Pain. All I feel is pain. Smiling through it all. This past Sunday, CBS put the country out of its misery and turned off the Vikings Cowboys game as the blowout was just too depressing to watch. Kirk Cousins was mercifully subbed out in the 4th quarter for Nick Mullens and the team was given an extra homework assignment before the Patriots game on thursday: find out what went wrong. Thankfully, Cousins can breathe a sigh of relief as the odds it was his fault are rather slim, but that won’t stop talking heads from throwing him under the bus regardless.
Anyone who wants to blame Cousins for this game simply didn’t watch the game at all. Cousins was pressured on 63% of his passes, more than Mahomes in the 2020 Super Bowl. That’s not gonna win you football games. Football is won at the line of scrimmage, and losing the battle in the trenches is a sure fire way to lose a game entirely and Minnesota did just that on both sides of the ball. Cousins barely had time to look down the field after snapping the ball, let alone getting the ball out in the first place. For those saying this is at fault due to Cousins’ stiffness and lack of mobility in the pocket, I’d like to remind you that mobile quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes fared just as poorly with less pressured snaps. This had nothing to do with mobility, this was Minnesota losing at the line of scrimmage, there’s no debating it. They didn’t just lose that battle on offense, however.
Defensively, this team was torn apart. The “bend but don’t break” unit proceeded to bend, and bend, and bend until Dallas scored on 7 straight drives, forcing Minnesota to abandon the running game, the one thing that was working, in order to play catch up football. Minnesota literally couldn’t play to the one advantage they had because the defense let the score pile on. When Dallas is succeeding at rushing your passer, and you have no choice to throw the ball, guess what’s gonna happen. Ed Donatell saw his precious shell coverage crack open like an Alaskan red king crab as Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliot feasted on play after play. The run defense, which had been a weakness all season, was once again leading to the team’s downfall. Minnesota simply couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down and it was killing them.
Then there’s the case with Andrew Booth who was getting his first career start, against Michael Gallup. Trial by fire. Anyone blaming Booth is once again immaturely looking to point fingers at a loss when Booth was forced to play conservatively by the defensive scheming. When playing shell coverage, you’re taught to sit back by design, and that just made things worse for Booth. Time and time again his match up ran a short route and Booth was forced to prematurely close the distance and attempt a tackle and unfortunately fail. Booth had little safety help, and was burned on a few plays thanks to that gaping hole behind him. Donatell did Booth and the rest of that defense zero favors and it appeared he didn’t even make any suitable halftime adjustments either. This was a team loss, and anyone blaming Cousins is flat out ridiculous.
Minnesota was coming off of the game of a lifetime, and media pundits all over were expecting them to crash and burn the week after because that’s what this team is unfortunately known for. More importantly, all eyes were on Cousins, and instead of recognizing this as a team loss because football is without a doubt a team game, blame is still sure to come in his direction. People need to further narratives, regardless of how right or wrong they are. They don’t care, they’ll stake their whole careers on bringing down athletes cause it’s “what the people want”. Truthfully, we just want honest and good reporting that tells the real story about games like this, and unfortunately that’s getting scarcer and scacer by the day. I don’t doubt that the next week is going to be filled with talking heads like Skip Bayless or Max Kellerman ripping Cousins for his prime time record, which may just be the most ridiculous stat anyone’s pulled out to criticize a player, probably ever.
This loss wasn’t pretty, it may have vindicated a lot of people who doubted the team, and it brings in real questions for us fans, mostly concerning the offense line and defensive scheming, but thankfully it’s only this team’s second loss of the season. There’s plenty of room for the Eagles to botch the season and Minnesota to catch up, hell they barely beat Jeff Saturday by one point. The cracks are beginning to show in Philly, Minnesota just needs to stay patient and avoid being complacent. Despite what some of the media may be telling you, this loss isn’t to blame on Kirk Cousins, it’s more or less enigmatic of all the issues I’ve criticized this team for all season. Just don’t be like every other “contender” in years past that’s been exposed in the playoffs, and we’ll be fine.