Despite loss to Lions, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins does some of his best work this season
On Sunday, the Vikings defense forced just two punts, allowing the Lions to score on five of their last six possessions. Their running game produced just 22 yards on 17 carries. And with center Garrett Bradbury and left tackle Christian Darrisaw both out through injury, the Lions pressured Kirk Cousins on 36.4% of his backhands, sacking him three times and forcing him to resign. get rid of eight hits.
It provided the backdrop for the kind of day, in a 34-23 loss, where Cousins is often expected to produce or be unable to deliver. He completed 31 of 41 passes, throwing for two touchdowns and passing for 425 yards, matching his 2018 Week 2 tie total at Green Bay for his most in a Vikings uniform. In the second half alone, Cousins went 14 of 19 for 243 yards, helping Justin Jefferson break Sammy White’s regular-season single-game yards record.
“He was trying to lead our football team to victory,” coach Kevin O’Connell said of Cousins. “The adjustments Justin has made since the last time he played these guys, I thought he was playing incredibly fast and explosive and Kirk was there with him every step of the way. I’m really proud of these guys and I think that will help us continue to help us move forward We did a lot of different things today in the passing game to kind of have a plan of attack based on what we have last seen [against the Lions]. Pair that with a little better of a day chasing football and I think [puts us] offensively in a place where we feel we can compete.”
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Cousins was only expected to complete 58.1% of his passes on Sunday, given the difficulty of the throws he made in the game. He finished with a 75.6% save percentage – 17.5 percentage points above expectations, the fifth-highest figure in the NFL this season.
He did so while the aforementioned pressure tested his footwork and durability. With the Vikings unable to manage the ball effectively and facing a double-digit deficit for much of the second half, the Lions were able to send passers after Cousins with few reserves. The quarterback rolled to his right to avoid a sack in the second quarter, shooting for Jefferson along the sideline, and dodged a sack on the next series before a 13-yard completion to Jefferson.
“You’re going to be hit, you understand that,” Cousins said. “You have your chiropractor, your tissue specialist lined up for Monday afternoon. I’ll be doing the same routine that I’ve been doing for five seasons here in Minnesota and beyond, going back to Washington, just keep using my same routine and We backed up a lot today, and it was on the road, so there are a few challenges that come with that. I was just proud of how the protection held up, and the receivers and tight ends got a separation between the covers.
O’Connell’s point about the running game is important; without an effective complement to keep the Vikings out of obvious passing situations, it’s hard to imagine their offense will be sustainable against the quality of passing rush they might see against Dallas, Philadelphia or San Francisco in the playoffs. .
On Sunday, however, Cousins and Jefferson turned in some of their best work when everyone knew what was coming. It might have done more to shape narratives about the quarterback had he picked up a win, but it was remarkable nonetheless.
A matter of concern
The Vikings Racing Game: According to data from NFL Fast R, the Vikings completed just 37.3% of their rush attempts, the sixth-lowest rate in the league. On Sunday, seven of their 17 race attempts ended in zero gain or loss of yardage. For the season, they had 80 runs stopped for no win or for negative yardage; it’s the fifth-highest total in the league, despite the Vikings’ 303 rush attempts being the fifth-lowest in the NFL.
“We tried to be consistent with that and were able to make over 25, 27, 28 carry-type plays that [average] four or five [yards] a carry,” O’Connell said. “It’s one thing not to really have those explosives, but it’s another to have the negatives. I think we had five [negative runs] today, so first and foremost, we need to eliminate the negatives in the racing game. I think that’s where when we count hat on hat in the box, and we have a plan, that’s where the execution word tends to come up, but yeah, that’s gonna be a goal major, making sure we continue to have some balance with our attack to help try and put pressure on the defence.”
A trend to watch
Role of Brian Asamoah: We’ve mentioned that before, especially since O’Connell has said he wants the rookie linebacker to play more often. But with Jordan Hicks scheduled for an MRI of his left foot after sustaining the injury on Sunday, Asamoah could play a bigger role in the coming weeks before the playoffs. He had 12 defensive snaps on Sunday, his second all-game record this season. If he’s asked to play more in the final four games of the regular season, it could help keep Hicks healthier for the playoffs and give the Vikings the chance to use the rookie’s speed either as a pass- pass, either in order to counter some of the intermediate routes. who have given the Vikings a hard time in recent weeks.
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