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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Cousins talks a big game, but fails to back it up when it matters most

By Judd Zulgad

Kirk Cousins’ pregame address to his Vikings teammates on Sunday in Chicago included this bit of bravado. “They’re not the reason this game moved to prime time,” Cousins was heard saying on NBC. “We are.”

Cousins has to know there is one very important thing that goes with telling the world that it’s your team, and not the opponent, that is the reason the NFL moved a game to prime time. You must then back it up. Cousins was unable to do so in the Vikings’ 25-20 loss to Chicago on Sunday at Soldier Field, meaning his words, much like many of the statistics he posted, meant little. The loss dropped the Vikings to 5-4-1 and gave the NFC North-leading Bears (7-3) control of the division.

There are plenty of excuses Cousins’ supporters will provide for why the Vikings lost this game. They start with an offensive line that general manager Rick Spielman neglected for inexplicable reasons during the offseason. Cousins far too often was hurried by the Bears — he was pressured on 16 of his drop backs, which is the second most he has seen in a game this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information — and the Vikings’ run game was held to 22 yards on 14 carries, an embarrassing average of 1.6 yards per carry.

The Vikings spent all week talking about how difficult it was going to be to stop Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky from scrambling and about how dominant Khalil Mack could be when applying pressure. Somehow, the Vikings then emerged from the visitor’s locker room looking ill-prepared to contain Trubisky or slow Mack at all in the opening half.

All of these things factored into a loss in which the Vikings trailed 14-0 at halftime, but were given numerous opportunities to rally and win the game in the second half. But as much as the pro-Cousins crowd might not want to point a finger at the quarterback, the bottom line is this: The Vikings signed Cousins to an $84 million, three-year contract last March to win games like the one the Vikings lost on Sunday.

The one thing they could not afford was for Cousins to be a part of the reason the team lost — and that’s exactly what he was again on Sunday.

Cousins has been plagued by fumbles throughout his career as a starting quarterback in the NFL — he entered Sunday with 39 fumbles and 17 lost since becoming Washington’s starter in 2015 — but he did not have any against the Bears, despite being sacked twice and facing heavy pressure throughout. Cousins’ miscues on Sunday were two more interceptions, including a devastating pick that came in the fourth quarter with the Vikings having cut Chicago’s lead to 14-6.

The Vikings had taken possession at their own 11-yard line with 8 minutes, 38 seconds remaining when Cousins took the snap from the shotgun formation and dropped back to his own 4-yard line. The Bears applied moderate pressure, but Cousins had no one in his face when he looked to this right and let a pass go in the direction of wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. There were three Bears in the vicinity of the pass as Chicago strong safety Eddie Jackson intercepted the errant throw at the 27 yard line and ran down the left sideline for a touchdown to make it 22-6.

.@EJackson_4 snags and scores on an INT! #MINvsCHI #SNF pic.twitter.com/crluQDe7Ui

— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) November 19, 2018

That gave Cousins seven interceptions on the season and 13 turnovers in 10 starts. That matched the number of interceptions that Case Keenum threw in 15 regular-season games (14 starts) for the Vikings in 2017. Cousins’ 13 turnovers are already five more than Keenum had last year, when Vikings coach Mike Zimmer seemed to live in fear that the veteran journeyman was going to make a crucial mistake at the worst time.

Zimmer’s fears proved to be well-founded when Keenum threw a first-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown in the Vikings’ loss at Philadelphia in the NFC title game. But those were the exact types of mistakes the Vikings did not expect when they signed Cousins.

Cousins finished Sunday with decent but misleading stats. He completed 30-of-46 passes for 262 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 76.5 passer rating. Much of that stats padding came late in the game and after it had been decided. Cousins did not reach the 100-yard passing mark until late in the third quarter and his first-half stats (7-of-13 for 57 yards with an interception and a 33.2 rating) more accurately reflected his night.

It was an extremely disappointing night and comes in a season in which the Vikings do not currently have a victory against a team on the positive side of .500. The Saints and Rams are the class of the NFC and the Vikings have lost to them both. The Bears are evidently the class of the NFC North and Minnesota is now 0-1 against them.

Cousins was supposed to have the ability to direct the Vikings to a Super Bowl and prove to the Washington Redskins that they made a mistake by not making a rich investment in the quarterback. But with six games remaining in their season, Cousins and the Vikings look as if they might be lucky to simply make the playoffs as a wild card entrant.

So far the quarterback has talked a much better game than he has played.

The post Zulgad: Cousins talks a big game, but fails to back it up when it matters most appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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