After the Minnesota Vikings came out, yet again, on the wrong end of another fourth-quarter comeback, the fans have returned to a favorite pastime: pointing the finger at Kirk Cousins.
The Vikings fell to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31 in overtime on Sunday. In a game that saw the Vikings’ defense surrender 500 yards — including 247 yards on the ground — Cousins has served as the initial scapegoat for Minnesota’s current 3-5 record. Much of the vitriol directed at Cousins stems from this particular third down on Minnesota’s only possession in overtime.
While some would argue that it’s the play-caller’s responsibility to dial up the appropriate route combination on a critical third down, others feel like Cousins needs to do a better job of changing the protection at the line of scrimmage. The extent to which the Vikings’ coaching staff allows Cousins autonomy to make the proper checks pre-snap remains a subject of debate.
Whoever is responsible for these continuous mishaps — Mike Zimmer, Klint Kubiak, Cousins, or some combination of the three — it needs to be addressed. I have an extremely difficult time believing that a veteran NFL quarterback cannot make the correct protection checks at the line of scrimmage.
Say that I’m wrong. Maybe the Vikings have known that they cannot trust their spendy quarterback with anything other than the play called by his coordinator all along. Then why on Earth would Rick Spielman and Zimmer extend him for three additional years after only two seasons with the guy?
Instead of dwelling on what Cousins can and cannot do at the line of scrimmage, let’s remind ourselves of what Cousins has been able to accomplish so far this season.
- Week 1: Led game-tying drive at the end of regulation at Cincinnati
- Week 2: Led game-winning drive at the end of regulation at Arizona (Greg Joseph missed 37-yard game-winning field goal)
- Week 5: Led game-winning drive at the end of regulation against Detroit
- Week 6: Led game-winning drive in overtime at Carolina
- Week 9: Led game-tying drive at the end of regulation at Baltimore
Cousins has been branded as someone that crumbles in big moments. These past nine weeks say otherwise.
Is he a perfect quarterback? Of course not. But then again, who is?
A quick look around the rest of the league will show you just how difficult it is to sustain high-level quarterback play on a week-to-week basis.
Just this past week, Josh Allen was truly abysmal against the Jaguars, recording a 62.7 passer rating in the 9-6 loss. Over the past five games, Patrick Mahomes has compiled a passer rating of 75.2. Matthew Stafford was bullied by one of the worst pass defenses in the league, recording a 71.0 passer rating in Sunday night’s 28-16 loss at home to the Tennessee Titans. Dak Prescott was shut out for most of Sunday’s loss at home to the Denver Broncos, recording a 73.9 passer rating.
Those four guys are widely regarded as some of the best quarterbacks on the planet. Do Vikings fans want to complain about a quarterback who led yet another scoring drive at the buzzer to put his team in position to win while recording a passer rating of 104.3 in the process?
Cousins ranks seventh across the league in passer rating, the true barometer of quarterback play in the National Football League.
Which begs the question: What do Skoliders who point the finger at Cousins genuinely expect out of their $150 million quarterback?
Is the expectation that he has to be the best QB in the league? That he saves the Vikings from defeat every single week? And if he doesn’t, he’s the unquestioned recipient of the majority of blame?
The fact of the matter is, the Vikings have one of the steadiest quarterbacks in the game today. With Jefferson, Cousins has just one stinker of a game to his name — Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns. Cousins left a lot to be desired, compiling a 66.0 passer rating in the 14-7 defeat. But outside of that single blip, Cousins has recorded a passer rating of 90.0 or above in 20 of the past 22 contests.
For context, Josh Allen has just 13 games over his last 22 with a passer rating of at least 90.0. Mahomes has 15 over his previous 22 games.
So before you take the easy way out and grab your pitchforks en route to the Cousins residence, a little perspective always helps — especially when you look around the league.
This might sound crazy. But maybe, just maybe, a defense that has given up a combined 919 yards to offenses led by Cooper Rush and Lamar Jackson over the past two weeks deserves more of the blame than arguably the most consistent quarterback in the league over the past year and a half.