Written By Sam Ekstrom (ZoneCoverage.com)
Photo Credit: Kyle Hansen
After a Week 1 performance in which Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings skill players felt like they left big plays on the field, the offense finally hit its stride just in time to mount a late rally and give the Vikings a pair of chances to win in overtime.
The result, a 29-29 tie, may sour the effort, but Cousins 425 yards on 35-of-48 passing shouldn’t be overlooked — nor should his 232 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime combined. Only Brett Favre has thrown for more yards in a single game in the last 20 years of Vikings football (446 vs Arizona in 2010). Daunte Culpepper matched Cousins with 425 yards in a 2004 game.
“Kirk always steps up to the plate as a quarterback,” said Stefon Diggs, one of his favorite targets Sunday. “You love that, you see that. He commands the huddle.”
It was Cousins’ fourth career 400-yard showing after notching three with the Washington Redskins. Minnesota’s single game passing record is owned by Tommy Kramer with 490 yards in 1986 — 65 yards away from Cousins.
“I thought Cousins played outstanding,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “Threw for 425 yards, 119 quarterback rating. I thought he made some outstanding throws, made good decisions. I thought he made some really good plays.”
Cousins’ top two receivers weren’t bad either. Diggs and Adam Thielen combined for 21 catches out of 26 targets, 259 yards and three touchdowns, all of them coming in the fourth quarter. It was their first game both going over 100 yards.
“I think Coach [John DeFilippo] called an outstanding game,” said Cousins. “The nature of the game put Coach Flip in a position time and time again where he had to call, consistently, back-to-back great plays, and he did that.”
DeFilippo drew up plenty of ways for Minnesota’s elite receiving duo to get the football.
Diggs kicked off the fourth quarter using an aggressive motion to the left and hauled in a shoestring 3-yard touchdown catch on a quick out route. Roughly seven minutes later he caught a 75-yard heave from Cousins to pull the Vikings within two points midway through the fourth quarter, beating Davon House to the football and dragging Kentrell Brice into the end zone.
“I think what was impressive about that play was finishing,” Cousins said. “If he gets tackled there or is short, who knows if we come away with a field goal or a touchdown. The fact that he pulled through and found a way to get six and not leave it up to the next set of plays, I think that is a mark of a great player as well.”
Remarkably, Thielen might’ve topped Diggs with his juggling touchdown catch in the waning seconds. Cousins’ pass split between Brice and Jaire Alexander and found its way into the receiver’s lap as he was falling toward the pylon.
The toss from Cousins came under duress as he uncorked it while getting driven back by Mike Daniels.
“I was getting hit. I still don’t know how we completed it,” said Cousins. “When I threw it, I knew it was going to be dicey. I think it shows you Adam’s talent. We call it late hands.”
But the comeback wouldn’t have been complete without Diggs catching a fade against Tramon Williams for a two-point conversion.
“It just happened to be my number on that one,” said Diggs, who added that the Vikings have a large collection of two-point plays at their disposal.
The Vikings have questions to answer at their third wide receiver spot after Laquon Treadwell’s spotty afternoon, but Cousins’ higher level of fusion with Diggs and Thielen should offset some concern.