50% of The Vikings’ Games Needed a Secret Ingredient to Win

These Vikings Are Designed
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates after throwing a touchdown to wide receiver Adam Thielen (not pictured) during the fourth against the Indianapolis Colts quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota has 14 games in the rear view mirror. A full 50% of the Vikings’ games have needed a critical ingredient to snag victory: game-winning drives from Kirk Cousins. The 34-year-old is currently sitting on a career-high 7 game-winning drives, first overall in the NFL.

The Vikings’ Games and The Winning QB

Since the Colts victory, there has been plenty of criticism directed at Minnesota’s QB1. Some think that he didn’t actually play that well. The ESPN QBR suggests he played badly and Sam Monson from PFF defended his site’s modest assessment of Cousins’ game:

PFF gives Cousins a 57.4 grade for his work. His passing grade was a very modest 58.2. It’s an assessment that suggests his day wasn’t disastrous but also far from dominant.

Cousins threw for 460 yards and 4 TDs. The 2 interceptions are bad, but we mustn’t forget that those mistakes don’t exist in isolation. There’s a case to be made that Jalen Reagor was at least partly to blame for those picks.

Regardless of where one stands on the QB1’s performance on Saturday, we can look toward an indisputable fact: Kirk Cousins is responsible for leading 7 game-winning drives. That means that 50% of Minnesota’s games have featured the QB leading his squad to victory in crunch time.

When you sign a quarterback to massive money, the hope is that he can do precisely what Cousins is doing: performing in the most critical moments. Indeed, the Vikings’ games have often featured some stellar play from Cousins as the clock is marching toward 0:00.

As some of you will know by now, I’m a believer in wins as a QB stat. That’s a stance that will inspire some debate and plenty of misunderstanding, but we won’t get into that too much at this point. Instead, allow me to simply offer some praise for the QB1 for being instrumental in his team having an 11-3 record. The game-winning drives prove that he’s been central to the Vikings’ success.

Going into Week 16, Cousins has a 65.3 completion percentage (16th in the NFL), 3818 passing yards (6th in the NFL), 24 passing TDs (tied for 5th in the NFL), and 11 interceptions (tied for 3rd in the NFL). For whatever it’s worth, QBs like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Dak Prescott similarly have 11 interceptions.

The Vikings 2022 Offense by the Numbers: After Week 15
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota’s next opponent is the New York Giants, a team that currently holds onto the #6 seed in the NFC. Daniel Jones is coming in at 2nd overall in the NFL in game-winning drives with a total of 5 in the 2022 season. The Giants’ QB, quite evidently, has been similarly clutch at various points in the season.

Looking Ahead

The Vikings’ games are nearing their conclusion. The only remaining opponents are the aforementioned Giants and then back-to-back road games against the Packers and Bears. One has to think that Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings would be thrilled to push their record up to at least 12 or 13 wins.

Cousins’ season has been far from perfect. On the contrary, we’ve seen him struggle at various points. While the stats haven’t been as abundant as in past years, he has been giving his team the right stats. When Minnesota has needed a play late in the game, the QB1 has been able to deliver with such consistency that it’s hard not to be confident in him.

Minnesota’s next game is scheduled to begin at 12 CST on Christmas Eve. If the season continues on its current trajectory, Cousins may even get another shot to put together a clutch drive late in the game.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and PFF helped with this piece.