On the first offensive series Sunday, Kirk Cousins caught a pass from himself. That set the tone for a rather strange and eventful performance for the Vikings quarterback.

Cousins had seven passes deflected at the line of scrimmage, rushed for a touchdown on a designed run, committed two turnovers and took part in a touchdown celebration that is called the “Dead Arm Dance.”

He also remained undefeated as the guy appointed by nose tackle Linval Joseph to deliver a fiery speech to the entire team on the field after warmups.

“In pregame he looked at me and just pointed and stared at me,” Cousins said. “That was enough for me to know I better bring it.”

Tom Baker for Star Tribune
VideoVideo (04:39): Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins talked about his end-zone dance, leadership style and much more after beating the Cardinals.

His outing was uneven, but Cousins’ leadership continued to take root in a 27-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings running game finally looked competent, which compensated for some hiccups in the passing game.

The Cardinals got hands on seven of Cousins’ passes at the line, including one that ricocheted back to him for a catch. Cousins attributed the high number of deflections to their defensive scheme and rush strategy, but that’s something that needs to be examined to make sure it doesn’t fester.

His fumbling remains a larger concern. Cousins lost his fifth fumble of the season. It was returned 36 yards for a touchdown by Budda Baker in the second quarter to tie the score 10-10.

Arizona’s Chandler Jones beat Rashod Hill on the rush and knocked the ball out of Cousins’ hand from behind as Cousins moved up in the pocket.


Cousins already has tied his career high for lost fumbles.

“We’ve got to do a better job,” Mike Zimmer said. “When he starts moving up in the pocket, he has to be ready to put the ball [away]. We’ll address that.”

Cousins acknowledged that he has to be mindful of ball security when he’s evading the rush. But he also sounded resolute in his desire to hold the ball as the pocket collapses if that buys more time for plays to develop.

“If I’m going to drop back scared about fumbling, I’m never going to make a throw or a play,” he said. “There were completions [Sunday] that the only reason they were being made is because I have to be aggressive and fight to keep the play alive and find a completion. Finding that balance of protecting the football while being aggressive is ‘Welcome to quarterbacking in this league.’ ”

Cousins’ touch and accuracy with pass rushers breathing down his neck has been exemplary this season. Protection breakdowns remain a recurring problem, but Cousins has managed to thrive in spite of consistent pressure.

His ability to shake off an occasional mistake has earned him admirers in the locker room.

“That’s a big reason why we don’t get too stressed out in those situations, because we know how good of a player he is,” Adam Thielen said. “He just keeps going. It’s just great to have a leader like him and a guy who just keeps playing ball no matter what happens.”

He showed that again Sunday after fumbling and also throwing an interception in the second quarter. Cousins went 5-for-5 passing for 50 yards on the opening drive of the second half that ended on his 13-yard touchdown pass to Thielen.

Cousins essentially put the game on ice on the next possession with a 7-yard touchdown run for a 27-10 lead.

Then it was time to dance.

“Adam calls it the Dead Arm Dance,” Cousins explained. “He said that’s what they used to do back in the day at Mankato State.”

Picture a typical middle school dance with a group of awkward boys standing in a circle flailing their arms.

“It looked pretty familiar because I’ve been at some parties where people who can’t dance do that as well,” Cousins said. “I like to embrace my limitations as a dancer. That’s a dance I can get behind.”

Maybe they should go back to Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.


Chip Scoggins chip.scoggins@startribune.com