In a typical 17-game span, Kirk Cousins will have about nine good games, five elite, two meh, and one total clunker where he looks totally inept. On Sunday at Detroit, he authored one of the elite performances, but it wasn’t good enough, as the Vikings fell to the Lions by a score of 34-23.
The Vikings now own a 10-3 record, with a “magic number” of one to win the NFC North for the first time since 2017 and host at least one home playoff game. The loss in Detroit certainly wasn’t an “all is lost” affair, but it deflated some Vikings fans’ enthusiasm about Super Bowl contendership.
And the loss was confusing because the QB1 put forth his best game — by far — of 2022, diming 425 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Cousins completed 76% of his passes and was just fantastic for four quarters.
Regrettably, nobody will remember or care that Cousins was swelteringly hot, as NFL media is obsessed with “QB Record” as a legitimate statistic, and this contest will be filed in the “L” column. Cousins plays on a football team with 52 other players, but his quarterback record will read loss in the box score. The statistic is strange and hoodwinks even the most sensible of folks.
Before Sunday, teams that employed a quarterback who passed for 425+ passing yards, 2+ touchdown passes, and 0 picks in a single game had a record of 44-16 (.733) in NFL history. Those teams have won 73% of the time since 1920. Well, against the Lions in Week 13, the Vikings and Cousins joined the 27% dark side, unable to get a grip defensively and assist Cousins’ marvelous outing. Minnesota’s defense handed Detroit 34 points on 464 yards gained.
The implication? The Vikings have a tangible problem. This is the time of the year when good football teams should be honing their craft, improving weaknesses, and sharpening strengths. Minnesota’s defense seems hellbent on the opposite, becoming dreadful since the start of the game versus the Dallas Cowboys. The group performed great in the 4th Quarter against Buffalo in Week 10, but after that, it’s a sob story of yards allowed and total embrace of “bend but don’t break.”
Too, even during a game where Cousins looked surgical, the Vikings felt like they needed prayer to win. That’s problematic. Cousins cannot play defense. He can not snuff out fake punts. He’s the on-field architect of the offense and is accountable for about 50% of the team’s operations.
Well, he did his part on Sunday in his home state — to the tune of 425 yards, two scores, no turnovers, and a gaudy completion 76% rate.
It wasn’t enough. Fans should be worried. The permeable “here, get all of these yards, but we won’t let you score too much” defense needs a quick introspective and repair on the fly. Otherwise, the Vikings will lose their first or second playoff game, and all of the national talk about “fraudulent Vikings” will be vindicated.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).