The Minnesota Vikings toppled the Green Bay Packers 23-7 in Week 1, triumphantly marking the start of the Kevin O’Connell era.
The Packers looked rusty and frustrated throughout the game, whereas the Vikings seemed unshackled and motivated. The game was also the Vikings first Week 1 home game versus the Packers with fans in attendance — ever.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was brilliant, repeatedly finding wideout Justin Jefferson through the air. Cousins finished with 277 passing yards, and Jefferson snagged 184 of those yards and both of Cousins’ touchdown passes.
Victory over the Packers affirmed the Vikings offseason plan — at least for one week — of sticking with the core group of stars while refusing to rebuild. When the Vikings fired Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer eight months ago, some fans clamored for a full roster rebuild, one that never arrived. Instead, new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did the opposite, recommitting to Cousins for longer than initially scheduled and maintaining the team’s personnel nucleus.
After the game, new head coach Kevin O’Connell presented a game ball to the team — like, every player — but Cousins quickly took center stage, insisting game balls be given to Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell, symbolizing a formal changing of the guard for the team’s leadership.
Cousins is no stranger to rousing rah-rah speeches, but his brief comments in the video above seemed different as the 34-year-old was not hamstrung by a head coach hellbent on defense-first operations. In fact, Cousins’ soliloquy in the locker room is how $35 million-per-year quarterbacks should act after a momentous win.
The coach before O’Connell, Mike Zimmer, never outwardly lambasted Cousins in four seasons together, but the two always felt like suburban neighbors who didn’t interact — the kind that wave at each other once a week but have no desire to mingle.
And for the first time in the Cousins era, he and the head coach might just be linked at the hip.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).