Upon Further Review: Vikings' Cousins upends narrative vs. Eagles
Philadelphia linebacker Zach Brown gave Kirk Cousins some prime bulletin board material earlier last week when he called the quarterback the “weakest part” of the Minnesota Vikings' offense.
The weakest link Sunday? That would be Philadelphia’s secondary.
Minnesota torched the Eagles’ shorthanded crew of defensive backs, as Cousins threw for a season-high 333 yards while matching a career best with four touchdown passes in the Vikings’ 38-20 win.
Philadelphia crept back into the game with 17 straight points after the Vikings opened up a 24-3 lead, but Minnesota went back to work in the third quarter and put the final nail in the coffin with a commanding five-minute, 88-yard drive capped with a Dalvin Cook touchdown in the fourth.
All three phases of the game were clicking for Minnesota. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs finally got involved early, the Vikings’ front seven chased Carson Wentz around all afternoon, sacking him twice, and Dan Bailey proved he’s forgotten how to miss a kick.
Brown didn’t have much to say after the game.
It was a statement win for Minnesota. Two weeks ago, fans were calling for heads to roll in the front office and were one bad performance away from launching a GoFundMe to run Cousins out of Minneapolis.
Now that the Vikings have rattled off consecutive wins and are sitting at 4-2, a deep playoff run suddenly doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
Who the heck knows.
Here’s a recap of Sunday’s game (Story | Photos):
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Cousins is heavily criticized when things go wrong for Minnesota’s offense, so it’s only fair we praise him when things go very, very right. That was the case Sunday. Benefitting from offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski opening up the playbook a bit, Cousins looked poised all afternoon. He conducted a 13-play, 70-yard scoring drive to begin the game, then opened things up in the second quarter with back-to-back bombs to Diggs -- for 62 and 51-yard scores. Cousins completed 22 of 29 passes and posted a 138.4 passer rating, his third-best single-game mark in a Vikings uniform.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
Diggs probably would’ve been our player of the game had it not been for two bad drops -- one of which resulted in an inexcusable interception by former Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo. Those two plays aside, Diggs had an awakening. Just a week after there was serious speculation that Diggs had requested a trade he hauled in seven of 11 targets from Cousins for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Diggs became the first Vikings player with two touchdown receptions of 50+ yards in the same game since Randy Moss did it in 2000. Also: Minnesota hadn’t had a receiver score three times through the air in a single game since Marcus Robinson in 2005. Diggs has to be happy now, right?
The aforementioned interception off Diggs’ hands (actually, it was more off his facemask) handed the ball to Philadelphia near midfield with one minute to play in the first half and the Vikings up 24-10. The Eagles managed to move the ball thirty yards down the field and looked like they were settling for a field goal with 20 ticks remaining. However, head coach Doug Pedersen had other plans. Known for his aggressive tactics, Pedersen called for a fake field goal. Kicker Jake Elliot took a direct snap, but Vikings safety Anthony Harris was swarming his only option to throw to in Dallas Goedert. Elliot chucked up a prayer. Harris was there to bat it away, and Everson Griffen picked off the pass. Now that’s what we call a Philly not-so-special.
31 – Through three games at home so far this season, the Vikings are outscoring opponents 31-0 in the first quarter. That’s one way to set the tone. U.S. Bank Stadium was rocking Sunday, as Minnesota’s defense held the Eagles to 26 total yards and Wentz to one completion in the opening frame.
THEY SAID IT
“Zach was a teammate in Washington. He's one of the better linebackers I've played with or against. Have a lot of respect for him, and if you're trying to write a story about how it was a motivator this week, it wasn't, because I didn't know about it. Again, I say ignorance is bliss. I just put my head down and work and prepare the same every week and not try to ride the roller coaster.” – quarterback Kirk Cousins on Zach Brown’s pregame comments
“You never really know how it is going to happen. Starting fast is always a big thing because you want to hit the ground running. As far as him making a pass to me, I just look at it like I am doing my job.” – Diggs on getting in rhythm with Cousins
“We had the look we wanted, tried to take advantage of it, get a little bit closer opportunity to maybe shoot it in the end zone after that. They made a great play. The play was designed to hit Dallas Goedert and then get out of bounds. We were on the short side of the field.” – Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson on the failed fake field goal
“I just want to win. If it means Dalvin gets going, if it means Rudy gets going, I don't really care who gets going. I just want to win.” – Cousins
The Vikings have an important date with Detroit on the road Sunday. It’ll be a short week for the Lions, who visit Green Bay in a battle between both one-loss NFC North teams Monday night. Minnesota is 0-2 in division tests already this season, so while you can’t say the Vikings’ upcoming contest against the Lions is a must-win game, it’s awfully close.