Three weeks ago, the biggest question regarding Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins related to how the team would escape a fully-guaranteed contract that runs through the 2020 season. Today, the biggest question is whether Cousins can keep the best stretch of his career going.
On Sunday, Cousins became the first quarterback in league history to throw for 300 or more yards and to generate a passer rating of at least 130 in three straight games. No other quarterback ever has accomplished that. Not Peyton Manning, not Tom Brady, not Brett Favre, not John Elway, not Drew Brees, not Kyle Boller. (Just making sure you’re paying attention.)
Cousins also has thrown for four touchdown passes in consecutive games. He has 976 passing yards and 10 touchdown passes in the three outing since the Bears put the clamps on the Minnesota offense and Cousins looked as bad as he ever has. The criticism became intense, and Cousins responded.
He admitted after the Week Five win over the Giants that he plays better when “ticked off,” when he has an edge. The challenge now becomes keeping that edge even as the accolades pile up.
A microcosm of the mindset emerged late in Sunday’s win over the Lions. With Detroit down 35-24 and driving, having plenty of time to score, to get the ball back, and to score again, Cousins was pacing the sidelines, focused and determined and aware that a stellar effort that should have sealed the victory may still require him to tap that reservoir of ticked-offedness and deliver a big throw in a big spot.
That’s been his biggest weakness, throughout his career. Big games, big spots, big moments, Cousins fails to deliver.
On Sunday, with the Vikings facing second and six and everyone expecting the Vikings to run the ball, the Vikings trusted Cousins to fake the handoff and throw not a short, safe pass for another first down but to launch a lower-percentage deep ball that found receiver Stefon Diggs for the dagger.
That’s not a play Kurt Cousins makes. On Sunday, it was definitely a play that Kirk Cousins made.
Now, in three days, he gets a chance to exorcise his prime-time demons against the team whose president gave him that “Kurt” moniker. And if Cousins can take his game under the lights and dismantle Washington the way he should, he’ll take another step toward changing a narrative that had been tattooed on his neck.