Playoff Loss Still Stings for Vikings QB1

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is a four-time Pro Bowler in Las Vegas this week to participate in the NFL’s revamped Pro Bowl event.

But he still has his team’s playoff loss to the New York Giants on his mind.

Playoff Loss Still Stings for Vikings QB1

Cousins’ Vikings lost 31-24 to the upstart Giants on Wildcard Weekend at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota chose the worst possible moment to fire up its lousiest defensive performance of the season, and with the game on the line, Cousins threw an infamous dinker pass to tight end T.J. Hockenson on 4th and 8. Cousins was under duress from the Giants defensive line and was about to get sacked, but some Vikings fans still believed he could’ve heaved the ball to Justin Jefferson — who was covered by New York’s secondary.

Playoff Loss Still Stings
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Life goes on indeed, but that doesn’t mean Cousins has fully put the loss to bed. Speaking to NFL Network‘s Cameron Wolfe in Las Vegas Friday, Cousins reflected on the season and regrettable postseason loss, “I think 13 wins was special. They were all close. When we won, it was usually close nailbiters. But it was a great season — fun to win the division.”

Year 1 of the O'Connell Era
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes the ball against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

You always remember falling short in the home playoff game, which still hurts, but a lot to build on from this year, and there’s a lot of great players coming back,” Cousins lamented about the early postseason exit.

Cousins is under contract through the end of next season, and the next two months will entail a Vikings front-office decision on his future. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could let his contract stand as-is, extend Cousins by an extra year or two — which is usually what happens for Cousins’ deal — or trade the 34-year-old. Cousins has a no-trade clause in his contract, so if the Vikings wanted to explore his departure, he’d have to sign off on the destination.

San Francisco Newspaper
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks to pass against the New York Giants during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

In all likelihood, Cousins will remain the team’s QB1 for 2023, as the Michigan State alumnus hit a stride with head coach Kevin O’Connell in 2022, especially late in games. Cousins tied the NFL’s single-season record for game-winning drives with eight, and the passer hasn’t had offensive coordinator continuity since 2016. Vikings OC Wes Phillips declined an interview with Los Angeles Chargers amid this year’s coaching carousel, and Cousins should enjoy offensive continuity for the first time in seven years if all goes according to plan.

Some national voices were disillusioned with Cousins’ playoff performance, though, targeting the “short of the sticks” throw as evidence of gridiron malpractice. Pro Football Talk‘s Mike Florio, in particular, barnstormed the media recently to chide Cousins. Florio told The Paul Allen Show on January 25th, “Joe Burrow is the anti-Kirk Cousins. Joe Burrow is the guy who, like Kirk, will have a great season. But when the lights get bright, you’ve got one game, and your whole season is riding on it — do you crumble, or do you rise? Joe Burrow rises. Kirk crumbles.”

“Kirk doesn’t have it. You can take your rose-colored glasses and shove them up your butt,” Florio concluded.

If Cousins starts for the Vikings in Week 1 of 2023, he’ll join Fran Tarkenton and Daunte Culpepper as the only quarterbacks in Vikings history to start six Week 1 games in a row.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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