In week seven, the Vikings easily defeated the Jets behind another dominant effort from the defense. Kirk Cousins struggled, but the offense still put up points behind improve blocking, a good effort from Latavius Murray, and Adam Thielen again looking like the best wide receiver in football.
Box Score Statistics
Cousins completed 25 of his 40 attempts for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He threw no interceptions, was sacked once, and had one fumble. Cousins was responsible for eight first downs, but he converted only two of 13 third downs through the air. His completion percentage of 63 percent was solid, but his 6.9 yards per attempt was mediocre.
The film reveals that this was Cousins worst game of the year. He did have a few big plays, including both his touchdowns, but he struggled with accuracy and decision-making all day. He only had one turnover-worthy throw, but he made no elite throws and consistently didn’t see open receivers down the field. His fumble came on an egregious decision to throw the ball at the ground and backward, as the screen to Stefon Diggs was covered. A heads up play by Diggs prevented disaster from striking. Cousins only faced pressure on 15 of 45 dropbacks for a pressure rate of 33 percent. This was the second straight week the pressure rate was below the season average, suggesting the return of Pat Elflein and the addition of rookie offensive line Brian O’Neill are having positive impacts.
Cousins starts the game on a high note, despite being accurate on only 12 of his 24 first half passes. This fast start is once again created by the elite route running ability of Thielen. With the ball on the Jets 34-yard line, the Vikings are in prime position to get points. The Jets show a single-high safety look, despite Diggs and Thielen being split out wide on opposite sides. Cousins now knows that he will get either Diggs or Thielen one-on-one, a matchup which either receiver should win a vast majority of the time.
Before the snap, the Jets safety slides over to the hash mark on Diggs’ side. Cousins now knows that he has Thielen one-on-one. At the snap, Cousins opens to Diggs’ side. The deep safety is reading his eyes and stays in the middle of the field, though slightly shaded towards Diggs. On the opposite side, Thielen is running a simple go route. After holding the safety with his eyes, Cousins turns to Thielen and throws the ball to the end zone. At this point, the defender is still on top of Thielen by about two yards.
Against most receivers, that is good coverage. But Adam Thielen isn’t most receivers. Thielen accelerates upfield and slightly to the outside. Thielen knows the defender is in man coverage and facing towards him. The defender doesn’t know where the ball will be thrown and is just reacting to Thielen. By accelerating to the outside, Thielen forces the defender to angle outside with him, eliminating the two-yard cushion the defender had created. Once Thielen is deeper than the defender, he looks for the ball. Cousins has thrown a decent pass, but it is slightly underthrown. To adjust, Thielen slows down, while maintaining his position in front of the defender.
As the ball is in the air, Thielen uses his arm to hold the defender off. Then, right before the ball arrives Thielen brings his arm back upfield and secures the ball for the touchdown. While Cousins deserves credit for the pre-snap diagnosis and throwing a decent pass, Thielen’s elite route running and body control once again prove to be the deciding factor.
Early score for the Vikings pic.twitter.com/H96qasUmjV
— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) October 21, 2018
In the second half, Cousins and the offense were able to shift into a conservative approach for the second consecutive week. With the defense again forcing turnovers and giving the offense short fields, the Vikings chose to mostly run the football. With less throws, Cousins was able to be marginally better in the second half, as he was accurate on 11 of 19 throws.
He did have another long touchdown pass, this time to Aldrick Robinson. Similar to Thielen’s touchdown, Robinson garners one-on-one outside coverage. However, the Jets try to disguise it pre-snap by keeping two safeties deep. The safety on Robinson’s side inches up right before the snap, and the other side runs to Diggs side after the snap. Cousins again recognizes the one-on-one coverage and throws deep to Robinson. Robinson is able to beat his man deep using his pure speed, but Cousins’ throw is short and inside. Luckily for Cousins, the Jets defender doesn’t even attempt to look for the ball until the last second. Robinson is able to make a nice adjustment and make the catch while falling down for a touchdown.
Still not sure about this ball placement, but it's a touchdown pic.twitter.com/rQe1t6jSFZ
— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) October 21, 2018
On the day, Cousins was accurate on 23 of his 43 qualifying attempts for an accuracy percentage of 53%. This is now consecutive weeks in which Cousins has had his least accurate performance of the season. The strong wind was likely a factor in his inaccuracy this week, but Cousins will have no weather excuse in a matchup vs the Saints next week. With Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara dominating over the first half of the season, Cousins and the Vikings will likely need to score 24+ points to have a chance at winning. If Cousins can get back to how he often performed over the first few weeks of the season, the Vikings should have a good shot to win the game.
Week 7 – Film Breakdown Statistics
|Accuracy %||53%||Pressure %||33%|
|Touchdowns||2||Play Action %||18%|
|Completed Air Yards||162||First Downs||8|
|Yards After Catch||79||Target Leader||Diggs – 16|
|Yards After Catch %||33||3rd Down Conversion %||15|
Year-to-Date Film Breakdown Statistics
|Accuracy %||66||Pressure %||38%|
|Touchdowns||14||Play Action %||21%|
|Completed Air Yards||1157||First Downs||94|
|Yards After Catch||1024||Target Leader||Thielen – 94|
|Yards After Catch %||47%||3rd Down Conversion %||35%|
. For more information on the “Charting Cousins” series, please check out Charting Cousins in his week one game against the 49ers.