My 4-year-old daughter and I spent a good chunk of Saturday afternoon playing the game “Hedbanz” while I did my best to ignore the lackluster Texans/Jets game.
For the unfamiliar, Hedbanz involves each player wearing a plastic blue headband that holds a card — one that says “I am a (blank),” with the missing word often a food or animal. The person wearing the headband can’t see the card and must ask the other players questions that serve as clues.
Kirk Cousins was not at our house playing the game Saturday. But had he been wearing a plastic blue headband instead of a helmet, as he lined up for that temporarily momentum-turning pick-six Sunday with the Vikings leading 21-0, his card would have read “I am a quarterback who is about to throw the ball to Stefon Diggs.”
Shorter version of that long windup: Cousins is at his best when he plays both instinctively and deceptively. He’s at his worst when he plays like a quarterback robot — telegraphing throws that get batted down (at best) or intercepted (at worst, as was the case Sunday).
Fortunately for the Vikings, the Dolphins’ momentum stalled and they could only crawl back to within 21-17. Marcus Sherels turned the game back with a long punt return that set up a field goal, the Vikings’ defense went to work making Ryan Tannehill’s life miserable … and the best of Cousins sealed the deal.
On his 40-yard TD pass to Aldrick Robinson that made it 34-17, Cousins scanned the field enough that Miami’s safety seemingly thought he might be throwing to Adam Thielen. After Thielen cleared on an intermediate route, Cousins fired an $84 million dime to Robinson.
The Vikings moved closer to making the playoffs, though they can no longer win the division after Chicago’s win.
I’m not sure what Cousins’ postgame headband would read. Maybe, at least: “I’m a quarterback capable of learning from my mistakes.”
• Speaking of the playoffs, Vikings fans had a quandary while scoreboard watching on Sunday: root for the Packers to beat the Bears to keep Minnesota’s slim division hopes alive … or root for Chicago which, in tandem with a Vikings victory, would eliminate Green Bay.
If you chose to hope for a Bears win (or more to the point, a Packers loss and playoff elimination), you got your wish. The Bears held on for a 24-17 victory, with Aaron Rodgers’ record streak of passes without an interception getting snapped at 402 with a key pick in the fourth quarter.
• Also, when I’m wrong I’m wrong (at least for a game): My worry when Mike Zimmer fired John DeFilippo and promoted Kevin Stefanski to offensive coordinator was that Zimmer’s increased influence over the offense would have a negative impact.
The Vikings scored a season-high 41 points and gained 418 yards — including 220 on the ground. If that’s what Zimmer wants, I’m going to have a hard time arguing with that.
• After scoring 12 goals in a pair of lopsided wins in their previous two games, the Wild ran into perhaps the wrong opponent at the wrong time Saturday.
Not only has Calgary allowed just 91 goals this season — best in the Pacific Division — but the recent history with the Flames made Saturday’s game evolve into a fight-fest instead of merely a battle of skill. I’m not saying that’s exactly why the Wild lost 2-1 at Xcel Energy Center, but the opponent and timing didn’t help.
• Maybe, though, the Wild and Flames were just following the example set by Chicago’s mascot. The Chicago Sun Times posted a video of Tommy Hawk fighting with a fan in the concourse during Friday’s game. Police say the fan instigated the fight.