Tracking Kirk Cousins
We will track quarterback Kirk Cousins all year long in his inaugural season as the Vikings’ signal caller.
Inside the numbers
Passer rating 112.2
Grade: 7 out of 10
Kirk Cousins became the first Vikings quarterback with 25 passing touchdowns in a season since Brett Favre in 2009. But Sunday’s 41-17 win against the Dolphins wasn’t the kind of aerial display we’ve seen from the prolific passers of Vikings past. A return to the under-center, play-action-focused attack put Cousins in more advantageous spots for interim coordinator Kevin Stefanski. The results were much like the 33-yard pass to tight end Tyler Conklin, who was wide open after Cousins reversed field on a play-action bootleg to find his rookie tight end for the third-and-1 conversion.
“Just be a reactionary player, and that is how guys play. I thought he did that today. There are times when he didn’t get the first down, on the one scramble, and it took him a little while before he ran, but it’s just playing the game, you know?” – Mike Zimmer on Cousins
Play action: Jaguars All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey called Cousins the best play-action passer in the league this offseason. Cousins showed why when he faked a handoff on the aforementioned 33-yard strike to Conklin, which had the Dolphins defense biting hard. Six of Cousins’ 21 passes derived from play-action, including some of the biggest plays, such as his 13-yard touchdown throw to Stephon Diggs on the first drive. The bootlegs and rollouts helped Cousins evade a pass rush that has plagued him all season. He didn’t always need it. Cousins’ 40-yard touchdown to Aldrick Robinson came from the shotgun and against a Dolphins defense that had to respect a rolling running game.
Pick-six: Cousins threw a screen to Diggs netting 12 yards. A few plays later, the Vikings went back to a similar screen to Diggs. But this time, cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick jumped the lateral pass for an interception and 50-yard return for a touchdown. The play helped the Dolphins crawl back from a 21-0 deficit to make it a four-point game in the third quarter. Cousins has 10 interceptions this season, including three returned for touchdowns. The Vikings quarterback also overthrew Diggs on a first-and-20 play earlier in the game.
Eight of the Vikings’ first 12 plays were runs. It was the return to 2017’s identity that coach Mike Zimmer had called for before firing coordinator John DeFilippo last week. One of those runs included a Cousins quarterback sneak to move the chains on a second-and-1 play. By game’s end, the Vikings had nearly doubled one of the NFL’s lowest run rates with 40 carries against the Dolphins. The early lead and run-oriented approach provided much-needed relief for Cousins’ busy arm.