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 5 – Vikings at Eagles
In week five, the Vikings again faced one of the best teams in the NFL. In a relatively low-scoring affair, Cousins and the offense consistently drove the ball down the field. Though two missed field goals limited the Vikings’ scoring output, the offense played well enough to deliver a huge win over the defending champions. For Cousins specifically, he played at a solid level throughout the game and made some impressive plays against pressure with no egregious errors.
Box Score Statistics
Cousins completed 30 of his 37 attempts for 301 yards and one touchdown. He threw no interceptions, was sacked only once (with another negated by penalty), and had one fumble, though it came on an accurate throw to Roc Thomas. He scrambled once for three yards. Cousins was responsible for 13 first downs, and he converted three of 10 third downs through the air. His completion percentage of 81 percent was phenomenal, as was his 8.1 yards per attempt.
The film reveals that Cousins again faced a game where he was pressured often. Last week Cousins was pressured on 31 of 57 qualifying dropbacks, for a staggering 54% pressure rate. This week he was pressured on 22 of 41 qualifying dropbacks, which again comes out to a 54% pressure rate. For the second straight week, Cousins performed well against this pressure. This week, he limited his errors and only had one turnover-worthy throw. While he didn’t make as many elite throws as last week, he protected the football and consistently delivered accurate and catchable passes to his receivers. With the defense delivering one of its best performances of the year, a solid performance was Cousins was more than adequate.
Cousins started the game slightly less accurate than normal, as he was accurate on 16 of 24 of his passes in the first half. However, even some of his inaccurate passes were caught. Adam Thielen made multiple highlight plays while displaying his elite route running and the ability to adjust to inaccurate, though catchable, passes. The prime example of this came less than a minute into the game, on the first play from the clip below.
On this play, Cousins starts from under center with two tight ends and two wide receivers in the game. After using playaction, Cousins is pressured by the Eagles defensive line. Cousins is forced to deliver the ball awkwardly and without the benefit of stepping into the throw. Often, this causes problems for Cousins accuracy, as he has competent but not elite arm strength. Regardless, Cousins puts the ball where only Thielen can get it, though it is further outside and more upfield than it should be. However, Thielen successfully created separation from the defender by faking inside before accelerating back to the outside. Though the ball isn’t in a perfect location, Thielen jumps and extends his arm to bring in the pass.
As great as Thielen was throughout the day, he has Cousins to thank for his touchdown. With time winding down in the first half, the Vikings faced second and two from the Eagles’ three-yard line. The Vikings again used two tight ends and two wide receivers and ran a playaction fake. The Eagles again quickly pressured Cousins. As you can see below, the pressure was irrelevant. Despite being held by the Eagles’ defender, Thielen creates a tiny window for a throw. Cousins perfectly places the ball over the defender and drops it in to Thielen in the back corner of the end zone. While this was one of only two elite throws Cousins made this game, it was a throw that very few quarterbacks in the league can make.
In the second half, the Vikings focus seemed to shift to protecting their lead and playing conservatively. The exception to that was the opening play of their first drive, and the last play from the clip below. Pinned on their own five yard-line, the Vikings decided to take a shot to Thielen. Thielen runs a go route and again displays his elite route running. He stutters his feet about ten yards into the route, forcing the defender to hesitate and wait for Thielen to break. Instead of breaking horizontally or back towards Cousins, Thielen accelerates upfield and to the sideline. Despite being under pressure again, Cousins hits Thielen in stride. Thielen then races downfield and almost breaks it for a touchdown.
After that drive, the offense stayed in a conservative mindset for the rest of the second half. The Eagles were able to get within one score, but Cousins and the Vikings answered with a fourth quarter field goal drive that put them up nine and iced the game.
On the day, Cousins was accurate on 27 of his 38 qualifying attempts for an accuracy percentage of 71%, ranking as his most accurate performance since week one. But perhaps even more impressive was his ability to consistently perform against pressure. While performing this well against pressure is likely unsustainable for a whole season, Cousins is currently performing like an elite quarterback by mitigating problems and elevating his supporting cast. Having elite weapons like Thielen and Stefon Diggs certainly helps, but overcoming a weak offensive line is no small feat. Cousins finished with one touchdown, 13 first downs, and only had one turnover-worthy pass. He had 140 completed air yards, with another 161 yards coming after the catch. One sack was negated due to penalty and gave him an additional first down. Ultimately, this was another impressive performance from Cousins. He protected the football while he consistently performed well against pressure. The high-pressure rate is a concern going forward, as it will likely lead to more sacks and turnovers, but the Vikings have a couple of favorable matchups the next few weeks. Improving the running game and pass protection vs the Cardinals and the Jets would ease some concerns before the Vikings take on the Saints on Sunday Night Football.
Week 5 – Film Breakdown Statistics
|Accuracy %||71%||Pressure %||54%|
|Completed Air Yards||140||First Downs||13|
|Yards After Catch||161||Target Leader||Diggs – 11|
|Yards After Catch %||53%||3rd Down Conversion %||30|
Year-to-Date Film Breakdown Statistics
|Accuracy %||70||Pressure %||40%|
|Completed Air Yards||837||First Downs||76|
|Yards After Catch||861||Target Leader||Thielen – 67|
|Yards After Catch %||51%||3rd Down Conversion %||41%|