Let me Reid between the lines…
Last week, I wrote an article on why Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was not to blame for the loss against Seattle. But, yesterday’s loss against the Falcons was definitely his fault.
During the Seahawks game, Cousins struggled when his offensive line repeatedly collapsed. However, against the Falcons, Cousins’ struggles were not linked to a failing offensive line. Cousins was only sacked once on the day, even with a rookie filling in at right guard.
While his protection wasn’t perfect, he was given enough time to make smart decisions with no defenders in his face. Nonetheless, he threw three interceptions.
Let’s take a closer look at each pick.
Even with standout rookie Justin Jefferson as your intended receiver, you simply can’t force the ball into triple coverage. If a quarterback is going to try a risky throw, it’s best done deep in the other team’s territory. That way, a pick would be more like a short punt, as the opposing team would have to drive the length of the field to score. Regrettably, Cousins threw this pick from deep in his own territory. Advantage Falcons.
Throughout the game, it was no secret to the Atlanta defense when and where Cousins was going to throw the ball. Minnesota’s veteran quarterback repeatedly made the rookie mistake of staring down his receivers, or “bird dogging.”
Cousins also has another concerning “tell.” Right before he throws, Cousins partially cocks the football back and pats it with his left hand. I’m not sure why he or his coaching staff haven’t worked to eliminate this, as it gives defenders a big clue when the ball is about to be thrown. These two tells led to Cousins’ second interception.
While Cousins’ third pick might not have seemed like his fault, I believe it was. The ball was batted at the line of scrimmage before deflecting into another defender’s hands. This kind of play can be a fluke, but Cousins did his signature ball-patting tell during the play, cueing the defensive lineman on when to raise/bat his hands. Perhaps this turnover was as avoidable as the others.
Aside from the interceptions, Cousins also demonstrated poor decision making. In two third-down situations, he threw the ball to fourth-stringer Chad Beebe (who was short of the first down) rather than his best pass catchers. Scouts call this mental processing, and this skill ties in with the earlier picks. If Cousins doesn’t improve this part of his game soon, he could be benched, or find himself playing for a new coach.