Vikings’ Cousins named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in Minnesota’s Week 17 victory against the Detroit Lions.

Cousins, a nine-year pro, led the Vikings in the season-ending victory as he completed 28-of-40 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 127.6 passer rating. Cousins also scored one of the Vikings two rushing touchdowns in the 37-35 win over Detroit. With three touchdown passes against the Lions, Cousins became the second player in team history to throw 35 or more touchdowns in a season, joining Daunte Culpepper who holds the team record of 39 set in 2004.

He finished the season with a franchise record eight games of three-plus passing touchdowns, passing Culpepper’s previous record of seven (2000). Cousins’ 17 career games with 300-plus passing yards, three-plus touchdowns and 115.0 or better passer rating are the most in the first nine seasons of a quarterback’s career in NFL history.

The accolade marks Cousins’ sixth-career NFC Offensive Player of the Week honor and second as a Viking. In October 2019, he was tabbed NFC Offensive Player of the Month for the third time in his career.

Vikings’ Cousins on falling to 6-8: ‘It’s certainly not where we wanted to be’

Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings were 6-6 and had control of the final wild-card spot in the NFC after starting 1-5. However, two losses later, the Vikings are on the outside looking in. 

On Sunday, the Vikings fell to the Bears at home 33-27, and at 6-8, making the playoffs will be an uphill battle for Minnesota as they fall two games behind the seventh-seeded Cardinals for the final wild-card spot in the NFC with two games to play.

“It’s certainly not where we wanted to be,’ Vikings QB Kirk Cousins said after the game. “You look back, and you think about some really tough losses, one play here or there throughout the season, that you know you’re so close. That’s why, when you prepare all week, when you’re in the game, you feel that intention and intensity on every snap because you know that it really is one snap that can make the difference in a win or a loss and going to the playoffs or not going to the playoffs.

“Every snap then requires so much focus, and you need to cover your bases Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, so you’re ready to go. This league, it’s just the way it is. Every game is back-and-forth, and then it tests you, and this season is just another reminder of that.”

These two teams met in Week 10, and in that game, Minnesota’s defense held QB Nick Foles and Chicago to 6 points(scored TD on KO return) and 149 total yards in the Vikings’ 19-13 victory. On Sunday, QB Mitchell Trubisky and Chicago scored 33 points and had 397 total yards, which disappointed Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.

“We didn’t play very well defensively today,” he said. “Last time we played [the Bears], they didn’t score a touchdown on us defensively, and this week we couldn’t slow them down. We didn’t do a good job on the bootlegs, didn’t do a good job in the run game, so that was really disappointing.”

At this point, Minnesota will have a difficult time making the playoffs. According to ESPN.COM, the team has a 4% chance of making the playoffs, so barring a miracle, Minnesota’s season is pretty much done and will end in disappointment. Now, they play for pride.

Notes:

After missing three field goals and an extra point last Sunday, Vikings K Dan Bailey went 2-for-2 on field goal attempts and made all three of his point after touchdown attempts vs. Chicago.

With 132 rushing yards against Chicago, RB Dalvin Cook became the third Viking in team history to rush for over 1,400 yards in a season and passed Adrian Peterson’s 2009 season total (1,383) to move into fifth place in franchise history with 1,484 rushing yards. Peterson (2008, 2012, 2015) and Robert Smith (2000) are the only other Vikings to tally 1,400 rushing yards or more in a season.

Jefferson continues to shine:

WR Justin Jefferson set a franchise rookie record with 73 receptions, breaking the previous record of 69 set by Moss in 1998. With 1,182 receiving yards in 2020, Jefferson ranks seventh overall in NFL history among rookie receivers, passing Harlon Hill (1,124 in 1954), Bill Brooks (1,131 in 1986), Terry Glenn (1,132 in 1996), and Michael Thomas (1,137 in 2016). Jefferson’s 1,182 receiving yards also passed Hill (1,124 in 1954) for the fifth-most receiving yards by a rookie through 14 games. Jefferson became the fifth player in NFL history to record six 100-yard receiving games as a rookie, joining Billy Howton (six in 1952), Hill (seven in 1954), Odell Beckham Jr. (seven in 2014), and Bill Groman (nine in 1960).

Vikings’ Zimmer on last two weeks: ‘It’s more relieved than it is excited’

In the last two weeks, the Minnesota Vikings have not played very well. However, the previous two weeks have ended in wins, including Sunday’s 27-24 home victory over the Jaguars(1-11) in overtime. After starting 1-5, the Vikings have evened their record at 6-6 and now have moved into the NFC’s final wild-card spot(7th seed).

Last week, they were down by 11 points to the Panthers going into the fourth quarter and came back to defeat Carolina 28-27, and this week, they were down by 10 points to the Jaguars in the third quarter. Ultimately, the Vikings got the wins, but their head coach Mike Zimmer knows the team has to play better. 

“Yeah, usually after you win a game, there’s a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ going on in the locker room, “Zimmer said. “The last two weeks, it hasn’t been like that because they know they can play way better than what they’re playing. I think right now they feel fortunate to be where we are, but they understand – I know they understand, and I’m trying to continue to preach it – that we have to stop doing these things that’s going to cost us games down the road.

“If we stop doing those things, and we continue to play with the heart and the fight and the things that we have, then we’ve got a chance to play. But the last two weeks, you come in the locker room, and it’s more relieved than it is excited. And that’s probably a good thing because I think they know where they’re at in this world right now.”

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, who threw for 305 yards with three touchdowns and one interception against the Jaguars on Sunday, is happy to get the win, but like Zimmer, knows the team needs to play better if they want to make the playoffs. 

“We’ll enjoy the win tonight, but you also have to go back and look critically at every play just like you always do, think about how you can be better and how you can improve now as we enter the final four games of the regular season — the fourth quarter, if you will — we have to be at our best in the fourth quarter,” Cousins said. “We have some good teams we have to play, and we’re going to need our best football to have a shot to get into the playoffs. Proud of the fact that after starting 1-5, we’ve been able to get back to .500. As we said at the bye week, where those 10 games would tell the story of the season remaining, I think the remaining four games are really going to tell the story.”

At 6-6, Minnesota is in good position to make the playoffs. However, as Zimmer and Cousins said, the Vikings have to play better the rest of the way if they want to make the playoffs, and next week they travel to Tampa Bay to battle Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, which won’t be easy. But for now, if the season ended today, Minnesota would be in the playoffs, which is an accomplishment when you consider how the season started. 

Vikings’ Cousins: ‘May not have been the prettiest game, but ultimately, getting a win is what matters’

On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings(5-6) struggled at times against the Carolina Panthers(4-8) Minnesota allowed two defensive touchdowns in the third quarter, including two fumble returns for a touchdown by Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn.

As they entered the fourth quarter, Minnesota trailed 21-10. After Justin Jefferson’s touchdown reception cut the lead to 24-21, Minnesota’s Chad Beebe would muff a punt that set up a Panthers’ field goal. However, Beebe would redeem himself with a game-winning 10-yard touchdown reception. Carolina would have one more chance, but kicker Joey Slye missed a 54-yard field goal, and the Vikings hold on to defeat the Panthers 28-27 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“At the end of the day, a lot of that was on me with those emotions,” Beebe said. “I’d had a dropped punt. It’s funny, though, because things didn’t really get down. I came to the sideline, and everybody was positive, and it’s just having that never-give-up attitude. Our entire team kind of felt that way. We had plenty of time to drive down and score, and that’s exactly what we did.”

While the Vikings did not play their best on Sunday, QB Kirk Cousins, who threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns against Carolina, was happy with the team’s ability to get a win on Sunday.

“May not have been the prettiest game, but ultimately, getting a win is what matters,” Cousins said. “It was great to get one after having some really close losses that were a play away earlier in the year. Really encouraged by us finding a way to win despite us having so many plays we want to have back.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was excited to win, but he was not pleased with his team’s mistakes on Sunday.

“Obviously very pleased to win today,” Zimmer said. “We fought really hard. We made some mistakes – the two turnovers for touchdowns right in the third quarter was not a good thing. And the muffed punt there at the end of the ball game. But we came back – offensively, we came back and did a great job on the 2-minute drill, no timeouts went down and scored. It was nice to see [Chad] Beebe come back with the touchdown after muffing the punt.”

With the victory, the Vikings keep their playoffs hope alive. Minnesota is one game behind Arizona for the final wild-card spot in the NFC, so defeating the Panthers was big for this team. 

 

 

 

Vikings’ Cousins: ‘Just a heartbreaking loss today’

The Minnesota Vikings have been hot over the past three weeks. After starting the season 1-4, Minnesota reeled off three straight victories, and it appeared the Vikings were moving in the right direction. However, Sunday’s result might have you questioning that.

With the struggling Cowboys in town, Minnesota had a chance to get to .500, but trailing 28-24 late in the fourth quarter, Cowboys QB Andy Dalton threw a two-yard touchdown pass to TE Dalton Schultz, and Dallas(3-7) would go onto defeat Minnesota(4-6) 31-28.

“I don’t think we played well enough to win today,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said after the game. “We had our opportunities, made too many mistakes. Had three fumbles in the first half, lost two. We had too many penalties. We weren’t good in the red zone on defense today. Obviously we can’t get the fourth-down play to win the game. We have to get back to work. We had a good week of practice but just didn’t play well enough; I don’t think.”

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, who threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, called the loss “heartbreaking.”

 “Yeah, just a heartbreaking loss today,” Cousins said. “It was hard-fought, it was back and forth. It’s one of those games, and so many NFL games are like this, but one or two plays makes the difference in the end. You know that going in, and you feel that during the game, but we just didn’t come out on the right side of enough of those plays to win the game, obviously. Still, a lot of football to be played, but we have to bounce back quickly and get back on track. There are positives to point to, but ultimately when you don’t win, you leave the stadium feeling sick to your stomach.”

This is a game the Vikings had to win. If they get by Dallas, Minnesota would have been two games behind the Packers for the top spot in the NFC North after Green Bay fell to the Colts on Sunday.

Minnesota will be kicking themselves after this disappointing loss. There is still a decent amount of football left for the Vikings, but a loss like this is unacceptable for a team looking to make a run at the playoffs.

Vikings’ Jefferson: ‘Not having fans in the stadium, we were lacking a lot of energy the first couple of weeks’

The Minnesota Vikings(4-5) may have finally hit their stride. Three straight division opponents and three consecutive wins for the Vikings, including last night’s 19-13 victory over the Bears at Soldier Field.

Before last night’s game, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins was 0-9 on Monday Night Football. However, the nine-year veteran was 25-36 for 292 yards and two touchdowns against Chicago, and for Cousins, it’s all about doing his part.

“You know, for me, it’s all about playing well and doing my part,” Cousins said after the game. “I’ve played long enough to know there is not a lot you can control as a quarterback. The ball is in your hands, but so many things are out of your control. So you just do the best you can, play the best you can, and that’s where my focus always is. When I leave a game and don’t feel like I played my best, that’s where I get frustrated. Then there are games where you may lose, but you felt like you gave a great effort and played at a high level. You always try to self-evaluate and be critical, but look at it with a trained eye.”

Vikings rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who had eight catches for 135 yards on Monday night and tied Randy Moss for the most 100-yard receiving games by a Vikings rookie with four, believes Minnesota is playing with more energy.

“Not having fans in the stadium, we were lacking a lot of energy the first couple of weeks,” Jefferson said. “We found that energy: we found that swagger that we’ve been having. We came out ready to play football. The last three weeks that we’ve been doing, and we’re looking to continue to do it. “

For the Vikings, it’s about getting back into the playoff race, and after starting 1-5 not many thought the playoffs were a possibility. According to their head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings are fighting hard.

“You know, they just keep fighting,” Zimmer said. “That’s all we do. We come in there and practice every day. These guys, before the game, we weren’t tight. I could tell in the locker room they weren’t tight. They seemed to go out and practice really hard. They seemed to respond to the — when we are practicing and trying to — one of the things we’ve been emphasizing a lot for the last few weeks is not allowing completions at practice defensively, and I think maybe that’s starting to show up the competition part. It’s three games. We’re fighting our way back into this thing. Hopefully. Still got a lot of football left to play.”

Minnesota appears to be the team that many thought would be at the beginning of the season. Now, it’s time to continue to build on these three victories and make that push for the playoffs.

Vikings’ Cousins: ‘We need to have the best second half(of season) we possibly can’

After going 1-5 in their first six games, it appeared the Minnesota Vikings were going to have a long season. However, last week, Minnesota went into Green Bay and defeated the Packers, and on Sunday, the Vikings(3-5) continued their strong play as they beat the Lions(3-5) at home 34-20.

Against the Packers, it was all about Dalvin Cook, who had four touchdowns against Green Bay, and on Sunday against Detroit, Cook continued his strong play as he ran for 206 yards and two more rushing touchdowns.

In the last two weeks, Cook has 369 yards rushing yards, a team-record through two games. Also, Cook is the third player in team history to rush for 200-plus yards in a game. The last Vikings RB to rush for over 200 yards is Adrian Peterson, who was on the opposite sideline with the Lions on Sunday.

As he did last week, Cook gave credit to his offensive line.

“You talk about confidence, and you talk about just building from last week like I said, them guys up-front, they are going to go home today with a lot of confidence that we can run the football,” Cook said. “That’s what it’s all about with me. giving those guys up front and my guys that are blocking for me a lot of confidence, and I think we got the confidence going into Monday Night Football.”

After their second straight victory, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer believes his team is gaining confidence.

“Well, when you’re sitting there at 1-5, everything is collapsing,” Zimmer said. “You’re getting ready to jump off the cliff. You beat Green Bay, and then you start to get a little juice. You beat Detroit, and now you start getting a little bit more juice. I think the confidence level helps. I think continuing to play well gives us confidence that we can do these things against good football teams. And Detroit’s a good team, they really are. Maybe they weren’t their best today, but It was a good win.”

According to Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, who threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, the next eight games will say a lot about Minnesota. 

“Well, coming out of the bye at 1-5, my thought process was, ‘We have ten football games left, guaranteed to us.’ Those ten are probably going to tell the story more than the 1-5 start, so I’d say the same with eight left,” he said. “The second half is going to tell the story far more than the first half, so we need to have the best second half we possibly can, and that starts with a tough opponent in Chicago, on the road on Monday Night [Football].”

Minnesota is playing some good football right now, and if they continue to get big-time play out of Cook, maybe, just maybe the Vikings can turn this season around. We’ll see if the strong play continues against Chicago next Monday night.

Vikings’ GM: ‘Kirk(Cousins) has proven he’s one of the top quarterbacks in this league’

The Minnesota Vikings announce the team has agreed in principle to a contract extension with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The 31-year-old Cousins had one year left on his current deal, which was the three-year, $84 million contract that he signed in 2018. According to ESPN, Cousins was due a $29.5 million base salary for 2020, which becomes $10 million on his new deal. His new deal is worth $66 million over two years, including $61 million guaranteed at signing.

“We are very excited to keep Kirk and his family in Minnesota for the future,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. “Kirk has proven he’s one of the top quarterbacks in this league and has continued to improve and progress each day since he arrived here. It means a lot to have such upstanding individuals like Kirk and Julie committed to not only our team success but also to our community with all the exemplary work they’ve done in that arena. Our collective goal is to bring a championship to Minnesota, and we will do whatever it takes.”

Cousins, who will enter his ninth NFL season in 2020, was named to his second-career Pro Bowl after setting several personal, franchise, and league-best marks during the 2019 campaign.  He became the first player in NFL history to post three consecutive games (Weeks 5-7) with at least 300 passing yards and a 130.0 passer rating and set an NFL single-season record by finishing five games with a completion rate of 80.0 or higher. Cousins ranked fourth in the NFL with a career-best 107.4 passer rating while recording nine games with a passer rating of at least 100.0, tied for the most in the NFL in 2019. The Michigan State product also earned NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors in October, thanks in part to a 137.1 passer rating that stands as the second-highest single-month passer rating in NFL history (Peyton Manning, 138.0, September 2013).

“Julie and I are thrilled to be staying in Minnesota for the next several years,” Cousis said. “People have embraced us and treated our family incredibly well. We also believe we are building something special at the Vikings. We know how much this team means to the fans and the state, and we want to do everything we can to help this team bring a championship home.”

Cousins notched the first postseason victory of his NFL career at New Orleans in the Wild Card round last season, and has proven to be an outstanding quarterback, but the questions remain on whether he is a championship-caliber quarterback. For Vikings fans, time will be the judge of that.

Zimmer on Cousins: ‘I think this may have been his best year that he’s played in the NFL’

The season is over for the Minnesota Vikings after they lost to the 49ers 27-10 on Saturday in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

On Monday, it was time for the players to clean up and head home, and it was time for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to reflect on the season that was, which meant talking about his quarterback Kirk Cousins.

In 2019, Cousins played very well for the Vikings. After a slow start, Cousins threw for 3603 yards with 26 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. The interception total was a career-low for Cousins as a starter. After missing the playoffs in 2018, Cousins was able to guide his team to the playoffs, including going into New Orleans to defeat the Saints in the Wild-Card game. 

According to Zimmer, Cousins played the best football of his career in 2019.

“I think Kirk (Cousins) played a lot better this year than he did the year before,’ Zimmer said. “I think obviously the scheme helped him quite a bit, and so I think yeah, I think this may have been his best year that he’s played in the NFL.”

When asked if the Vikings should lock up Cousins long-term, Zimmer had this to say.

“To answer the question, the best way to answer it is part of the reason why I didn’t want to do player evaluations today or this week was because I want to get away from everything for a little bit of time, evaluate the players,” Zimmer said. “You know, if you win, everything is great, if you lose, everything is the worst in the world, so I think it’s important that we take our time, get away from it for a few days, then we evaluate, and we’ll go from there. Not just on Kirk, on everybody.”

The 31-year-old Cousins will be entering the final year of his three-year, $84 million contract in 2020, so the Vikings will have a decision to make. The question for the Vikings is, can they win a Super Bowl with Cousins as their quarterback, and as Zimmer evaluates Cousins, I think he will probably have more questions than answers.

Cousins was not very good against the 49ers, and while he completed 21 of his 29 passes, he only threw for 172 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Vikings have so many weapons on offense, including Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen. Therefore, he really does not have any excuses.

In the end, when you guarantee a player $84 million, you expect results, and those results need to be a Super Bowl victory.

Vikes’ Stefanski on GW drive: ‘That drive was indicative of our players making a ton of plays in a big moment’

When the Minnesota Vikings received the ball first against the New Orleans Saints in overtime on Sunday, the goal was to do everything in their power to not give the ball back to the Saints, so for that to happen, they needed to score a touchdown, and they did.

On that drive, RB Dalvin Cook contributed as he rushed for a first down. WR Stefon Diggs caught a pass for a first down; Adam Thielen caught a 43-yard pass to set up Kyle Rudolph’s game-winning four-yard touchdown catch, and of course, QB Kirk Cousins made all throws.

The nine-play, 75-yard drive was orchestrated by Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who discussed the drive on Wednesday,

 “I think consciously we’re trying to score every time we touch it,” Stefanski said. “I think that drive, just credit to the players, Diggsy (Stefon Diggs) makes a big play on third down. Adam (Thielen) and Kirk (Cousins) make a great play, and then Kyle (Rudolph) makes a great play. Dalvin (Cook) had a good run in there to get us a first down. So I think that drive was indicative of our players making a ton of plays in a big moment.”

Of course, the Vikings are better when Thielen and Cook are in the lineup. Against the Saints, Thielen caught seven passes for 129 yards, while Cook ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns. 

According to Stefanski, having a healthy Thielen and Cook makes the Vikings’ offense more dynamic.

“I think we’re fortunate in that we have guys at every position that we feel confident can make a play,” Stefanski said. “When you have a player of Adam’s caliber that you know can make a play in the pass game, coupled with Stefon (Diggs) and the running backs and the tight end that we have, I just think it gives you another element to what we’re trying to do.”

Stefanski added about Cook: “Dalvin is a special player. When he touches the ball, good things happen. Does it open up other elements of our game? Certainly, it does, and we’re never going to shy away from saying that we’re going to be multi-faceted in how we attack a defense, so having number 33 is certainly a nice bonus for us.”

Minnesota has the weapons, and if Cousins is right, they can put up points against anybody, which they will need on Saturday against the 49ers.