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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Kirk Cousins manages just fine in first game in purple

By Judd Zulgad

Kirk Cousins will be asked to do plenty for the Vikings’ offense this season, but one has to think there was at least a moment from Sunday’s game that the team doesn’t ever want to see again from a quarterback in whom they made an $84 million, three-year investment this offseason.

The Vikings had an eight-point lead on San Francisco in the fourth quarter and were facing a third-and-5 from their own 37-yard line, when Cousins decided to make a run for it. As Cousins approached 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee, he dived head first and tried to extend the ball for a first down. There was a gasp from the announced crowd of 66,673 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Thankfully, for the Vikings’ sake, Cousins quickly bounced up. He didn’t get the first down but he did remain in one piece and that was the important thing.

“We always talk about sliding and protecting yourself but in that situation, right at the chains, I think you have got to do something,” Cousins said. “Maybe the right move wasn’t to dive, but maybe try to make him miss, do something, be willing to take a hit because at that point if you can get the first down it changes the whole game. We had played too hard to that point to just slide early and give up on that. I think you do need to, in the situation, change your approach and try to go for it.”

The play also got positive reviews from Cousins’ coach, Mike Zimmer, in the immediate aftermath of a 24-16 season-opening victory over the 49ers. “When the game is on the line, we’re trying to get the first down,” Zimmer said. “Go for it. I’m all in.”

Zimmer’s tune might have been different if his starting quarterback hadn’t bounced right up — and if backup Trevor Siemian had been forced into action — but the what-might-have-been wasn’t important to Zimmer late Sunday afternoon. What was important was the Vikings had won in Cousins’ debut.

Cousins, who spent his first six seasons with Washington and was the Redskins’ starter the past three years, completed 20 of 36 passes for 244 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked three times and rushed for 26 yards on four carries. Cousins completed passes to seven receivers, including six that went to Adam Thielen for 102 yards. Running back Dalvin Cook caught six passes for 55 yards.

“I thought he played well,” Zimmer said of Cousins. “Especially early, he made some great throws. The two touchdown passes were great throws.”

Cousins’ first scoring pass as a Viking was a 22-yard strike to Stefon Diggs early in the second quarter that beat cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to give the Vikings a 10-0 lead. The second came in the third quarter and found tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 24-6 lead.

“Kirk Cousins threw it in place where only I could catch it,” Rudolph said. “That is the trust we have built with all the reps throughout OTAs, minicamp, training camp and the preseason. Over my time here that has been my responsibility. When we get in the red zone, the windows are a lot tighter. My frame (Rudolph is 6-foot-6) allows the ball to be thrown little bit higher.”

In reality, Cousins remains in the early stages of developing regular-season chemistry with his receivers and he pointed out that he missed on at least one pass for Thielen that could have resulted in a big play.

Cousins wasn’t the only newcomer to the Vikings’ offense who might not have been entirely pleased with his performance.

Coordinator John DeFilippo was calling plays for the first time in Minnesota, after spending last season as the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings had an opportunity to run time off the clock during a couple of series in the fourth quarter but failed to do so.

An interception by cornerback Xavier Rhodes enabled the Vikings to get the ball back with 14 minutes, 37 seconds left in the quarter, but a run and two Cousins incompletions resulted in a Minnesota punt that gave San Francisco the ball at its own 14 with 13:43 remaining.

Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led an 82-yard, 11-play drive that ended with a Robbie Gould 22-yard field goal, cutting the Vikings lead to eight points. Minnesota then took possession with 8:09 left but went three plays-and-out again – another run play and two incompletions — and the 49ers had the ball back a minute later.

This time San Francisco went three-and-out and on their next possession the Vikings were able to take significant time off the clock by running the ball.

The Vikings will get another test in Week 2 when they face the Packers in Green Bay, but at least Cousins has the jitters of Week 1 in a new uniform out of the way.

“I think Week 1 always carries a little bit of anxiety,” he said. “Then you add coming to a new team, you have to manage that and process that OK and just go and play. When your defense is making plays the way they were, creating turnovers, receivers are getting open. That makes a big difference to calm those nerves down.

“(But) I think it will always be the challenge of playing quarterback in this league of staying even keel and not riding the roller-coaster and not allowing your emotions to take over. But you also want to play with passion so you try to find that middle ground. … There’s a lot on your shoulders and a lot going on and it’s a fast game. You’ve got to manage it the best you can.”

The post Zulgad: Kirk Cousins manages just fine in first game in purple appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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