SPOTLIGHT ON Kirk Cousins

Stats look better than the score

Number grade (out of 10): 8.5

Kirk Cousins ended Sunday’s 31-28 loss to the Cowboys with three straight incompletions, but they were not indicative of his strong second half. Cousins’ accuracy and decisiveness from last week’s win in Chicago eventually carried over to U.S. Bank Stadium, where he led three straight touchdown drives out of halftime, the last giving the Vikings a 28-24 lead with under 10 minutes remaining. Cousins threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for the first time this season.

Positive Downfield success

Cousins threw with impeccable touch on a handful of downfield throws, starting with a 27-yard drop in the bucket to receiver Justin Jefferson down the left sideline. He also beat strong coverage with pinpoint throws where only his target could make the play, highlighted by receiver Adam Thielen’s one-handed touchdown grab on a fade route in the corner of the end zone. Above all, Cousins played nearly mistake-free with his only turnover, a strip sack, not without controversy as the hit included contact to his helmet.

Negative Can’t get started

Cousins overcame a slow start marred by penalties, offensive line inconsistency and his first lost fumble since the Oct. 5 defeat in Seattle. The slow starts are not isolated incidents, however, as Cousins entered Sunday with a 79.9 passer rating in the first half, compared to a 115.1 passer rating in the second half of games this season. The bulk of his turnovers, including Sunday’s strip-sack, have also come before halftime.

Extra Point Best at the end

Fourth-quarter passing hasn’t been much of a problem for Cousins, even though the Vikings lost another one-score game. Cousins threw two go-ahead scores in the fourth quarter, only to watch the Vikings defense cough up both leads. That’s the third loss under a similar circumstances for Minnesota, which also lost games against the Titans and Seahawks after blowing fourth-quarter leads set up by Cousins touchdown throws. Nine of Cousins’ 20 touchdown passes this season have come in the fourth quarter.

Quotable

“It was a tremendous catch. He’s capable of that daily at practice and you see it so much that I’m probably not as wowed by it as others because I see it all the time. Just a tremendous effort, the combination of the catch but ability to keep your feet down and get two feet in, very special.”

— Cousins on Thielen’s one-handed touchdown grab

ANDREW KRAMMER