Each week I’m going to be charting all of Kirk Cousins‘ dropbacks via the NFL coaches’ film. This film allows me to see all 22 players on the field and better evaluate the quarterback’s performance. I’m tracking a variety of important statistics, including accuracy, “turnover-worthy throws”, and elite throws. For more information, please check out Charting Cousins in his week one game against the 49ers.
Week 4 – Vikings at Rams
In week four, the Vikings faced one of the best teams in the NFL. Cousins and the offense tried to match the high-powered Rams offense but came up a little short. For Cousins specifically, he performed extremely well against pressure until another fumble from backside pressure ended the comeback attempt.
Box Score Statistics
The film reveals that Cousins was under pressure throughout the game. He was pressured on 31 of 57 qualifying dropbacks, for a staggering 54% pressure rate. Despite facing this onslaught (usually from Aaron Donald), Cousins consistently moved the Vikings down the field, with little to no help from the running game. While he did again have some turnover-worthy throws, Cousins blended efficiency with explosiveness to keep the Vikings in a game that should have been a blowout.
Cousins started the game hot, as he was accurate on nine of his 11 attempts in the first quarter, including two elite throws on his opening drive. Cousins did this despite being pressured on six of his 11 dropbacks, a pressure rate that was on par for the day. In the second quarter, Cousins stayed hot. He opened the quarter with a pass to Adam Thielen on a slot fade route. The slot fade is a difficult route to defend against, as it matches one of the defense’s lesser cornerbacks against a quality route runner. When a receiver as good as Thielen is running it, it becomes even more difficult on the defense. Cousins’ pass was not accurate, as it was low and inside. With Thielen having leverage outside, the pass should lead him up the field and on his outside shoulder to prevent the safety from reaching it.
Despite that inaccuracy, it was a catchable ball. Thielen secures the catch as he falls to the ground, but he is never touched. He gets up and races to the end zone for what should have been a 65-yard touchdown. Instead, the refs call him down and the play is not reviewable. The Vikings’ drive eventually resulted in a field goal, but they should have had four more points.
— Arif Hasan, but spooky 👻 (@ArifHasanNFL) September 28, 2018
Cousins continued his good performance throughout the rest of the half, ultimately being accurate on 17 of 23 passes and leading two more scoring drives. The first drive resulted in a touchdown, as Cousins found Aldrick Robinson for his second of the day. The second drive resulted in a field goal right before the half, though the Vikings struggled with clock management. There was plenty of time for a shot or two to the end zone, but they seemed content with kicking the field goal. Given the high-powered Rams’ offense and the Vikings kicking struggles, it was surprising to say the least.
In the second half, Cousins was much less consistent. While pressure was again a factor, Cousins was often inaccurate on plays where there was no pressure. Despite this, Cousins did have one fantastic play.
Might be cover-3. If so, perfect call, difficult assignment for Shields. Cousins holds the safety off of Thielen to open up space even more. pic.twitter.com/fsFtYjqx6S
— Arif Hasan, but spooky 👻 (@ArifHasanNFL) September 28, 2018
On this play, Cousins sees a cover three shell pre-snap. This means there is one deep safety, with the other safety moving closer to the line of scrimmage. Cousins knows that he has Thielen running a seam route to his left. If Cousins move the deep safety in the middle of the field to the right, Thielen should be open. Cousins opens to the right, pump fakes, and then turns to deliver a strike to the wide open Thielen, who races down the field for a touchdown. This was a combination of a great play call against cover three and brilliant pre-snap and post-snap quarterback play. Unfortunately for the Vikings, it would be their last touchdown drive of the game.
With a little over two minutes left to play, Cousins and the Vikings got the ball back, down seven. The drive started with a phenomenal play by Aaron Donald, who beat a double team and threw Cousins to the ground before his receivers even had a chance to run their routes. However, he calmly threw back-to-back accurate passes to Laquon Treadwell on the next two plays, gaining a first down and putting the Vikings in striking distance at midfield. With 1:29 left from the Vikings’ 48, Cousins dropped back to pass. Riley Reiff was beaten to the outside by the Rams’ defensive end. At that moment, Cousins should have stepped up in the pocket to avoid the pass rush. Instead, he stayed still as he looks to hit Thielen or Treadwell over the middle of the field. Cousins’ arm was hit, and he fumbled. The Rams recovered and knelt out the clock.
On the day, Cousins was accurate on 30 of his 46 qualifying attempts for an accuracy percentage of 68 percent, ranking as his third-best mark on the year. Like last week, however, his accurate percentage doesn’t tell the whole story. Last week, his accuracy was boosted by short garbage-time throws. This week, he consistently faced pressure and was able to deliver accurate passes to all levels of the field. Cousins finished with three touchdowns, 20 first downs and for the third week in a row, three turnover-worthy passes. His 54% pressure rate was double his previous season average and was usually not the result of him missing open wide receivers as he did in the Bills game. He had 247 completed air yards, with another 185 yards coming after the catch. He lost ten yards and a first down to penalty.
Ultimately, this was an impressive performance from Cousins, much like his second half against the Packers. The biggest concern going forward is the consistent turnover-worthy throws, and the amount of pressure he is facing. Cutting down on either or producing a more efficient running game would be invaluable as the Vikings defense tries to rediscover its identity. Traveling to Philadelphia will be a challenge this week, but one Cousins and the Vikings can win.
Week 4 – Film Breakdown Statistics
|Accuracy %||68%||Pressure %||54%|
|Touchdowns||3||Play Action %||21%|
|Completed Air Yards||247||First Downs||20|
|Yards After Catch||185||Target Leader||Diggs 14|
|Yards After Catch %||43%||3rd Down Conversion %||47%|
Year-to-Date Film Breakdown Statistics
|Accuracy %||70%||Pressure %||37%|
|Touchdowns||10||Play Action %||17%|
|Completed Air Yards||697||First Downs||63|
|Yards After Catch||700||Target Leader||Thielen – 57|
|Yards After Catch %||50%||3rd Down Conversion %||42%|