Safety Josh Metellus used "devastated" a few times Monday to describe the mood on the Vikings' chartered flight back to Minneapolis after Sunday's 24-10 win in Green Bay, where quarterback Kirk Cousins suffered what was confirmed to be a season-ending torn right Achilles tendon.

But then Metellus, a first-year team captain, was quick to note the team's 3-0 record without receiver Justin Jefferson and a defense that's rolling. Safety Camryn Bynum echoed that thought, saying the Vikings defense has to continue their game-changing ways.

The Vikings have allowed only 16 points per game during a 4-1 stretch, including a season-low 10 points to the Packers. They're flirting with being a top-10 defense for the first time since 2019, currently ranking 12th in yardage allowed per game (322.8). They've also forced seven takeaways in a three-game win streak.

"That's the mindset we have to have — lean on us," said Bynum, the team's leading tackler. "Even before the injury happened, the mindset of the whole defense was making our plays when they come to us and even more so now, make it easier on the offense … give them the ball as many times as possible."

Metellus said defenders feel the need to lead the team.

"We got a good thing going," he said. "We just got to step it up even more in a situation like this. I think we still have full faith in our team and what we can accomplish this season."

Defensive coordinator Brian Flores used 20 different players — from Bynum's 68 snaps to rookie defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy's 12 — against the Packers. Confidence is building.

"It's really been fun to be able to play with a different freedom, and really to know that we're capable of doing things," Bynum said. "We've seen the success we've had this season, especially moving forward we know plays can be made and we're capable."

The NFL announced Metellus was fined $11,167 for unnecessary roughness in the win against the 49ers. He initiated helmet-to-helmet contact on 49ers tight end George Kittle during a 16-yard catch. He was fined the same amount the previous week for a hit on Bears quarterback Justin Fields.

Vikings' QB learning curve

Coach Kevin O'Connell admitted the "challenge" in teaching the Vikings playbook to a potential new quarterback in the middle of the season. O'Connell said the offense is different and has "evolved" even for someone such as quarterback Sean Mannion, who is in his fourth week on the practice squad and also spent 2022 training camp in O'Connell's offense.

Mannion, 31, is in his fourth stint as a backup to Cousins. He also played under former Vikings coordinators Klint Kubiak, Gary Kubiak and Kevin Stefanski in 2019-2021.

"Football wise, there's always little changes even with the same scheme," said Mannion, who has started two games for the Vikings. "There's always little details, different terms, things you're doing differently now from my last time here. It's nice to have familiar faces. I've been with this organization so long now, to be away and come back, it always makes it easier."

Osborn finds rhythm

Receiver K.J. Osborn had a season-high eight catches on 10 targets for 99 yards on Sunday. Most of it — four catches for 60 yards — came on a scoring drive in the third quarter. At one point, Osborn had three consecutive grabs as Cousins quickly found him in the holes of the Packers' zone-heavy coverage.

"I just got in a rhythm," Osborn said. "When I get opportunities, I try to make the best of them. A lot of those opportunities usually come third down, fourth down, overtime, whenever they come … I was getting comfortable."

Osborn, a free agent in March, has 30 catches for 360 yards and two touchdowns this season. The Vikings are the NFL's second-ranked passing attack (280.5 yards per game), and the only team with four different players eclipsing 300 receiving yards: Osborn, tight end T.J. Hockenson, rookie Jordan Addison and Jefferson, who has played only five games.


* In the wake of Cousins' injury, the Vikings (4-4) opened as 4.5-point underdogs for Sunday's game in Atlanta, according to sportsbooks. It's the largest spread favoring the Falcons (4-4) this season.