The reason the Vikings brought in quarterback Kirk Cousins and paid him big money was specifically for games like Sunday.
The Vikings (1-2-1) are off to a slower start than expected, but little of that can be blamed on Cousins. He ranks third in the NFL in passing yards (1,387), tied for sixth in touchdowns (10) and eighth in passer rating (103.7).
But Sunday’s rematch of the NFC Championship Game last January, won 38-7 by the Eagles, is the kind of game in which the Vikings need Cousins to lead them to victory.
The good news is that he has faced the Eagles seven times in his career while with the Redskins. The only team he has faced more is the Giants.
And while Cousins is 4-3 all-time against Philadelphia and 2-2 at Lincoln Financial Field, where they will face off Sunday, his stats were tremendous in those four road games.
Cousins lost at Philadelphia 37-34 in September of 2014 while throwing for 427 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. In a 38-24 victory in December of 2015, Cousins threw for 365 yards, four scores and no picks. Washington won 27-22 in December of 2016, with Cousins throwing for 234 yards, two scores and one pick. Then last October, he completed 30 of 40 passes for 303 yards, three scores and one interception in a 34-24 loss.
Overall he has completed 105 of 155 passes (67.7 percent) for 1,329 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions at Lincoln Financial Field, good for a 112.0 passer rating.
Cousins and the Vikings know how important this game is. If they could come home 2-2-1, and then beat the Cardinals at home and the Jets on the road, they would have flipped the momentum on the season.
It’s easy to forget the similarity of this season to 2017, when the Vikings started 2-2 before going 11-1 as they put everything together.
DeFilippo in Philly
When John DeFilippo left his position as Eagles quarterbacks coach to become Vikings offensive coordinator four days after Philadelphia won the Super Bowl, he called the decision gut-wrenching. He surely will have a lot of emotions heading back there this weekend.
There is no doubt the Eagles seem to be feeling the effects of losing two key offensive staff members in DeFilippo and last year’s offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, who is now head coach of the Colts.
Through four games last season with quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles were ranked third in the NFL in total offense and seventh in scoring offense.
This season, while shuffling between backup Nick Foles — who torched the Vikings for 352 yards and three touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game last year — and bringing Wentz back into the lineup the past two games after he healed from ACL surgery, the Eagles rank 20th in total offense (363.8 yards per game) and are tied for 26th in scoring offense (20.5 ppg).
The Vikings passing offense ranks fifth in the NFL at 327.3 yards per game, seeming to show that Cousins and DeFilippo are on the same page. But the running game has been an absolute disaster and is last in the NFL at 63 yards per game. Their 252 rushing yards are the fewest in team history through four games, and the Eagles have the No. 1 rushing defense in the league.
Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said he knows DeFilippo might have shared some of his knowledge of the Eagles’ offense with his new team.
“Some of the terminology, some of the calls maybe, hand signals, whatever it might be, that he knows,” Pederson said. “Listen, he is a smart guy, but he is also preparing his team to get ready to play and I think that is where his focus is right now.”
The Twins brought in 1,959,197 fans this year to Target Field, their lowest mark since 2004 when they drew 1,911,490 and went 92-70 at the Metrodome.
Since opening Target Field in 2010 and drawing a franchise-record 3,223,640, the Twins’ attendance has decreased every season except in 2017, when Paul Molitor led the team into the American League wild-card game and was named AL Manager of the Year.
Twins President Dave St. Peter knows that firing Molitor this week will not be popular, but said he believes that does not matter too much when it comes to ticket sales.
“Paul is a Minnesota baseball icon … [but] I’m not sure that managers, at the end of the day, sell tickets. I think players do, and winning baseball games,” St. Peter said. “We have to get it done on the field. As we go to spring training next year, the pressure will be on us to be more competitive and to ultimately win back a group of fans.
“I’m optimistic that can happen and will happen. But that is on us to do. We have to deliver on that. And by the way, I would have said that even if Paul was managing the club.”
What’s incredible is that the Twins’ payroll of $110 million was the second highest in franchise history, trailing only the 2011 season when they went 63-99.
You have to wonder if Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine have been tasked with completely changing this franchise and that Molitor was the last piece of the old regime. And maybe with a roster entering the 2018 offseason with a potential payroll of $24.5 million, they viewed this as the time for a completely fresh start.
“It’s going to be challenging,” St. Peter said. “We need to get more out of our core young group of players, and we need to be smart about the way we approach the offseason in terms of potential trades and free agency. “But all of that said, I’m very bullish.
“I think the talent level across our entire organization, not only at the major league level but throughout our minor leagues, is in a much better spot than it was even a year ago. We’re going to continue to add to that as we go forward.”
• Two former Twins catchers helped the Rockies beat the Cubs 2-1 in 13 innings in the National League wild-card game Tuesday night. Mike Redmond acted as the bench coach for Colorado. Drew Butera came in as the backup catcher and went 0-for-2 with a walk and committed catcher’s interference in the seventh inning, but it didn’t affect the outcome.
• You wonder what Hazeltine National Golf Club had to bid to get the Ryder Cup to come back in 2028 after hosting the event in 2016. The Ryder Cup in Paris last week had an estimated bid cost of about 43 million euros (around $50 million) — including $7 million euros for course upgrades and $18 million euros to Ryder Cup Europe, according to the Wall Street Journal.