Number grade (out of 10): 7
Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ afternoon will be remembered as the third consecutive loss to open the 2020 season, his longest losing streak as Vikings quarterback and his longest in the NFL since he lost four starts in a row in 2014 as Washington’s injury replacement. But Sunday’s 31-30 loss actually marked huge strides for an offense that was lifeless in the first two losses. The turnaround began Sunday with Cousins rattling off 10 consecutive completions for 144 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Still, Cousins and company fell short at the end with a three-play sequence described as “chaos” by coach Mike Zimmer.
Good Kirk Accuracy, trust
Cousins threw with pinpoint precision on the 16-yard touchdown to Adam Thielen in the second quarter, scrambling to avoid pressure while Thielen evaded grabby coverage in the end zone. Cousins also consistently hit out-breaking routes with darts along the sideline, finding rookie Justin Jefferson open against man and zone coverages. Above all, Cousins gave his receivers chances to make plays, whether it was Jefferson’s 31-yard leaping grab or tight end Kyle Rudolph’s one-handed touchdown catch.
Bad Kirk Under pressure
At times, Cousins created in the face of pressure and found a receiver, including taking a hit on Rudolph’s touchdown catch. But he took nine hits on 31 dropbacks, illustrating the pocket can be porous behind this offensive line. And the ending sequence, when Cousins was undone by a couple of quick pressures and a bad snap from center Garrett Bradbury, showed how this Vikings offense can crumble in obvious passing situations. Cousins’ first interception, a Titans pick-six negated by Jadeveon Clowney’s blindside block, was a failed throwaway.
One analysis: Turnovers
Ball security has been a mixed bag for Cousins in 2020. His six interceptions have already matched last year’s regular-season total, but two of those picks have come on Hail Marys written off by coaches as coin-flip plays. His only fumble of the year — Sunday’s botched shotgun snap from Bradbury — shouldn’t be solely attributed to him, but his third-quarter interception means the Vikings have yet to get a clean game from the quarterback this season.
“I wish I’d just thrown it away further and just played for the next play.” — Cousins on his interception at the start of the third quarter.