Can Kirk Cousins Learn New Tricks?
It’s become a generally accepted principle at this point that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and the spotlight go together like oil and water. He doesn’t perform well in primetime games, and we’ve seen that play out far too often since he’s come to Minnesota. Maybe though, the spotlight is dim enough to succeed when the game matters most?
The Vikings had a question about how they would handle their franchise quarterback this offseason. With a massive cap number and the opportunity to move things around, certain teams would’ve entertained taking him on under center. Instead, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell decided to stick with the signal caller they were handed.
For better or worse, it’s now on all parties to make it work.
Through four games, the results have been positive as a whole. Cousins dissected a Packers defense that didn’t know what hit them during Week 1, and he held his own against a Lions defense that has given up the most points in football during Week 3. The clunker in Week 2 against the Eagles is something we’ll reanalyze, but it’s the way he ended a Week 4 game against the New Orleans Saints that brings up this discussion.
For the better part of three quarters, the Red Rifle himself, Andy Dalton, outplayed Cousins. Despite weapons that seriously lagged what Cousins had at his disposal, Dalton avoided mistakes and picked his spots against the Vikings defense. He found success to the tune of 8 yards per reception and put up a 108.6 quarterback rating in his first action of the season. Then Kirk took over.
As he did the week prior against Detroit, Cousins drove the Vikings down the field and ultimately allowed them to win the game. Against New Orleans, he completed four of six passes spanning 63 yards. It looked like he found the rhythm lost from the game’s opening drive. 8:30 am central time may not be your traditional primetime action, but make no mistake, if you were watching football, it was Cousins in London on Sunday morning.
The Eagles game still stands out as a problem for any Cousins turnaround. He completed just over 58% of his passes and threw three interceptions to the Philadelphia secondary. Darius Slay had his way with the Vikings signal caller, and Justin Jefferson was all but shut down. That tilt was a Monday Night Football contest, truly in primetime on national television. It’s been in those spots where Cousins has struggled most.
There’s probably a correlation between the opponent’s strength and the struggles Cousins has seen during primetime. Typically those matchups are of greater contention or more significant interest. Either way, it’s definitely welcomed that Cousins has shown an ability on consecutive weeks to lead comeback drives when the Vikings need him most.
Minnesota won’t avoid the spotlight this year, facing the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving night, and they’ll undoubtedly be broadcast heavily if a deep playoff run is to be expected. No team can afford to pay a wilting quarterback so handsomely, and the dollars are already spent, so O’Connell helping to teach his old dog new tricks would be more than a welcomed reality.
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Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.