The Minnesota Vikings’ Week 3 game against the Los Angeles Chargers was billed as “must-win” for the two teams, as both sides were winless going into the contest. Many media experts and fans (myself included), picked the Chargers to win the game for one reason- quarterback. Well, this game truly showcased the difference between Kirk Cousins and Justin Herbert, who is among the league’s elite at the game’s most important position.
It’s not just that the Vikings lost the game, 28-24, to drop to 0-3 on the year. It’s about the fact that the Vikings do not have an elite QB that is able to overcome the deficiencies of his flawed roster, something Herbert can do very well. Did the team lose because of Kirk? No, but he is not without blame either.
As the two teams approached the end of the first half, the teams were tied 7-7, and the Vikings had possession of the football. After a 25-yard completion to Justin Jefferson gave the team first-and-goal at the Chargers’ 10-yard line, the team went backwards. After a false start pushed the team back five yards, Kirk completed one of his following four passes, though the one completion had a penalty tacked onto it that gave Minnesota a first and goal from the Chargers’ five. After a run by Alexander Mattison went backwards for two yards, two Kirk incompletions forced the team to settle for a field goal from the Chargers’ five-yard line. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the fact that Herbert faced the same dilemma on his following drive. His team ran the ball three times following a first and goal on the Vikings’ six, but after their running back got stuffed at the one-yard line, the Chargers trusted Herbert to go for it- and he responded by tossing his second touchdown of the day. The score was 14-10 Chargers at half.
The start of the second half was not much better. Both quarterbacks faced adversity on their opening drives of the half, as the Vikings had to punt, while the Chargers missed a field goal. However, on the Vikings’ second drive on the half, despite starting with excellent field position from their own 43, the team had to punt the ball from the Chargers’ 46- in no small part because Kirk was conversative with the ball (he completed three short throws for a grand total of 20 yards), and then took a sack that forced the team to punt. The following drive saw Herbert complete a 25-yard throw to Keenan Allen, who then proceeded to throw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams on the next play that extended the Chargers’ lead to 21-10.
After two Vikings touchdowns put them in front by a score of 24-21, Herbert’s third touchdown pass of the day gave the Chargers a 28-24 lead (for what would be the game’s final score), and that’s where things got- weird.
After an efficient drive that saw the Vikings face a first-and-goal from the Chargers’ three, things went backward again. The Vikings eventually got to third and goal at the Chargers’ two, and decided to pass. Kirk’s response? Throw to Justin Jefferson- twice. Both throws were ruled incomplete, and this included an illegal shift penalty on Jefferson on the second attempt. The game, however, was not over. The walking punchline known as Brandon Staley was up to his old bag of tricks and decided not to trust Herbert on a fourth-down at his own 24, giving it to the backup running back instead. The Vikings stuffed him, and got the ball back. Their final drive would showcase Kirk’s flaws in a nutshell.
On that final drive, Kirk checked down multiple times from the 24, including completing three passes to T.J. Hockenson. Eventually, the Vikings faced a goal-to-go situation at the six, needing a touchdown. Once again, he checked down to Hockenson- but the pass was tipped and intercepted by Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray. Game over, Chargers win. That’s not all, however.
On the final play of the game, Kirk had a chance to spike the ball, which likely would’ve given the team a better scoring chance on that drive. Why he didn’t do it? Apparently, the home crowd was too loud for him to hear coach O’Connell’s play call- you read that right. Kirk Cousins, who is now in his 12th season as an NFL QB, needed his coach’s input to make a potentially game-winning play. WHY!? He has been in the league long enough to know that he shouldn’t need the coach to tell him what to do. How many of the league’s elite QBs have defied coach’s orders and just dialed up plays on their own? Apparently Kirk’s usual teeth-clenching in primetime games has extended to the regular season. There is just absolutely no excuse for needing that play-call, Kirk. You’re a veteran in this league, you should know what to do when you’re on your own in these situations. I bet that Staley and the Chargers coaches allowed Herbert to dial up that fourth-and-goal play late in the second quarter on his own, the play that led to a Charger touchdown.
Once again, Kirk proved that he is a trailer among NFL QBs. He needs to be supported everywhere, from coaching to roster. His great box score numbers translates to nothing more than metric tons of fantasy football points when things aren’t going perfectly. Kirk cannot overcome the Vikings’ current makeshift offensive line and once-again crappy defense, and the Vikings are now 0-3 as a result. Unlike Kirk, Herbert showed today that he CAN overcome those deficiencies and be able to carry a team when things aren’t great- which is what makes him one of a few tractors at the QB position- someone who can put the team on his back when things aren’t going well.
The Chargers proved today they have a guy who can overcome significant obstacles, and the Vikings once again showed they don’t. Not all hope is lost, though. If the Vikings continue to lose, they can potentially land a top prospect from the upcoming QB draft class- the most loaded in years! Unfortunately for Viking fans, Kirk will most likely win us enough games to keep us from finishing in a good-enough spot to land that coveted young, franchise-changing signal caller we have lacked since Fran Tarkenton.
Before I end this article, I just wanted say good game, Chargers. Justin Herbert is one of my favorite QBs to watch, and it sucks that he had to have a great game against my team today. Now, I can go back to wishing him great successes this season.
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