The Minnesota Vikings lost 34-23 in Detroit to the division-rival Lions on Sunday, suffering their third loss this season.
Because of the loss, Minnesota has to wait at least another week to clinch the NFC North title, while Detroit’s victory helps them get closer to a playoff spot at 6-7. The Lions’ record is especially notable considering they started the season 1-6, and their only loss in the past six weeks has been by three points to the Buffalo Bills.
The Minnesota defense has not been spectacular all year, but it has been atrocious so far in the second half of the NFL season. The team has allowed over 400 yards in each of its last five games, the longest single-season streak in franchise history.
Injuries have certainly been factors in the defense’s flaws, but even at full strength, the unit is lackluster. Star safety Harrison Smith and under-the-radar cornerback Akayleb Evans were both out for Sunday’s game, leaving the secondary with many less-than-experienced players.
Lions QB Jared Goff diced up the weakened defense for 330 yards and three TDs, however, he was not the passer to watch during the game.
Overshadowed by the defensive meltdown happening throughout the game was a stellar performance by Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Although Cousins has taken a step down from the prior season when he threw 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, he has been reliable in the clutch when needed.
In Detroit, Cousins threw for a season-high 425 yards and two touchdowns, enough to lead the league in passing yards for Week 14. This was only Cousins’ second time this season throwing for over 300 yards, the last being in the overtime thriller versus the Buffalo Bills in November where he put up 357. Aside from passing yards, Cousins also led the league in passer rating for QBs with a minimum of 25 attempts with 124.5.
Targeted most by Cousins in the game was wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who quietly broke the franchise’s single-game receiving yardage record of 210 set by Sammy White in 1976. Jefferson finished the game with 223 yards and possibly could have had over 250 if not for being ruled out of bounds on a play where it looked like he may have stayed in before running into the endzone for a would-be touchdown. He has become the favorite receiver of Kirk Cousins, having 51 more targets than the second-highest targeted player this season, Adam Thielen.
Cousins during his time in Minnesota has historically performed well against the Lions, averaging just under 300 yards per game and throwing an impressive 22 touchdowns to just two interceptions in his 10 games played.
Although the team has plenty to improve upon, mostly on the defensive side of the ball, Vikings fans should have something to be excited about with this performance by the team’s franchise QB. Many have been looking for this version of Kirk Cousins, and it could be arriving at the perfect time with the postseason coming up.