Though he still completed 70.5 percent of his passes on Sunday, Kirk Cousins' day against the Cardinals — during which he went 24-for-34 for 233 yards, a touchdown and an interception — was his second worst of the season from both a passer rating and completion percentage standpoint.
On Sunday, more often than not, there was an odd culprit: a Cardinals defensive front that found some success batting down Cousins' pass attempts.
The Cardinals batted five of Cousins' passes at the line of scrimmage on Sunday, with a sixth falling to the quarterback, who lost 2 yards after catching the deflection. The batted passes accounted for five of Cousins' 10 incompletions on Sunday, with a spike also in the tally. In other words, when Cousins got his passes beyond the line of scrimmage, he completed 23 of his 27 attempts, with one interception and three incomplete passes.
His impressive accuracy the rest of the day made the batted passes even more noteworthy, especially given the fact Cousins was tied for third in the league before Sunday with six batted passes, according to Pro Football Focus. He had seven throws batted down during his first year as a starter in 2015 and 10 in 2016. Last year, Cousins' 11 batted passes tied him for fifth in the NFL; he's already matched that mark in 2018 and is tied for the league lead.
So what went into the batted passes on Sunday?
"One was a keeper, so I attribute it to an unblocked end that we're trying to influence with the run fake, he doesn't buy it and then I've got to touch it up and over," Cousins said. "If I touch it too much the safety drives down and blows up C.J. [Ham], so I was just trying to get it up and over quick. I made that throw several times this season, but that one he got. Other ones were quick game, and I felt like a back's trying to cut the end and get hands down, but then the end could get back up, and he got that one. The last one was regular protection. I don't even know who batted it. It just is what it is, but I thought it was more a credit to the Cardinals defense and their scheme and the way they played and they were ready to bat balls down than it was anything we were doing."
The batted passes are worth keeping an eye on going forward, especially given when some of them occurred. Benson Mayowa's two batted throws stalled the Vikings' first drive of the game, and Chandler Jones batted a pass on a third-and-5 in the third quarter.
"Some of them were quick passes, where the line was sliding one way and the back was going the other way and we were cutting the defensive end with the back," Zimmer said. "There was two times they jumped over the top of them and tipped the ball down. One time he ended up sacking him; there was one when we ran a naked [bootleg] and we left a guy alone on that side who wasn't blocked, so basically a few of the times were when we didn't block. There were a couple times where we got pushed back a little bit and guys got their hands up. One of the early ones, maybe the third down or fourth down early in the game, I think we got pushed back on those two."