For the first time in his short Minnesota Vikings career, Kirk Cousins got outplayed by the opposing quarterback.
Remarkably, it was a rookie that did it.
Josh Allen won his first career game in style, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for another in a 27-6 clobbering of the Vikings.
In a first half that virtually decided the game, Allen’s mobility had the Vikings defense baffled.
“We saw on film that he was a quarterback that scrambled a lot,” said defensive end Danielle Hunter. “So it was part of the game plan for us to keep him contained.”
Easier said than done.
Allen scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown run on the game’s opening drive when Hunter failed to contain Allen in the pocket on his rush. Allen leaked out the left side and got to the pylon before Anthony Barr, who spent a split second too long watching the running back.
“He was much more mobile than I think we gave him credit for,” Barr said. “So [we’ll be] aware of that and know that for next time. He definitely hurt us with his feet a lot today.”
Barr was in position to make a play on Allen later in the quarter on a 3rd and 10 for Buffalo. Minnesota brought pressure and flushed Allen forward in the pocket. The rookie scrambled up the middle and hurdled over Barr to pick up a first down.
“I was trusting my feet and my gut right then,” said Allen. “There were guys about three yards away from the sticks, and I knew we had to get that first down. I think we went on to score on that drive, so obviously it was a big play.”
Two plays later, Allen was at it again, buying time on a 2nd and 17. Allen evaded Hunter and rolled to the right as the play broke down. Mackensie Alexander and Eric Kendricks both chose to defend tight end Charles Clay, while Barr got stuck behind the double-team block on Linval Joseph, leaving Chris Ivory free in the secondary for a 55-yard catch and run.
Allen eventually punched in another touchdown on a fourth and goal quarterback sneak.
“We allowed the quarterback to get out and scramble, and we turned a couple guys loose in coverage again today,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “We’re going to have to get things fixed in a hurry.”
Juxtaposed against Allen was Cousins, who took four sacks and fumbled on two of them. He finished with 44 passing yards at halftime. His final total of 296 yards through the air came mostly during so-called garbage time.
“The little bit I observed from the sideline I thought [Allen] played a great game, protecting the football, and they moved the football,” said Cousins. “I didn’t help anybody by giving them a short field a couple of times and asking so much of our defense by not converting third downs and sustaining drives.”
Cousins fumbled 13 times a season ago and nine times each of the previous two seasons. Those critical of Cousins in the past have pointed to his pocket presence against pressure, which Buffalo exploited on Sunday.
“His QBR comes way down, even when he feels pressure and starts to feel the rush,” said Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. “We were able to do that throughout the game, consistently.”