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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings waste brilliant bounce-back performance by Cousins

By Matthew Coller

This isn’t what Kirk Cousins signed up for.

During his three years in Washington, D.C., some of his best performances were flushed by poor defensive play. On six occasions, Washington lost or tied games in which Cousins threw for more than 350 yards. It wasn’t supposed to be like that in Minnesota. He was supposed to get a whole lot of support from the No. 1 defense.

Cousins didn’t get any of the expected help from his defense on Thursday Night Football against the Los Angeles Rams and the Vikings let a magnificent night for the $84 million quarterback go to waste in a 38-31 loss.

The Vikings opened the game with a brilliant 13-play touchdown drive in which Cousins hit Adam Thielen twice for third-down conversations and then dropped a dime to Aldrick Robinson — a favorite of Cousins’ in Washington who signed last week — putting the Vikings up on their first drive.

Cousins needed the early strike to wash the bad taste out of his mouth from a poor showing against the Buffalo Bills that led to the league’s biggest upset of the year. He gave Buffalo 10 free points on fumbles. On Thursday, the Vikings’ protection gave Cousins much more time to throw despite facing two of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL in Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald.

In his second and third drives of the game, Cousins pushed his team down the field with strong execution of John DeFilippo’s offense and a number of on-target passes. They produced 10 more points, one on a 12-play field goal drive and the other on a three-play, 75-yard drive capped by another touchdown to Robinson.

But with every score, the Rams had a response against the Vikings’ struggling defense, which hasn’t been itself since Week 1. Rams quarterback Jared Goff threw four touchdowns, including a 70-yarder to Cooper Kupp. By the end of the half, Goff produced 251 yards and a 157.5 rating. That’s not what anyone expected from a team that allowed just seven points to Goff last season.

When the first half was over, the Vikings trailed by eight and Cousins had 255 yards, two touchdowns. And then he responded to a field goal drive by hitting Thielen for a 45-yard touchdown.

If you wondered just how good Stefon Diggs and Thielen could be with an accurate downfield passer, you saw it on Thursday night. They finished with 19 catches for 235 yards.

But Goff came right back with another long touchdown pass, hitting Robert Woods for a 31-yard touchdown. Somehow Woods was matched up with Anthony Barr, just as Kupp was on his 70-yard strike.

The Vikings’ defense could not find ways to pressure Goff as they had in 2017. Without Everson Griffen on the field, Goff was rarely pressured and sacked just once by Danielle Hunter. He had plenty of time to sit back and work the ball downfield.

If there was any shot for the Vikings getting back in the game, they needed stops down 38-28 in the fourth quarter. Mike Zimmer’s defense did not provide the required slow-downs though, allowing the Rams to run the clock down via Todd Gurley and a first-down jet sweep from Brandin Cooks.

All said and done, Goff finished with 465 yards and five touchdowns.

The Rams did crack the door open for the Vikings by missing a chip-shot field goal and Cousins promptly drove his team down the field again for a field goal. He cleared 400 yards in the process.

And then the defense finally got the Rams to punt, setting up Cousins with a potential game-tying drive. It looked like Green Bay all over again, but this time Cousins was stripped by John Franklin-Myers, putting an end to the game.

Maybe you could argue that Cousins should have come through with the ball in his hands at the end, but he was on the money so many times on Thursday night that it’s hard to pin even one percent on him. He shouldn’t have to be perfect. He should have been able to rely on his defense for at least one big stop, but it never came and the Vikings dropped to 1-2-1.

Back in the spring, we never thought we’d be seeing the Vikings’ defense throw away great performances, but that’s what happened on Thursday. And that’s what can’t happen again if the Vikings have any plans of being the contender they expected to be with Cousins under center.

The post Vikings waste brilliant bounce-back performance by Cousins appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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