The Kansas City Chiefs defense has sent extra rushers after quarterbacks so much recently that Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said, “It could be their identity now,” as he exaggerated seeing “16, 17, 18 blitzes in a row” on recent film.
That approach, if Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo keeps his foot on the gas Sunday against quarterback Kirk Cousins, could lead to boom-or-bust plays for the Vikings. Perhaps more boom than bust as Cousins leads the NFL with a 130 passer rating against the blitz this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
“There’s a risk/reward to it,” coordinator Kevin Stefanski said Thursday. “We as coaches and players have to understand there are big plays to be had when a team blitzes. The ball has to sometimes come out because you’re not [protected].”
When Cousins was in Washington, he recalled coordinator Kyle Shanahan “praying for” blitzes because of the opportunities they presented. He has pounced on those openings for the Vikings.
“Pressure obviously voids zones,” Cousins said. “Voided zones open up throwing lanes. The key is you’ve got to be able to pick up those pressures and be able to get the ball out of your hand. It’s a great testament to protection, the O-line, scheme and plan so when they do pressure it’s picked up.”
Injury tests Thielen
Receiver Adam Thielen said he’s “not very good with patience,” but his injured hamstring has tested him after missing last week’s win vs. Washington and all but the first drive of the win in Detroit. His return likely will come Sunday in Kansas City.
Thielen added he was “pretty optimistic” about playing last week, despite remaining limited in Thursday’s practice.
“I wasn’t taking every rep I normally take, but this time of the season there’s just no point to that,” Thielen said Thursday. “Just make sure your body is feeling good by Sunday.”
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce were part of the same 2008 recruiting class out of Ohio, where Rudolph graduated from Elder (Cincinnati) and Kelce from Cleveland Heights. Kelce leads all NFL tight ends in receiving yards this season.
“When we came out of high school, Travis was a quarterback,” Rudolph said. “So, I could be the highest-rated tight end in the state of Ohio in 2008 because Travis was a quarterback. If he had been a tight end, I probably wouldn’t have been first.”
Cousins was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for October after completing 78.1% of his passes for 1,262 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception — which was deflected — during the Vikings’ four-game win streak.
Cousins also was so honored with Washington in December 2015 and November 2016. He’s the first Vikings player to win the award since quarterback Case Keenum in November 2017.
Cornerback Josh Robinson, a 2012 third-round pick (66th overall) by the Vikings, announced his retirement from the NFL this week after eight seasons.
Robinson played more than half of his 97 NFL games for the Vikings, including all 21 starts. He was primarily a special teams ace for the Vikings, Buccaneers, Saints and, most recently, the Jaguars.
“Eight incredible years have come with its shares of challenges and victories,” Robinson, 28, posted Thursday on his Twitter account. “Thank you Vikings, Tampa Bay, Saints and Jaguars for helping my dreams come true.”