In their first two games, both lopsided losses, the Vikings have called 56 pass plays and run the ball 40 times, four by quarterback Kirk Cousins. They haven’t been able to run as much as they want because with the defense struggling they’ve fallen way behind in games.
“That’s what we are,’’ offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Thursday about Minnesota’s style. “That’s what we want, and we came out of training camp with a good, solid training camp and obviously that hasn’t correlated to the first two weeks, but we’ve got to stay positive and stay committed to what we want to be as a group.’’
Kubiak said the Vikings’ rushing average per carry of 5.4 yards has “been pretty good” and they “haven’t run it enough.’’ Entering Sunday’s game against Tennessee at U.S. Bank Stadium, the challenge is for Kubiak to get Dalvin Cook and others more rushing attempts but also to make the passing game enough of a threat to let that happen.
In a 43-34 loss to Green Bay in the opener, the Vikings scored 24 points in the fourth quarter after the outcome had been all but decided. In a 28-11 loss at Indianapolis, Minnesota managed just 175 yards and dropped to 30th in the NFL in total offense.
“I’m focused on myself,’’ Kubiak said. “I’ve got to do a better job for the guys and getting them in position. We’re playing hard, our guys are playing hard, preparing hard. We’ve got to figure out a way to keep us on the field, get our snaps.’’
In the first two games, the Vikings have run just 96 plays to 143 for their foes.
Cousins completed just 11 of 26 passes for 113 yards with three interceptions against the Colts. His passer rating was a career-low 15.9
“I’ve got to find some room for him is the best way to put it,’’ Kubiak said. “We had some plays last week where he had no place to go with the ball. …. We’ve got to get some people open. … We had some plays that were very difficult on him. Kirk is battling, he’s doing his part. … I take it personal that I’ve got to help him more.’’
Vikings staying positive
Despite being 0-2 for the first time since 2013, Vikings players are doing their best to remain positive.
“We know what we can do in this locker room,’’ said wide receiver Adam Thielen, who was on practice squad when Minnesota started 0-3 and 1-7 in 2013. “We know we have talent. We know we have the coaches. We know we have the pieces. We just have to go out there and do it. … There are a lot of ups and downs, and the great teams figure out a way to overcome that and gain momentum and flip it around.’’
In their two losses, the Vikings have been outscored by an average of 13 points. Both games have been all but over by the end of the third quarter.
“You can’t be too hard on yourself,’’ said defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo. “It’s a long season and just don’t get down and play ball. … As a team standpoint, you can’t be discouraged and we’ve just got to go out and play excellent football.’’
Ngakoue steps up
One of the few bright spots for the Vikings against the Colts was the play of defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
After a shaky Vikings debut against the Packers, Ngakoue had four pressures, including a strip sack of quarterback Philip Rivers. The Colts recovered the fumble.
“He’s getting better every day,’’ co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said of Ngakoue, acquired Aug. 31 from Jacksonville. “He’s very driven, he works hard every day and is improving every day, so I think (last Sunday was) just the beginning of where he’s going to go throughout the rest of the season.’’
Ngakoue has been unavailable this week for comment. However, he made a vow on his Instagram account.
“We will turn things around for the city of Minneapolis!’’ he wrote. “I promise.’’