Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, when sometimes it’s actually nice when the weekend is over. Let’s get to it:
*Kirk Cousins had a bad game Sunday — perhaps his worst game in purple, at least given the circumstances, at the worst possible time. These are the kinds of games you want your well-compensated quarterback to win. Instead, Cousins threw two back-breaking interceptions as the Vikings fell to the Bears 25-20 in a game that really wasn’t all that close but did have plenty of meaning in the NFC North race.
Chicago (7-3) is now 1.5 games ahead of Minnesota. If the Bears can maintain that lead until the rematch between these teams in Week 17 in Minnesota, Chicago — barring a Green Bay run — will win the division. The Vikings (5-4-1) are still in decent shape to grab a Wild Card spot if they can hit reset after Sunday. We’ll see.
What we saw Sunday was a flawed team, with a lot of the preseason question marks rearing their ugly heads. The Vikings could neither protect Cousins nor establish a running game, with the common denominator being an overextended offensive line that flat-out doesn’t have enough talent.
The Vikings in 10 games this season have turned the ball over 16 times, tied for seventh-most in the NFL. Last year they turned it over just 14 times all year (third-fewest). Cousins has been Exhibit A in that uptick.
The good and bad of Cousins and the circumstances of Joe Mauer’s $184 million contract expiring (combined with Mauer’s retirement) have created a sort of passing of the torch.
As with Mauer, every failure on Cousins’ part is now being micro-examined and griped about. Successes are still celebrated but they also carry a weight of “that’s what he’s paid for” with fans.
For a while, I thought the Wolves’ Andrew Wiggins and his max contract might be the new big thing to whine about. But it’s not even close. Remove the 1 from Mauer’s deal, shrink it by five years, and assign it to the most important player on the most important team in this market.
The $84 million QB has stepped up nicely to fill the void left by Mauer as the guy everyone is mad at for making so much money and not succeeding 100 percent of the time.
*Neither Dalvin Cook (9 carries, 12 yards) nor Latavius Murray (4 carries, 5 yards) found any running room Sunday. For the season, though, here are some interesting numbers:
Murray has gained at least three yards on 48 of his 96 carries — 50 percent.
Cook has gained at least three yards on just 21 of his 55 carries — 38 percent.
Cook has battled through a hamstring issue after coming back from his torn ACL, so some of that could just be rust and fully returning to health. But it’s worth noting that Murray has been better at keeping the Vikings out of long yardage situations — spots that make it even harder on the offensive line.
*Cousins’ pregame speeches have received quite a bit of attention this season, but did he go to far in his motivation Sunday? Plenty of people reacted to this tweet:
*Sunday was one of those days, by the way, in Minnesota sports. The Wolves tipped off at 2:30 and lost. The Wild started at 5 p.m. and lost. The Vikings kicked off at about 7:20 and lost. That was about 10 hours of wall-to-wall losing. At least the Gophers men’s basketball team managed to hold on for a 69-64 win over Texas A&M after the Vikings finished up, keeping the day from being a total sports disaster.