SPOTLIGHT ON KIRK COUSINS
Finding an efficient rhythm
Number grade (out of 10): 8.5
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was effective in a Vikings game plan that asked him to spread the ball around while inching through drives. He appeared unfazed against a strong pass rush while delivering strikes downfield. Another key was a relatively mistake-free outing, which helped seal Cousins’ first Monday Night Football win after losing his first nine appearances.
Positive Steady Navigator
Cousins looked comfortable from the start, finding rhythm with quick throws to Dalvin Cook, C.J. Ham and Adam Thielen on the opening drive. He was able to navigate Chicago’s zone defenses, even when the target wasn’t so open, like Thielen’s one-handed, 17-yard touchdown grab. He was protected fairly well and poised when he wasn’t, taking just one sack. Cousins’ 292 passing yards were the most by a Vikings quarterback against the Bears since Brett Favre threw for 321 in 2009.
Negative Stalled drives
Cousins succeeded in sustaining drives, as just one of the Vikings’ 11 possessions was a three-and-out. But they weren’t able to finish many drives with points against the Bears’ No. 1 red-zone defense. The Vikings held the ball in Bears territory on eight possessions, but only managed three red-zone trips coming away with two touchdowns and a field goal.
Extra Point Marking the weak link
There was an obvious mark in the Bears defense. Cousins went after cornerback Buster Skrine as the weak link, finding Thielen for two catches, including the incredible one-handed grab on a 17-yard touchdown, in the first quarter. Skrine was also slow to catch receiver Justin Jefferson on a 23-yard catch and run to covert a third down. There aren’t many cracks in the Chicago defense, but the Vikings were able to exploit that matchup throughout the win.
“It didn’t lend itself to taking shots and then when you do take shots, their pass rush had more time to get home. So taking some shorter throws, intermediate throws where the ball was getting out quicker and trying to find holes in their zone coverages. That was something we were able to do.”
Cousins on how the Vikings attacked the Bears defense.