Once a week, Mark Craig will get on and off the field quickly, then focus a spotlight on a player and a coach.
Question: Is Kirk Cousins sensing — and overreacting to — phantom pressure? The Vikings quarterback has had some of his best pass protection the past two games. But in road losses to the Patriots and Seahawks he has looked skittish even when the pocket is clean. According to Pro Football Focus, Seattle pressured Cousins on only 25 percent of his dropbacks (nine of 36). Yet he still struggled.
So for this week’s question, Cousins was asked if he’s sensing pressure even when it’s not there:
KC: “I don’t think so. We could maybe go back and point out maybe 400 dropbacks and find maybe two or three times. But I don’t think that’s a recurring theme. Especially with how many times I’ve dropped back over seven seasons.”
MC: How do you avoid being put in a situation where you aren’t sure whether the pocket will be clean or cluttered?
KC: “You can call plays to try and protect [against] it. You can leave the pocket quickly. You can get rid of the ball quickly with a check-down. You can throw blindly and try to anticipate. There are multiple ways to work around that if you feel the pass rush is getting in on you. Or you leave the pocket. You take off. You don’t try to sit in there. You try to make those throws. You say, ‘Hey, you got just as good a play right now if I leave the pocket and start the play over again.’ ”
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Chris Boswell, Steelers kicker
He has missed three of five-field goal attempts and a PAT during Pittsburgh’s current three-game losing streak. Next up is another showdown with New England. Boswell is the 12th-most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, but he’s been tumbling down the list while making only 62.5 percent (10 of 16) this season. He was a 92.1 percent kicker last season. He made 84.0 percent the year before that and a career-high 92.1 percent as a rookie in 2015. In last week’s 24-21 loss at Oakland, Boswell missed both attempts. He slipped and fell on a 40-yard attempt in the closing seconds. Last week: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins: Threw for three touchdowns and a 155.2 passer rating as the Dolphins beat the Patriots in the “Miami Miracle.”
SPOTLIGHT COACH OF THE WEEK
Kevin Stefanski, Vikings interim offensive coordinator
The former gofer for Brad Childress back in 2006 gets a three-game audition in his 13th season as a Vikings assistant. No pressure, Kev. You’ve never called a game. You got an offensive line that struggles to move defenders and a head coach who is so adamant that his team run the ball that he fired John DeFilippo after 13 games together. You know the football gods are going to throw many a third-and-1 at the Vikings when they host the Dolphins on Sunday. Last week: Packers interim coach Joe Philbin: Home game against Atlanta’s woeful defense allowed for a crisp, turnover-free 34-20 debut as interim coach. MARK CRAIG