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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Cousins quiets primetime narrative by shining vs. Packers

By Matthew Coller

MINNEAPOLIS — It will be awhile before Kirk Cousins is asked again about his win-loss record in primetime games.

The Minnesota Vikings’ franchise quarterback was criticized for his 4-12 career record in primetime games coming into Sunday night’s matchup on NBC. Entering the key matchup with the Green Bay Packers at US Bank Stadium, he’d gone 0-for-3 this season in games on the national stage.

With a 24-17 victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Cousins officially put concerns about his ability to step up in primetime.

Sunday night’s contest opened slowly for the Vikings’ offense, which was stuffed on a third-and-1 run by CJ Ham to complete a three-and-out. The second drive went three-and-out with a bizarre 10-yard loss on a screen pass and incompletion on third-and-14. But the Vikings and Cousins quickly caught fire after that.

After a Rodgers-fueled touchdown drive to put Green Bay up by seven points, Cousins started slinging. He hit Dalvin Cook for a nine-yard gain to open the third drive and didn’t look back, picking up 24 yards on a throw to Stefon Diggs and then hitting on a screen pass to Cook for a 26-yard touchdown.

Nobody in the building needed that drive as much as Cousins, who threw two key interceptions in last week’s 25-20 loss to the Bears. He built on the hot start from there, perfectly dropping a pass into Diggs’ hands for a 30-yard touchdown to tie the score at 14 apiece early in the second quarter.

As so often happens, Cousins and the Vikings were cursed by their kicker. Dan Bailey ruined the following drive after Cousins hit Kyle Rudolph twice and set up for a fairly easy three points at the 30 yard line. Instead Bailey hooked wide left and the score remained knotted. Bailey later missed a 56-yard kick to end the first half.

Through 30 minutes of play, Cousins went 22-for-26 with 254 yards and two touchdowns. While head coach Mike Zimmer said earlier this week he isn’t into games in the 50s, the Vikings were moving the ball in a Rams-like fashion.

The Vikings’ quarterback continued his success through the air in the third quarter. After one of a number of mind-boggling decisions by Packers head coach Mike McCarthy went awry and gave the ball to the Minnesota offense in Green Bay territory, Cousins hit a 13-yard pass to Adam Thielen to set up Bailey’s first successful field goal of the night.

That put the Vikings ahead for the first time. They wouldn’t look back.

Cousins got the ball back after the Vikings’ defense sacked Rodgers on third down and drove the field for another touchdown. This time he rolled out and found Thielen open in the middle of the field. The Vikings’ top receiver did the rest, pounding into the end zone to put his team up by 10 points late in the third quarter. At that point, Cousins was 26-for-32 with three touchdowns.

At no point did the lights look too bright for Cousins, who reminded the on-edge crowd why the Vikings guaranteed him a massive sum of money this offseason.

While Cousins has been known to turn the ball over at inopportune times, he protected the ball on Sunday night when the Vikings couldn’t afford to give Rodgers extra chances. He finished the night with 332 yards, three touchdowns and without a turnover.

The 4-12 record in primetime was never worth talking about to begin with. This isn’t even the first time Cousins has out-dueled Rodgers in primetime in his career. In those games, he was always the same player — sometimes outstanding, sometimes good enough for the game to go either way and sometimes poor. That’s the rollercoaster ride the Vikings signed up for.

On Sunday night, that rollercoaster hit a peak. Cousins got the best win of his career thus far in purple. Now the Packers are all but eliminated from the playoffs and the Vikings are in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot and they still aren’t out of the conversation for the NFC North with a game against Chicago coming up in Week 17.

Cousins won’t have another opportunity to prove he can step up on Thursday/Sunday/Monday night this season, but he will have to rise to the occasion again soon. The Vikings face off with Tom Brady next Sunday.

The post Cousins quiets primetime narrative by shining vs. Packers appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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