The enduring image of the 2023 Vikings season might end up being the frantic final offensive sequence that secured their 28-24 loss to the Chargers and 0-3 start:
Time ticking down from 35 seconds as many Vikings players casually made their may back to the line of scrimmage while QB Kirk Cousins, quite the opposite, frantically held his hands over the ear holes of his helmet to glean what coach Kevin O'Connell wanted him to do.
The ball wasn't snapped until there were 12 seconds left, and the resulting interception on the play was a fitting end to another frustrating day.
It also provided a bookend to a second half in which the Vikings thrived on big plays but died in the details — the biggest one being communication between the head coach and the quarterback, as Patrick Reusse and I talked about on Monday's Daily Delivery podcast.
A less consequential but equally interesting moment came on the first drive of the third quarter. The Vikings quickly reached midfield on a pair of strong Alexander Mattison runs before an incompletion set up third and 2.
Cousins was lined up in the shotgun with several short and intermediate receiving options. While under duress, a constant theme this season and really during most of Cousins' Vikings tenure, he threw deep and incomplete to Justin Jefferson. The Vikings punted.
After the play, O'Connell was shown by the Fox broadcast looking at least frustrated by the sequence of events, and then talking to Cousins as he came off the field.
After a commercial break, the broadcast showed even more of the conversation between the two before analyst Mark Sanchez, the former NFL quarterback, diagnosed what O'Connell might have wanted out of the play.
"He's got two routes underneath, one by (Alexander) Mattison and then you're going to see the under route on the outside by (K.J.) Osborn," Sanchez said. "He's throwing the deep route, but here you see the route underneath. ... I think Kevin thought he was going to (throw) back underneath. Uncharacteristic of Cousins."
It's hard to know exactly what O'Connell wanted, but it seems like Sanchez's guess was correct: That he saw a higher-percentage short throw that might have yielded a first down.
The exchange between coach and QB was hardly heated or demonstrative — nothing like Cousins in Week 1 — but it is illustrative of the disconnect that still shows up between what O'Connell sees and what he wants Cousins to see.
File that away as the season goes on, especially if the Vikings don't rebound from this 0-3 start as Cousins plays out the final year of his contract.
Here are four more things to know today:
*In case you want to bring things full circle, Sanchez was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Jets, as they moved on from Brett Favre after one season. That paved the way for Favre to sign with the Vikings. Sanchez was also a USC QB — as is the likely No. 1 overall pick in 2024, Caleb Williams.
*This made me laugh.
*Chargers receiver Mike Williams, who left Sunday's game after shredding the Vikings defense for 121 yards on seven catches, reportedly has a torn ACL.
*Wondering how the Vikings could be so bad in the red zone so far this season after being quite good a year ago? I'll break that down on Tuesday's podcast with the help of Star Tribune writer Andrew Krammer.