Already the 15th Vikings team to start 0-2, Kevin O'Connell's 2023 squad really doesn't want to become the seventh team in 63 seasons of Vikings football to start 0-3 by losing to the Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Of those six teams to start 0-3, nary a one finished .500 or better. Mike Zimmer's 2020 team came closest at 7-9. The other Purple 0-3ers were in 1962 (2-11-1), Bud Grant's first team in 1967 (3-8-3), 2002 (6-10), 2011 (3-13) and 2013 (5-10-1). The last two got Leslie Frazier fired.
"We have another great challenge ahead of us," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "Got to get on track. We dug ourselves a hole, and now we got to dig ourselves out of it. There's a lot of football ahead."
The Chargers also come into the game 0-2. Like the Vikings, they're feeling better than one of the league's nine winless teams.
The Chargers can point to a pair of losses by a combined five points as evidence that they're oh so close. They opened with a 36-34 loss to Miami at home before losing 27-24 in overtime at Tennessee.
Meanwhile, the Vikings, who also are coming off two one-score losses, can blame a league-high seven turnovers and a league-worst minus-6 turnover differential while suggesting that maybe a clean game would produce something that looks more like last year's 13-win team.
"That's kind of the message, right?" Cousins said. "If you told me after two games we were minus-6, I would tell you we're 0-2. That tells the story.
"That being said, we're in those games. They've come down to the last couple plays. There's something encouraging to take from that. But only so much. At some point, the bottom line is you got to win."
Speaking of turnovers …
The Chargers have a plus-2 turnover differential and join the Cowboys, Buccaneers, Packers and Seahawks as the only teams not to turn the ball over this season.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert hasn't thrown an interception since the Chargers' 15th game last season. Including the playoff loss to Jacksonville, Herbert has thrown 210 consecutive passes without an interception.
O'Connell said he's made ball security the "major message" going into this game. The team also has six or seven ball-security drills they work on.
"Every piece of equipment you can find on the internet to work ball security, if we didn't have it before, we've purchased it," O'Connell said.
Cousins to pass Kramer
Former Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer needed 128 games over 13 seasons to reach 159 regular-season touchdown passes.
Kirk Cousins needed 82 games over six seasons to tie Kramer.
Cousins' next touchdown pass will move him into second place alone in franchise history. Only Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton (239) has more.
"I think staying healthy is a big part of that," Cousins said. "It's hard to do if you're not on the field. And it's difficult to stay on the field. NFL is Not For Long."
Third-down key: Ekeler
With running back Austin Ekeler healthy in Week 1, the Chargers ran for 233 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries (5.8 yards per carry) while converting 9 of 15 third downs (60%).
With Ekeler sidelined in Week 2 with an ankle injury, the Chargers ran for 61 yards and no touchdowns on 21 carries (2.9) while converting 2 of 14 third downs (14.3%).
"He obviously can run, but what I think makes him special is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield," Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "He gives Herbert another prime-time weapon when he's on the field."
Ekeler did not practice Wednesday.
Davenport, Bradbury still sidelined
Center Garrett Bradbury (back) and outside linebacker Marcus Davenport (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Hicks (leg), left tackle Christian Darrisaw (ankle), safety Josh Metellus (shoulder) and wide receiver Jalen Nailor (hamstring) were limited.
In addition to Ekeler, former Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (hamstring) and outside linebacker Kahlil Mack (rest) did not practice. Outside linebackers Joey Bosa (hamstring) and Chris Rumph II (hamstring) and linebacker Daiyan Henley (hamstring) were limited.