win as an NFL head coach Sunday as the Vikings won

But at least superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson got the ball. His last two games yielded just 64 yards from nine receptions, but after quarterback Kirk Cousins found him with the first pass of the day, Jefferson racked up 147 yards off 10 receptions to win his personal battle with Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

‘Lattimore pretty much followed me the whole game,’ said Jefferson, who rushed for a three-yard touchdown and showcased the Griddy on the international stage.

‘Pretty much was a one-on-one battle majority of the game. I keep saying it, we definitely feel confident in our guys to win those one-on-one battles. If I don’t get double-teamed and triple-teamed, I feel confident to get open and give Kirk an open eye to throw the ball.’

It means the flight back to the Twin Cities will be a smoother one after the injury ravaged Saints were dispatched. The defeat came in cruel fashion after kicker Wil Lutz’s double doink hit left upright, crossbar and tantalizingly fell short as time expired.

‘Obviously a very, very hard-fought win. Really proud of our team for once again really back-to-back weeks showing different types of resiliency to rely on one another,’ O’Connell said.

‘Special teams was huge for us. Greg made five of five field goals, Wright with two punts inside the 20, huge for his first career completion. Just really, really solid performance by our teams again.’

Justin Jefferson does the Griddy after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter vs. the Saints

Vikings quarterback Cousins completed 25 of 38 passes, throwing for 273 yards with a touchdown and an interception. And just last week against Detroit, he needed to earn his money deep into the fourth quarter. And he did.

‘I think it’s going to be games like this going forward. It going to be like this. If you can make the playoffs, get in January football, it’s how it’s going to be,’ said Cousins, who has a 1-3 postseason record.

‘Just a typical NFL game, back and forth,’ Cousins said. ‘What was atypical was playing it here. 

‘It was just a tremendous environment in the stadium, first time playing here in the stadium. Just tremendous. Great facility. It’s just a great experience all the way around. The hotel we stayed at, the practice we had on Friday, just a really, really positive experience.’

It was less so for the Saints, who arrived on Monday and sank to a third straight defeat.

Kirk Cousins talks with Saints QB Andy Dalton after the game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Head coach Dennis Allen said: ‘Frustrating way to end that game. We had our chances. Thought our guys battled back after the second half. Thought we made too many mistakes in the first half, which put us behind.

‘But I thought our guys battled and competed. We still have to find a way to not hurt ourselves with penalties and the turnovers, and that’s got to change. So we’ve got to figure that out.’

Vikings rookie safety Lewis Cine suffered a lower leg fracture late in the first quarter and was taken to hospital where he will undergo surgery before flying back to the USA.

‘Very tough moment for our team,’ said O’Connell of the first round draft pick. ‘Obviously a guy that from day one has been a personal favorite of mine, done everything we asked, was continuing to progress in his rookie year, really having a dynamic role for us on teams.’

Linebacker Eric Kendricks added: ‘Unfortunately, that’s the worst part of the game. We all know that. He’s been grinding. It’s hard enough as a rookie as it is. He showed up. He’s worked hard. He’s made an impact for us. He made an impact with the guys around the locker room. We all love him. Love his personality. He’s a great guy at the end of the day.’

Saints WR Chris Olave (left) and Vikings WR Jalen Nailor (right) pose after the game

Alarm bells rang for Vikings fans before the game. They were favored to win long before back-up quarterback Andy Dalton was named as starter following Jameis Winston’s back injury. Wide receiver Michael Thomas, running back Alvin Kamara and guard Andros Peat were also ruled out, as was safety Marcus Maye.

They raced into an early lead with a smooth, scripted offensive series which had not been seen since the opening drive in the season-opener against Green Bay, with running back Alexander Mattison dodging defenders on the way to a 15-yard dart.

Saints receiver Chris Olave reeled in Dalton’s pass to score a four-yard touchdown – his first in the NFL – early in the second quarter and two field goals from Joseph gave the Vikings a 13-7 half-time lead.

Another Vikings drive stalled deep in Saints territory and Joseph booted his third kick of the day.

With Kamara ruled out earlier today, former Viking Latavius Murray was activated and duly got the Saints back into the game from a yard.

And then the lunacy began.

Vikings cornerback Kris Boyd reacts after forcing and recovering a fumble vs. the Saints

Joseph put the Vikings 19-14 up with a 46 yarder, before quarterback-tight end hybrid Taysom Hill edged the Saints ahead with a two-yard dart. Dalton converted the two-pointer, finding Jarvis Landry from yards and the Saints were ahead.

Enter Cousins and Jefferson, the former orchestrating a 10-play, 75-yard drive which ended with Jefferson’s three-yard dart.

After the teams traded field goals – Lutz converted from a franchise record tying 60-yards with Vikings tormentor Morten Anderson – came the double doink to end to break Saints hearts.

It means the Vikings have won on all three visits to London, with wins at Wembley, Twickenham and now Tottenham.

‘Heck, yeah, that means a lot to me. I got to see all three stadiums. My first year I was on practice squad, so I didn’t play. It always feels good to come over here and get a victory,’ said Vikings receiver Adam Thielen.

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