Monday night’s 23-10 loss to the Packers was less than an hour old when Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked if he thought Kirk Cousins looked “shaky.”
It was a spot-on description of how the 70.5% passer looked while repeatedly misfiring at a 51.6% clip (16-for-31) en route to 122 yards and a 58.8 passer rating that would have been a season low if not for the 52.9 rating against those same Packers back in Week 2.
“It’s hard for me to tell when I’m standing on the sideline,” Zimmer said. “I’ll look at the tape and let you know.”
On Tuesday, Zimmer essentially was asked the same thing on a conference call with Twin Cities media.
So, upon further review, what say you, Mike?
“I think [Cousins’ play] was a combination of things,” Zimmer said. “I thought Green Bay did a good job in coverage. They played a lot of coverage last night. They changed up some of their rushes so they were kind of getting in his lap.
“So a combination of that and not running the ball, it was really a whole bunch of different areas. It wasn’t just Kirk. We didn’t block them up front very well and they did a good job in coverage.”
Yes, there was plenty of blame to be shared by the fellas on offense (Hello, Mr. Reiff). But, pressure or no pressure, Cousins wasn’t Cousins in terms of accuracy from the get-go.
His second pass of the game should have been a short, simple swing pass to C.J. Ham in the left flat. It was third-and-goal from the 5.
The offense had been handed the ball at the Packers 10-yard line when Anthony Barr stripped Aaron Jones on Green Bay’s third snap of the game. One play later, Mike Boone bulled forward for 5 yards.
On second down, Cousins apparently didn’t like the coverage he saw and fired the ball at Ham’s feet. Then, on third-and-goal, he overshot the fullback on that T-Jackian swing pass.
All that stood between Ham and the goal line was 190-pound cornerback Tramon Williams. A completion there and the 235-pound Ham probably gives Williams a piggyback ride into the end zone.
Instead, the Vikings settled for a field goal and the tone of the evening was pretty much set: Great defense followed by weak offense followed by exhausted defense.
“[Cousins] had some throws that he missed a little bit,” Zimmer said. “The one to C.J. and I think there were two or three others that he kind of rushed it.
“But I think that was a little bit of credit to [the Packers] in the coverage that they were running and being able to push the pocket. The pocket wasn’t near as clean as it has been most of the games.”
Monday night, Zimmer was asked why offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski didn’t call more bootlegs, rollouts and play-action to get Cousins outside the pocket more.
He said: “I think [the Packers] were doing a nice job on the outside to try to keep us from running some of those.”
Upon further review, Zimmer changed his tune Tuesday.
“We probably could have done a better job in trying to help him a bit with some of the calls,” he said. “We got outside of the pocket one time and he had all kinds of time, and he ended up throwing the interception.
“But we need to make sure that we do a better job of trying to [have Cousins] not in one spot all the time as well.”
The shame of it all was the defense played perhaps its best opening 26 minutes of the season.
The Packers came in with nine turnovers in 14 games. But the Vikings posted three excellent takeaways in 26 minutes.
“They’ve been a big-play offense, especially early in games,” Zimmer said. “Teams that have done a good job against them have not allowed them to go down and score [early]. The first fumble caused by Barr was really a good play. And then the interception by Anthony [Harris] and Harrison [Smith] with the strip.
“But we were still in [leading] 10-9 at halftime. We felt like if we got going there, we’d be OK.”
But the offense never got going and the quarterback did indeed look “shaky.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: email@example.com