In week 15, the Vikings looked eerily reminiscent of their team from last year. They ran the ball effectively, played dominating defense,and relied on playaction in the passing game. Kirk Cousins filled the Case Keenum role, with low volume but high efficiency, and he added a perfectly thrown 40-yard strike for a touchdown that Keenum would struggle to hit on his best day.
Box Score Statistics
Cousins completed 14 of his 21 attempts for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception and was sacked twice, with one of those sacks being his fault. Cousins was responsible for 10 first downs, and he converted four of 11 third downs through the air. His completion percentage of 67 percent was solid this week, and his 10.2 yards per attempt was stellar.
With the change in offensive philosophy, Cousins played a supporting role. However, Cousins excelled in that role, blending efficiency with explosiveness. He was pressured on only seven of his 29 dropbacks, a pressure rate of 24 percent that ties week one as the lowest rate of the year. New offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski also relied on playaction more. The playaction percent of 28% this week was 8% higher than the season average. Cousins benefited from this almost as soon as the game started. His first pass was a playaction screen to Dalvin Cook, who promptly raced down the field and delivered a gain of 27 yards. On Cousins’ second pass attempt, the result was even better.
On this play, the Vikings went back to their first touchdown of last season. The playaction fake draws the defensive backs towards the line of scrimmage, as they come up to tackle the running back. Stefon Diggs runs inside like he is going to block the linebacker, before accelerating up the field and breaking outside. Cousins fakes and moves outside of the pocket to the right and hits Diggs for an easy touchdown. But Stefanski was just getting started.
Stefanski dialed up playaction on six more plays the rest of the game. On those plays, Cousins completed all four of his attempted passes for 63 yards. He was sacked twice on the other two dropbacks, but those are of a lesser concern. In total, the Vikings used playaction on eight of their 29 dropbacks. Cousins completed every pass he attempted, for a total of 103 yards and a touchdown. As Cousins has historically been one of the best playaction quarterbacks in the league, the shift to a playaction-heavy offense could drastically increase the ceiling of the offense.
On the day, Cousins was accurate on 14 of his 21 qualifying attempts for an accuracy percentage of 67 percent. The use of playaction was a huge benefit, but Cousins played a solid game even without it. He shouldn’t be blamed for the interception, as Kyle Rudolph failed to block the guy defender who intercepted it, and his touchdownto Aldrick Robinson was a perfectly thrown pass. Despite wins by the Eagles and Redskins, the Vikings remain in sixth place in the NFC. While the playoffs are far from guaranteed, it’s hard not to be optimistic about this team. The defense remains one of the best in the league. If the offense can maintain their efficiency of this week, and Kirk Cousins can deliver one or two throws a game that Keenum would struggle to make, the Vikings will be a team that nobody wants to face in January.
Week 15 – Film Breakdown Statistics
|Accuracy %||67%||Pressure %||24%|
|Touchdowns||2||Play Action %||28%|
|Completed Air Yards||124||First Downs||10|
|Yards After Catch||91||Target Leader||Diggs – 8|
|Yards After Catch %||42%||3rd Down Conversion %||36%|
Year-to-Date Film Breakdown Statistics
|Accuracy %||66%||Pressure %||38%|
|Touchdowns||26||Play Action %||20%|
|Completed Air Yards||2115||First Downs||186|
|Yards After Catch||1813||Target Leader||Thielen – 152|
|Yards After Catch %||46%||3rd Down %||42%|
For more information on the “Charting Cousins” series, please check out Charting Cousins in his week one game against the 49ers.