As has become tradition this season, the Vikings’ fanbase is once again melting down after one loss. Are the Vikings on the same tier as the Eagles and Chiefs? No. Are they down with the Commanders and Seahawks? Also no. Are they actually frauds? It depends on the expectations you’re holding Minnesota to. Now that we got the yelling into the void out of the way, I’d like to look at the one positive I can pull from Sunday’s game.
To get straight to the point, Kirk Cousins absolutely can be that guy. He’s no Patrick Mahomes or Jalen Hurts (on the other hand, we can all thank the Lord above he’s no Russell Wilson or Daniel Jones) but the man can certainly play some good football. Kirk threw for 425 yards in a thrashing of the Lions’ secondary — unfortunately still not enough to win — with over half of those yards going to his favorite target and indisputably best all-around receiver in the league, Justin Jefferson. What made Cousins’ day even more impressive was the utter lack of a threat posed by the running game. Running back Dalvin Cook had an abysmal performance, rushing 15 times for 23 yards — harkening back to my previous article on why Cook’s performance is key to Vikings victories — behind an offensive line that couldn’t push a Kleenex out of the way on Sunday.
Particularly under former head coach Mike Zimmer, Kirk Cousins thrived on play action passes. He has consistently been a top 5, if not top 3 or top 1, statistical performer in the league on play action passes throughout the past few years. Part of that success stemmed from a running game which opposing defenses had to respect. There was no respectable running game to be found against the Lions, leading to lower effectiveness rates on play action passes. Despite the Lions taking away Cousins’ best plays, the controversial Vikings quarterback worked his way to a 91.6 PFF rating to go along with his above 75% completion percentage, 425 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Despite the loss, I gained a lot of respect for Cousins in this game due to his success without any semblance of a running game along with his 2021-like performance. Statistically, Cousins has actually been playing quite a bit worse this season than last, despite the drastically improved team record. He has made quite a few head scratching throws that have either cost or almost cost the Vikings games and overall not looked like the same guy who went for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions — he already has 9 this year — on a 66.3 completion percentage just a season ago. The statistical downgrades are certainly something any fan is willing to trade for wins, but it is reassuring to see our quarterback play like a franchise QB. Cousins may not be the answer for the next decade that some teams have found, but it’s important to realize that trying to draft a guy like Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Hurts, and all the other elite young QBs comes with the risk of drafting a Josh Rosen/Mitchell Trubisky/Marcus Mariota, a Baker Mayfield/Sam Darnold middle of the road type who has not lived up to their draft capital or a guy who the jury is still out on after two seasons like Justin Fields.
It’s important for Vikings fans to remember that stability at the QB position is a privilege, not a right. We don’t want to end up like the Colts, Panthers or Commanders, endlessly trading for and signing any QB they can get their hands on in an attempt to find someone merely competent. Our Super Bowl window is very much open, and a guy like Kirk Cousins — who is notably better than two time Super Bowl winner Jimmy Garoppolo — may be worth sticking with while trying to find that young stud to lead the franchise for a decade plus.