Kevin Stefanski returns to longtime home when Browns visit Vikings
Kevin Stefanski said it will be all business on Sunday when he leads the visiting Cleveland Browns against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Stefanki was the NFL Coach of the Year in 2020 when he led the Browns to the playoffs, but spent the 14 previous years with the Vikings working his way through the offensive coaching staff before becoming offensive coordinator. Sunday will be his first matchup against Minnesota, and it’s one both the Browns (2-1) and Vikings (1-2) need for division considerations.
“It’s a special place,” Stefanski said Wednesday. “I had a great time there and was treated great by the organization, from the ownership, coaches, and the staff. I have really good friends there.
“With that said, it’s a really big game. They’re a really good team. That has our full attention.”
Minnesota has a losing record, but is four points removed from being undefeated after an overtime loss at Cincinnati (27-24) in Week 1 and a one-point setback at Arizona (34-33) in Week 2. Last week, the Vikings put it all together in a 30-17 win over visiting Seattle.
A big reason why Minnesota has been so competitive rests with quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is playing at one of the highest levels of his career. Cousins (918 passing yards) is averaging more than 300 yards per game, has notched eight touchdowns and doesn’t have a single turnover through three games.
“You give him a clean pocket, best in the game, man,” said Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook. “That’s how good I feel about my quarterback.”
Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said Cousins’ early-season emergence rests on the quarterback and the skill position players in place — like Cook and wide receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson (a combined 41 catches, 435 yards and six TDs) — and not the weekly film review sessions he’s taken with Cousins.
“I think he’s just good,” Zimmer said. “I don’t think I have anything to do with it.”
Cleveland counters with a defense that posted a franchise-best nine sacks last week while holding the Chicago Bears to just 47 total yards in a 26-6 win. Defensive end Myles Garrett had a franchise-record 4.5 sacks against the Bears, and leads the NFL with 5.5.
“He’s our best player. We know that, and the other teams know that,” Stefanski said.
Cleveland will be fighting to stay tied atop the AFC North with Baltimore and Cincinnati, and has the offense — under Stefanski’s tutelage — to potentially match Cousins and the Vikings. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has been steady, running backs Nick Chubb (262 rushing yards, three TDs) and Kareem Hunt (165, two TDs) are as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the league, and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (five catches for 77 yards) blended in seamlessly last week after returning from injury.
Cleveland will play without rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II (calf), who has already been ruled out. Offensive line starters Jedrick Wills Jr. (left tackle, ankle) and JC Tretter (center, knee) did not participate in practice on Wednesday.
The Vikings rested several vets and had four defensive contributors — including linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) — limited on Wednesday. Tight end Tyler Conklin (glute/elbow) did not participate.
But the Vikings may have Cook back in the mix after he missed last week with an ankle injury. Cook was limited on Wednesday, but the two-time Pro Bowler said he was “extremely confident” that he would be available.
“I’m attacking the rehab real hard,” he said. “We’ll see how I respond.”
–Field Level Media