Cousins, Vikings bounce back with revived passing attack

NFL

Credit: AP Photo/Adam Hunger

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Everson Griffen was asked what felt the best about the stress-reducing victory by the Minnesota Vikings over the New York Giants, and the 10th-year defensive end was as quick with an answer as he often is into the backfield on a pass rush.

“I’m proud of Kirk Cousins,” Griffen said. “That’s our quarterback, and people give him a lot of criticism, and he goes out there each and every week and then plays his best. This was a great game for him.”

After one of the worst performances of his career in a 16-6 loss at Chicago that preceded a rather tense week at team headquarters, Cousins snapped back at the skeptics with 309 yards and two touchdowns to Adam Thielen on 22-for-27 passing in Minnesota’s 28-10 win on Sunday.

He’ll continue to be under heavy scrutiny over the remainder of the season, the second with the Vikings on his three-year, $84 million contract, with more proof needed in future road — or, perhaps, postseason — games that he can deliver a victory in more adverse circumstances. Cousins, though, gave his teammates, coaches, fans, and maybe even himself a badly needed boost of confidence by reviving the passing attack to beat the Giants.

“My preparation was the exact same, this week and last week,” Cousins said. “I have a rhythm and routine that I’ve stuck with for five years now as a starter. I go about my business. I go to work. I keep my head down. The results aren’t always predictable. We don’t always know what’s going to happen. We could play a really good defense, and sometimes they get you. You come back to work, and you keep going. What you don’t do is quit. You don’t stop. You keep going. So that’s what I’m going to do. This league will test you. It tests me every week. I’m glad we got a win this time.”

The 138.6 passer rating that Cousins posted against the Giants was his second best since joining the Vikings, behind only the opener this year (140.8) when he attempted only 10 passes in the 28-12 win over Atlanta. The Vikings had 490 total yards, their most in 36 games since Sept. 24, 2017, against Tampa Bay with Case Keenum at quarterback. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and offensive adviser Gary Kubiak emphasized rollouts in the game plan for Cousins, and some of his longest gains came off of those. When he stayed in the pocket, he was crisp, too, including the second score to Thielen, a 9-yard laser on a post route late in the third quarter that gave the Vikings a 25-10 lead.

“That’s a throw that probably won’t be talked about enough, because that was a heck of a ball,” Thielen said. “I mean, if you put that anywhere else, it’s probably not a completion. Throws like that are ones that you look at and say, ‘Dang, this guy can really play, and he gives us a chance to win on Sundays.’ Again, I’m just thankful that he is on our side.”

Here’s a closer look at the Vikings (3-2) following their victory over the Giants:

WHAT’S WORKING

After being bottled by the Bears the week before, Dalvin Cook topped the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in five games, with 21 carries for 132 yards. He also caught six passes for 86 yards, for a career-best 217 yards from scrimmage. With 542 rushing yards, Cook is second in the NFL behind Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Now that they’re nearly one-third of the way through the season, the penalties that have piled up have become more of a trend than an aberration, a lack of discipline uncharacteristic of Zimmer’s teams. The Vikings were flagged 12 times for 112 yards against the Giants, giving them 56 penalties for 456 yards this season.

“I’ve been talking to the team all year long about them,” Zimmer said. “We just have to clean them up.”

STOCK UP

Dan Bailey made all four of his field goal attempts on Sunday, and he’s 7 for 8 for the season, missing only a 47-yarder in the second game at Green Bay. He’s 11 for 12 on extra points, with the only miss on a 48-yarder that was blocked after the try was pushed back by, yes, a penalty.

STOCK DOWN

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs caused a stir by missing practice on Wednesday and acknowledging on Thursday that he was dissatisfied with the direction of the offense and did not deny a desire to be traded when asked directly by reporters. After the game, Diggs confirmed reports that he’d been fined by the Vikings more than $200,000 for his absences. He also tried to quell the questions about his happiness.

“It was never not good,” Diggs said. “Outside people got things a little shaky, but at this point, I’m a team guy. I’m here, and I want to win.”

INJURED

Linebacker Ben Gedeon left the game on Sunday because of a concussion. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander was inactive because of elbow and groin injuries.

KEY NUMBER

130 — Receiving yards for Thielen, who had only six yards on two catches against the Bears the week before.

NEXT STEPS

After sacking Giants rookie Daniel Jones four times, the pass rush will have to stay strong when Philadelphia brings its stout offensive line and quarterback Carson Wentz to Minneapolis. That will be the first visit by the Eagles to U.S. Bank Stadium since they won the Super Bowl after the 2017 season.

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