Kirk Cousins Praises Late Bloomer After Breakout Game

Aug 5, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Brandon Powell (19) during training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings had to win the Week 7 matchup against the 49ers to become relevant in the NFC playoff hunt. That was hard to do, as the 49ers have been an elite team for years and still look sharp in 2023. In addition, the Vikings were without Justin Jefferson, arguably the best receiver in the NFL. Because of his absence, other guys had to step up and be effective, and the receiving corps played a phenomenal game.

Kirk Cousins Praises Late Bloomer After Breakout Game

Quarterback Kirk Cousins had one of his best performances since joining the Vikings in 2018, firing up 378 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Rookie Jordan Addison and Pro Bowler T.J. Hockenson combined for 18 catches for 209 yards and two scores in what will go down in the history books as Addison’s breakout game. Both top receivers had brief absences in the contest because of minor injuries, so Cousins had to rely on other guys.

Kirk Cousins Praises Late Bloomer After Breakout Game
Oct 23, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) runs the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

One of them was Brandon Powell, primarily Minnesota’s punt returner. He ranked third in receiving yards, producing 64 yards on four grabs while coming up big in some key moments. He also had a rushing attempt for five yards. Powell only caught a single pass for five yards in the first four games of his tenure with the Vikings but racked up 11 receptions for 127 yards in the three games since.

There is certainly a correlation between his breakout and Jefferson’s departure in Week 5 and his stint on IR in Weeks 6 and 7. Two of Powell’s most productive games of his career came in the last three weeks. Cousins praised his weapon:

He was a college running back who really was a receiver and it’s been amazing (to see) his football journey and how he has carved out a career for himself. Watching him in training camp the way he played, you could just see this guy separates versus man coverage and those guys are hard to find. He’s a playmaker and he’s pretty natural and having been a college running back, he’s going to be physical in the run game, he’s going to understand what he has to do to help in other ways.

I texted him after the game and just said ‘The player you were on Monday night is kind of the player I see you being game in and game out. It’s kind of what I expect from you because I think you do separate versus man, you do make plays after the catch.’ We’re fortunate to have him.

Kirk Cousins
Vikings Add Super
Dec 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandon Powell (19) reacts with defensive end Mike Hoecht (96) against the Minnesota Vikings during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The journeyman entered the league as an undrafted player in 2018 as he signed with the Lions. Playing running back as a freshman in college, he was deemed too short to continue to play at that position and transitioned to play receiver in his sophomore year. He was a depth receiver and backup returner in his debut season but failed to make the team in 2019. The Florida product joined Atlanta’s practice squad, and he played in 15 games with the Falcons, once again as a backup receiver, and returned both kicks and punts.

He then had short stints in Buffalo on the preseason roster and Miami’s practice squad in 2021 before he was added to the practice squad of the Rams, the eventual Super Bowl champions. His new offensive coordinator was Kevin O’Connell. Vikings fans perhaps remember his punt return touchdown in 2021 against their favorite team in a game that virtually ended Minnesota’s season. He stayed with the organization in 2022 as the top returner before O’Connell brought him in to compete with Jalen Reagor for the punt return job.

Oct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) catches a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (38) in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In training camp and the preseason, Powell beat out Reagor and proved to be a superior player on offense and special teams. So far, he has caught 12 passes for 132 yards and rushed thrice for 13 yards. As a returner, Powell gained 85 yards on 14 plays, fumbling once against the Eagles at the end of his best return.

The receiver is 28 years old and has shown some flashes in the 2023 season. He could earn a larger role if he continues to be a reliable option in the passing game. Players rarely improve that late in their careers, but Powell appears to be an outlier.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt