LAMBEAU FIELD, WI – Kirk Cousins has spent his career getting hammered for not being able to play his best in big moments. Unfortunately, those critiques will continue for another week after the Minnesota Vikings lost to the rival Green Bay Packers, 21-16.
Cousins had a chance to change the narrative late in the fourth quarter with the Vikings driving late. The Vikings had 1st-and-goal on the Packers’ eight-yard line with 5:17 remaining when Cousins threw for Stefon Diggs in the back of the endzone.
Unfortunately, the pass landed in the hands of Packers’ cornerback, Kevin King. It effectively killed off Minnesota’s best opportunity to escape Green Bay with a win as the Vikings’ offense failed to move the ball on their final two possessions.
Green Bay started the afternoon fast, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions. The Vikings, by contrast, missed a field goal and fumbled on their first two possessions.
Mike Zimmer made defensive adjustments afterwards to effectively shut down the Packers’ offense the rest of the way, not allowing another score after the first game’ first 16 minutes.
Packers’ quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, went 22-of-34 for 209 yards and two touchdowns but was held in check after the first 16 minutes of the game. He and Green Bay’s offense were unable to sustain any drives the rest of the day.
The Vikings got pressure on Rodgers for the most the last three quarters, sacking twice while forcing the ball out faster than desired on other plays. The Vikings also forced and recovered two Packer fumbles that helped to sap away the Packers momentum.
The game began to turn after Dalvin Cook scored on a 75-yard run on a 2nd-and-10 from Minnesota’s 25-yard line. They would add a field goal from Dan Bailey before halftime to cut the lead to 21-10.
Cousins appeared on the verge of turning his day around after connecting with Diggs on a 45-yard touchdown toss in the third quarter. Unfortunately, it was not to be as he continued to struggle to establish a rhythm, ultimately dooming the Vikings comeback bid.
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- The Vikings rushing attack proved today that they will be a force throughout 2019. The Packers couldn’t contain Dalvin Cook as he rushed for 154 yards and a score on 20 carries. Alex Mattison was also effective in his limited touches as well, averaging over six yards per carry. Now if Cousins can get himself back to playing at his best ball, this offense could, more like should, become an absolute juggernaut.
- Mike Zimmer deserves credit for his second quarter adjustments. Minnesota’s defense grounded the Packers’ offense to a complete halt for the game’s remaining 44 minutes after the Vikings went down 21-0 early. This could’ve easily snowballed into an embarrassing blowout loss on the road. To end up losing in the matter they should be encouraging in some ways.
- Let’s be honest: Kirk Cousins’ play on Sunday was the biggest reason why the Vikings currently sit at 1-1 instead of 2-0 and atop the NFC North. He was simply unable to get on track in this one. He was never able to get himself into a comfort zone and made the kinds of mistakes that have brought his critics out in force. His fourth quarter interception killed the momentum the defense and his running backs had built up the previous two quarters. With that one pick, he obliterated it.
- Pass protection was an issue through much of the game as well. Though the line was shaky, it also wasn’t helped by Cousins holding the ball too long on plays either. There were several times where he was forced off his spot by defenders into off balance throws, and others where he felt phantoms around and made poor decisions.
- The fault for the two issues above falls some on Kevin Stefanski’s shoulders as well. The offensive coordinator didn’t appear to make too many adjustments when it came to the Vikings’ passing game, and there were some play calls that were simply questionable. Rather than continue to call plays that needed time to develop, it might’ve helped to get the ball out of Cousins’ hand more quickly to protect and help get him into a rhythm. His biggest mistake, though, was taking the ball out of Cook’s hot hands during that fateful game-deciding drive and putting it into the struggling hands of Kirk Cousins. Call this one a learning experience.
Player of the Game – Dalvin Cook, Running Back
His great performance was eventually wasted, but it was still a great one none the less. We saw him evade several tackles as well as break them during the course of the game.
His 75-yard burst to get Minnesota on the scoreboard stole the momentum from the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay had no answers for him even after that play as he continued to gash them all afternoon long.
One doesn’t need to imagine what might’ve been had the Vikings kept feeding him, or even Mattison, the ball during Minnesota’s final gasp inside the Packers’ 10-yard line.
The Vikings have their backfield running well through two weeks. The defense, minus one quarter, has been solid as well. Kirk Cousins and his pass catchers now need to get on the same page and start being the unit they were last season.
They’ll have the opportunity next Sunday when they get back home for their showdown with the Oakland Raiders (1-1).