Kirk Cousins might be the most interesting boring guy in America.
Sunday afternoon, he led the Vikings to a historic comeback victory, then referenced “The Office”; the slang word “basic”; his own infamous taunt of “You like that!”; acting like a “CEO”; living at “high altitude”; and being “well-compensated.”
There is more to like about Cousins than ever. In the past nine days, he has slain two reputational demons. Last week, he beat a good team in prime time (at Dallas) and Sunday he led the Vikings to a fourth-quarter comeback victory for the first time.
This was not your basic comeback. Cousins threw three second-half touchdown passes as the Vikings became the first team in NFL history to score a touchdown on every possession of the second half and rally to win after trailing by 20 points at halftime.
Cousins finished 29 of 35 passing for 319 yards and no interceptions as the Vikings overcame a 20-0 deficit to beat Denver 27-23.
Had he made one big second-half mistake, his reputation would have taken another blindside hit, even if it was the Vikings’ poor defense and offensive line play that were most concerning. Instead, he received loud cheers as he walked to the elevator after the news conference, where he received hugs from friends and family members and then introduced himself to a few people he hadn’t met.
Just another Midwestern guy wearing a flannel shirt at the end of a long workday.
“It doesn’t just happen like that,” Cousins said of the comeback. “You have to have character and as one person texted me, ‘That doesn’t happen to basic people.’ You have to have something to you, to bring that back.”
In the second half, Cousins was 18-for-23 for 261 yards and three touchdowns, while going 4-for-4 on third and fourth downs. He completed nine of 10 passes in the fourth quarter, for 149 yards.
The last time the Vikings pulled off a comeback this big was in 1992, when Todd Scott’s interception return for a touchdown off a Jim Harbaugh pass prompted Bears coach Mike Ditka to scream at the future Michigan coach on the Metrodome sideline.
Cousins, a Michigan State man, did not have the benefit of a defensive touchdown. He had to beat a good defense without receiver Adam Thielen and despite a running game that produced 37 yards.
If a movie character had performed like that, he would have given a rousing halftime speech, or donated a kidney while jogging off the field.
Kirk kept it basic, even if he isn’t. He didn’t spend much time yelling or celebrating.
“That’s my quarterback,” running back Dalvin Cook said.
“I think he deserves more credit and a pat on the back,” receiver Stefon Diggs said. “As a quarterback — our quarterback — he led us today and he leads us every game. He’s playing very well. He fought us back into this game, made some great plays and throws.”
Quarterbacks are judged by titles, numbers and situational play. Cousins is trending in the right direction. He is now two games over .500 as a starting quarterback for the first time in his career, at 42-40-1. He’s 16-10-1 as the Vikings’ starter. His team is 8-3 this year.
Cousins might well define or redefine himself in the coming weeks, when the Vikings have to play at Seattle and the Los Angeles Chargers in prime time, and against three division opponents at U.S. Bank Stadium. Sunday, he played with the cool and precision of a big-time quarterback.
On what might have been the play of the game, Cousins bootlegged left on third-and-2 early in the fourth quarter, spotted Diggs running open deep, and hit him in stride for a 54-yard touchdown.
“That,” Cook said, “was a dime.”
Asked about the play, Cousins shrugged inside his flannel shirt. Diggs was his fourth option. Having the patience and accuracy to turn that play into a touchdown saved the day for Cousins, his team and his reputation.
Those plays are expected from well-compensated CEO type living at high altitude.