Kirk Cousins in Week 3: How cowardly were his checkdowns?

There were a lot of designed short throws for Cousins but not many checkdowns on Sunday

There are a lot of myths surrounding Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. One that continues to perpetuate is that Cousins is the king of the checkdown.

In this new series for The Vikings Wire, we will be focusing on proving or disproving that myth.

What will we be quantifying as a checkdown? It won’t just be a short route or a screen. It will be a receiver that leaks out short that is an emergency option outside of the standard progressions.

All quarterbacks take these and Cousins is no different. Why are we looking at going through with this series? Cousins has a tendency to want everything to be perfect which can result in throwing into the flat instead of trusting his weapons down the field or waiting a split-second longer for someone to come open downfield. What this series will do is quantify each checkdown based on situation, pressure and confidence.

The scale that we will be using is from 1-10 with one being the most cowardly and 10 being the perfect decision. Some of this will be a little bit subjective but most of these will be closer to white or black than being a shade of gray.

Throughout the season, we will be breaking each one down and talking about why Cousins made the decision and what he could have or should have done differently.

Week 1: 4/33 (12.12%) Score: 26/40 (6.5)
Week 2: 12/46 (26.09%) Score: 73/120
Checkdowns: 16/79 (20.25%)
Overall Grade: 99/160

K.J. Osborn’s game-winner vs. Lions was same play as 2021 strike vs. Panthers

Osborn’s game-winning touchdown vs. Lions was the same play as last season’s OT winner vs. Panthers.

The Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 28-24 in Week 3 on a beautiful corner route to wide receiver K.J. Osborn.

After the team played an absolute clunker of a game, seeing them pull it out in the end was nice for a fan base that had seen the Vikings on the losing side of such outcomes far too often.

The touchdown pass to Osborn looked familiar, and it should. He explained after the game that it was the same play as his game-winner over the Carolina Panthers last year.

He explained to Pro Football Talk via a phone call after the game that he was the first option on the play and when he saw that he was wide-open, he did the Randy Moss “throw your hand up” gesture and Cousins delivered a perfect ball.

The passing concept being eerily similar is not a surprise, as the Gary Kubiak and Sean McVay versions of the zone running offense use a lot of the same principles.

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Vikings report card: How we graded Minnesota in their Week 3 win

The Vikings were up and down on Sunday

The Minnesota Vikings took down the division rival Detroit Lions by a score of 28-24 on Sunday afternoon.

The game was played in four segments. The Lions won the first and third segments outscoring the Vikings 24-0. The Vikings won the second and fourth segments with 28 points and most importantly, won the endgame.

Kirk Cousins had a rough game against the Lions but came in clutch when it mattered the most throwing a 28-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn to seal the deal.

Each group had its ups and downs and we graded them out here.

Adam Thielen ties Sammy White for 4th on touchdown list

Thielen moved up the Vikings all-time receiving touchdown list on Sunday

The Minnesota Vikings 28-24 win over the Detroit Lions was a big step for the Vikings. They figured out how to win the game when they didn’t play well enough throughout the entire game to deserve the win.

The game itself showed a lot about the Vikings and their resilience, something that we didn’t see under former head coach Mike Zimmer over the last few seasons.

Within the game, there were a few stats that showed out over the rest. One that was glossed over during the game was seeing Adam Thielen tie Sammy White for fourth on the Vikings all-time list for receiving touchdowns.

Thielen has a remarkable story that you’ve heard a thousand times. From a $500 scholarship to a $16 million/year salary, Thielen is the poster child for what hard work and determination can get you. He will likely pass Anthony Carter this season to move into third place in team history but Thielen will need a few more seasons to get up to Randy Moss in second place.

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Vikings achieved two double-digit comebacks for only 2nd time

The Vikings starting quarterback did something that only happened one other time in Vikings history

The Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions by a score of 28-24 in what was truly a wild clunker.

After both teams missed field goals, it was a game of streaks. The Lions scored 14 with the Vikings doing the same right before halftime ended tied. In the second half, it happened again with the Lions scoring 10 and the Vikings came roaring back to score the final 14 points to win the game.

In doing so, the Vikings achieved a feat that they had only accomplished one other time in team history. That was in 1979 against the Chicago Bears.

In that game, the Bears got up 14-3 in the second quarter and 27-17 in the fourth quarter before Tommy Kramer ended up leading a come-from-behind victory over their black and blue division foes.

For all of the flaws that Kirk Cousins has, this is the second time that he has accomplished a rare feat with the first time coming in 2019 when he led a 20-point comeback against the Denver Broncos.

While the Vikings still have a lot of the same issues, this isn’t the same team as it was last year.

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Lewis Cine doesn’t play a defensive snap vs Lions

The Vikings first-round pick didn’t play a single defensive snap on Sunday

The Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday by a score of 28-24. It wasn’t the prettiest game but it showed a lot about the Vikings moving forward.

On defense, the team only allowed 24 points which feels impressive when the Lions were as consistent on offense as they were. On the back end, they didn’t allow any deep ball completions without Harrison Smith who was out with a concussion.

In Smith’s place, the coaching staff refused to name a starter between Josh Metellus and Lewis Cine stating that they had ideas for each player during the game.

The defense ended up playing 75 snaps on Sunday and Metellus out-snapped Cine a whopping 75-0 per ESPN stats and info. The major deficit had Cine tweeting out of frustration.

On Saturday, we wrote about Cine and if it should be a concern that he had only played one defensive snap. He needed time to develop and get used to the speed of the game. After getting zero defensive snaps and just 15 on special teams for the second-straight week, maybe it is time to be a little bit concerned.

As far as Metellus, he played a great game on Sunday. On the last drive, he almost made the game-ending interception and followed it up by actually ending the game with an interception. Putting in Metellus was a good move but not seeing Cine in for even a few plays was inherently frustrating.

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5 stats to take away from Vikings 28-24 win over the Lions

After Sunday’s game, there are some interesting stats to focus on moving forward

The Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 28-24 over the Detroit Lions in what was a true clunker game for them.

There were plenty of storylines coming out of the game, including quarterback Kirk Cousins leading a game-winning drive culminating in a comeback victory for the Vikings.

When you look at the stats for this game and the Vikings as a whole, there are some interesting stats to take away. Here are five that you need to be aware of.

Zulgad: Kirk Cousins is far from perfect but veteran delivers when it matters the most

From @jzulgad: Kirk Cousins didn’t play a great game, but he played great when it mattered the most

An examination of the stats — without a peek at the final score — would lead you to surmise there was little chance the Vikings beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Justin Jefferson, the Vikings’ top wide receiver, caught only three passes for 14 yards on six targets and had a couple of drops. Kirk Cousins threw for 260 yards, completing 24-of-41 attempts, but had only 151 yards passing early in the fourth quarter.

Dalvin Cook rushed for 96 yards but left the game because of a shoulder injury late in the third quarter. Cook also lost the ball on that playing, giving it back to the Lions at their own 42 and leading by 10. Minnesota was only 2-for-9 on third down, and the Vikings gave up 139 yards on the ground, making it the third consecutive game in which Ed Donatell’s defense surrendered more than 100 yards rushing.

The performance earned the Vikings a chorus of boos on more than one occasion from many of the 66,638 in attendance. Somehow, it also earned them a victory that was capped by a late-game drive led by Cousins that started at the Vikings 44-yard line and included a 28-yard pass to K.J. Osborn and then another 28-yard strike to Osborn for what proved to be the winning score with 45 seconds remaining in 28-24 victory.

“I’m so proud of our guys,” said first-year coach Kevin O’Connell, whose team trailed by 14 points in the first half before rallying to tie the score and then trailed by 10 points entering the fourth quarter.

O’Connell will have plenty to pick apart during Monday’s film session, but on Sunday he preached the positives of a victory that came six days after his team laid an egg in a prime-time loss at Philadelphia.

Among the most important things was that on a day in which Cousins’ confidence appeared shaken, he was able to overcome adversity and complete the comeback by hitting Osborn on a perfect pass.

There will be many who point out that Cousins again didn’t play like a guy who is carrying a $31.4 million salary-cap hit. But the fact Cousins orchestrated a winning drive for the second consecutive year against Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium and didn’t almost end up fighting his head coach has to be considered major progress.

Last season, the Vikings rallied for a 19-17 victory over the Lions on Oct. 10 in a game that ended on a 54-yard field goal by Greg Joseph and featured a very odd interaction between Cousins and former head coach Mike Zimmer. Cousins got in Zimmer’s face after the winning field goal and Zimmer shoved Cousins. It appeared as if the two were going to come to blows. Zimmer and Cousins’ relationship, which was somewhere between hostile and nonexistent, made the potential for fisticuffs seem very possible.

O’Connell was hired to try to get the best out of Cousins. There were many who hoped that Cousins could have the same success under O’Connell that Matthew Stafford experienced under coach Sean McVay and O’Connell, who was the Rams’ offensive coordinator, as Los Angeles won the Super Bowl last season.

But nobody knows exactly what O’Connell’s presence will mean to Cousins, other than the fact that O’Connell actually wanting to work with the veteran quarterback has to be considered progress. What O’Connell managed to get from Cousins and his team on Sunday was an ugly victory in a league that features several ugly wins (and losses) each week.

Style points don’t matter in the NFL, other than making highlight packages. What does matter is hanging around in a game like the Vikings did on Sunday and then pouncing on an opportunity when a team like the Lions does something dumb. That’s exactly what Lions coach Dan Campbell did when he decided to have Austin Seibert attempt a 54-yard field goal with Detroit up three and 1 minute, 14 seconds left. Seibert missed wide right, his second miss of the day, and the Vikings had life.

“I thought Kirk was fantastic on that final drive,” O’Connell said. “Able to execute some things that quite honestly we didn’t necessarily have up on the call sheet but we found a way to go out there, all 11, and execute. And I thought the O-line had a huge final sequence there giving Kirk time to attack there. K.J. (Osborn) obviously showing up huge.”

Would the Vikings have won this game a year ago? It’s hard to say, considering they did rally to beat the Lions at home. But there was little satisfaction that came from the victory and there was even a feeling that Zimmer might have been fired if his team had lost. Sunday was a different story.

O’Connell gave an impassioned postgame speech in the locker room about how resilient his team was as players reacted with cheers and smiles. There will be time for criticism on Monday, but Sunday the Vikings coach wanted to celebrate the fact that he had shown faith in his team, particularly Cousins, and the result was a second home victory.

“I knew that I didn’t want to be in a situation where we kind of dinked and dunked,” O’Connell said. “I wanted to score a touchdown. I wanted to finish this game for our fans, put maximum pressure on those guys, quite honestly how they did the rest of the day with how gritty and tough of a football team that is.

“That’s when you just have to continue working, put your head down. Adversity is only going to be one snap away in this league for you individually, collectively, per side of the ball. You just got to meet the moment, rely on your leadership, trust the guys around you in those huddles to get it done. That’s what I think you saw today.”

The fact you saw it from Cousins, when it mattered most, is exactly why O’Connell is the Vikings’ coach.

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WATCH: Kirk Cousins delivers perfect pass to K.J. Osborn for the win

The Vikings won the game in explosive fashion on Sunday afternoon

The Minnesota Vikings found a way to pull out a clunker win 28-24 over the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon.

After falling down both 14-0 in the first half and 24-14 in the second half, they scored 14 unanswered points twice to both tie the game and take their first lead of the game with just 45 seconds left in the game.

The game-winning drive spanned just three plays and 58 yards but it was extremely effective. Kirk Cousins hit K.J. Osborn on a nice corner route.

The concept comes from a condensed set out of 11 personnel where Thielen ran an out route helping draw the coverage to him and creating a traffic jam in a condensed space.

The Vikings needed a big day from both Osborh and Thielen and they got just that. Huge win to get the Vikings to 2-1 overall and a vital 2-0 in the NFC North.

Dalvin Cook (shoulder) expected to play next Sunday

The Vikings running back seems to have avoided major injury

The Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 28-24 in what was a massive clunker for the purple and gold. It didn’t end up mattering how the Vikings played for the first 50 minutes because the last 10 were excellent for the Vikings.

They came back from a 10 point deficit and they did so without starting running back Dalvin Cook who injured his left shoulder for what feels like the 10th time in a Vikings uniform.

After the game, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that Cook would be playing in London this upcoming Sunday morning and would be wearing a shoulder brace.

This is contrary to what head coach Kevin O’Connell said at his postgame press conference where he said that Cook told him that he will play on Sunday. O’Connell spoke a slightly different tone where he said they would do “what’s best” for Cook.

Playing Cook so early could prove to be a mistake depending on the severity of the injury itself. The injury itself is that it was dislocated and a partial tear of his labrum.

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