What Was Kirk Cousins Doing on the Final Offensive Play?

The Minnesota Vikings did not look like the better team at many points during their Wild Card round playoff loss to the New York Giants. In fact, they left the door so wide open that, again, a comeback was needed, and this time Kirk Cousins looked like anything but the guy that orchestrated eight game-winning drives this season.

All year Kirk Cousins has put forth efforts that crush the notion he is unable to get it done when it matters. The Vikings have been in nailbiters almost every week due to a leaky defense, and Cousins allowed them ample opportunity to get back in a contest. On Sunday, though, when Minnesota needed him most, Cousins wilted.

What Was Kirk Cousins Doing on the Final Offensive Play?

Facing a do-or-die situation with the game on the line, Cousins became everything his haters say he is. Despite being paid to lead like a franchise quarterback, he checked down on a pass that gave tight end T.J. Hockenson zero ability to extend the game, and right there, the year was over.

The pocket collapsed in front of Cousins, and he was forced to decide more quickly than he would have liked. Despite seeing all three of his talented wide receivers open on deep routes against a questionable secondary, he went with an option that was not only blanketed but five yards short of the necessary first down.

What Was Kirk Cousins Doing
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

It may be difficult to suggest that making the read is more easily done in hindsight. Certainly, it is easy for someone to analyze what took place on paper while not eluding the pressure coming at your face. All of that is true, but it is also why Cousins is paid roughly $36 million to make the play.

Analysis of the breakdown will be all over the place as Vikings fans look to reason with a 13-4 season ending in turmoil. However, at the core of the issue should be an understanding of the scenario and what has to take place. Facing a must-convert fourth down, there is just no excuse for targeting a pass catcher that is both covered and substantially short of the yards necessary. On this play, it would have been better for Cousins to throw an interception by forcing it into triple coverage down the field than choose what he did.

The Massive Vikings
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Down the stretch in this contest, it was lost on Minnesota that they employ Justin Jefferson. As the game ticked away, he was overlooked in the 4th quarter and seemed to be an afterthought on this play. With any level of coverage against him, allowing Jefferson to make a play would have been a preferable option to the Hockenson check down.

It was a great season for Cousins, and he did plenty to answer his critics in big moments. The Vikings were only as good as they were because of an offense that continually got the job done. Unfortunately, when they needed Cousins to be better one last time, he reverted to old ways.

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.