After the Vikings’ 29-29 tie with the Packers last week, most of the focus this past week fell on the team’s kicking game and not on the fourth-quarter comeback that featured two touchdown passes and a two-point conversion.
When it was all said and done the Vikings had accumulated 480 yards of total offense. Kirk Cousins had completed 35 of 48 passes for 412 yards, four touchdowns, an interception that wasn’t his fault and a 117.7 quarterback rating.
And after two weeks, the Vikings are fifth in the NFL in total offense at 411.5 yards per game while tied for 10th in scoring at 26.5 points per game.
“It was a great confidence boost for our offense to show what we’re capable of when we’re all playing well and playing together,” Cousins said.
While the Vikings have had dominant defenses under coach Mike Zimmer, it has been some time since they had a dominant offense.
The last time the Vikings had a top-10 offense was in 2009 with Brett Favre under center. They finished second in scoring offense and fifth in total offense.
“We’d love to be a top-10 offense at the end of the year, but there is a lot of football to be played between now and then,” Cousins said. “We’ll focus on the Bills defense and take it one play at a time, one game at a time and see where we finish. But that is certainly a goal of ours, to be an offense that is explosive and near the top of the league.”
Cousins added that he doesn’t take his role lightly when it comes to getting the ball to his top two receivers, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
Diggs ranks 19th in the NFL in receiving yards per game with 85.5 while Thielen is tied for sixth with the Falcons’ Julio Jones at 116.5 yards per game. Diggs is also tied for second in receiving touchdowns with three.
“Stef and Adam are special players. I feel a responsibility to get the football in their hands as much as possible,” Cousins said. “Every game I want to make sure they get a lot of opportunities and touches, and if for some reason they aren’t, I want to make sure it’s because the defense is really having to focus on them and that opens up opportunities for other guys on our offense.”
Offensive line progressing
One of the big questions coming into the season was whether the offensive line could protect Cousins, who was viewed as being less mobile than last year’s starting quarterback, Case Keenum.
In two games, Cousins has been sacked five times, three by San Francisco and two by Green Bay. Through two games last year with Washington, Cousins was sacked six times.
“I think they’re working their tails off. I think they’re well-coached. We have a good group,” Cousins said of the Vikings offensive line. “They’re playing hard, playing together, playing smart. If we can keep them healthy and stay the course, I think they can do a great job.”
What’s impressive about Cousins and the line is that he has just barely been able to work with center Brett Jones, who was acquired from the Giants late in training camp. While the word is that presumed starting center Pat Elflein will see his first game action of the season Sunday, for now Jones remains the starter.
“We have gotten off to a good start. It has only been about 2½ weeks that we’ve been working together, but he has done a really good job adapting since he arrived in mid-August,” Cousins said. “Hopefully we can continue to build a rapport until Elflein is back.”
And speaking of protecting the quarterback, it was a roughing-the-passer penalty against Clay Matthews on Cousins last week in Lambeau that got a lot of attention, as many believed the flag shouldn’t have been thrown. The penalty wiped out an interception and enabled the Vikings to force overtime.
“I don’t mind being protected,” Cousins said. “I think at the end of the day, you know it’s good for players to stay healthy and be out there playing, and certainly football is football and we don’t want to take away the essence of the game, but if there is ways to be smart about players’ health and safety, I think it is a productive move.”
Cannot take Bills lightly
The Vikings are big favorites over Buffalo, but for Cousins, he still sees a Bills team that made the playoffs at 9-7 last year, lost 10-3 at Jacksonville, and remains a competent group.
The Vikings can’t fall into a trap of looking forward to Thursday, when they visit another NFC Super Bowl contender in the Los Angeles Rams, especially with Dalvin Cook and Everson Griffen sitting out Sunday.
Without those two, as well as Marcus Sherels and David Morgan, this game figures to be a great test of the Vikings’ depth.
“They’re an attacking defense,” Cousins said of the Bills. “I think their start to the year is a bit misleading because they had some poor field position that was not of their own doing that made it tough for them to stop allowing points. I think they have a lot of talent.
“Any time you go to the playoffs and take one of the better teams in the NFL in Jacksonville down to the final play of the game in the playoffs, you know what you’re doing and you’re well-coached. They’ll be ready to go.”
• The Vikings will go up against Bills quarterback Josh Allen, the No. 7 overall pick this year. Allen was coached at Wyoming by Craig Bohl, the former North Dakota State coach who interviewed for the Gophers coaching job in 2006 when the position went to Tim Brewster and again in 2010 when it went to Jerry Kill. Bohl then won three national titles with NDSU from 2011 to ’13 before joining the Cowboys. As for Allen, Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said: “I see a guy that’s got a strong arm, he’s very mobile in the pocket. He’s got a lot of scrambles where he’s picked up first downs.”
• Adam Thielen on fellow Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell having a rough game last week: “We have all had bad games, we’ve all had bad plays. … If you can go out the next time and make the play the next game and totally forget about it and go to the next play, that shows what kind of man you are.”
• The New Orleans Saints turned former Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s $4 million salary into a bonus that he was paid this year and added two voidable years to his deal to create salary cap room. Saints coach Sean Payton said of Bridgewater: “He’s doing well. I’m pleased. We’re pleased.”
• Former Gophers cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun was on the field Thursday for the Browns’ first victory since Dec. 24, 2016, but only on special teams. He played 62 snaps on defense in Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh but was demoted after that.
• If Jimmy Butler isn’t back next season, the Timberwolves’ salary cap figure for 2019-20 will be close to $73 million — before an extension for Karl-Anthony Towns is factored in — with an estimated NBA cap of $109 million.
• Sports Illustrated rated Apple Valley’s Tre Jones as the No. 17 men’s basketball freshman in the country. The point guard is joining perhaps the best freshman class in history at Duke.