Chiefs 26 — Vikings 23
by Patrick P. Marek
What are we going to do with this guy? Kirk Cousins is the poster child for a franchise that can’t stand prosperity. Every week fans and teammates have to agonize over which version of Cousins is going to show up to play. Will it be the “Good Kirk” who performed as an elite passer during an unbeaten October, or the “Bad Kirk,” who suddenly can’t hit a bull in the posterior with a shovel? Last Sunday, the Chiefs and the bulls were safe. We got the “Bad Kirk.”
It was evident from the beginning that something was seriously wrong with Minnesota’s $84-million quarterback. The Chiefs came into the game banged up, vulnerable, and with the league’s 30th ranked rushing defense. Dalvin Cook was leading the league in rushing. The blueprint from Minnesota’s 4-0 October was to establish the run, and then carve up the Chiefs’ secondary with easy short passes and occasional deep shots off play action.
I’m not the biggest Andy Reid fan, but the guy can flat out coach. He came into the game with his own road map for success, and that involved stopping Dalvin Cook and putting the game in the hands of Kirk Cousins. The Chiefs loaded the box with eight or nine guys on the line of scrimmage and dared Cousins to pass.
The “Good Kirk” would have sneered at Reid for disrespecting him and hooked up with Stefon Diggs and the rest of the Minnesota receivers for 450 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, “Good Kirk” got left behind in Minnesota chowing down at the Woodbury Pizza Ranch … and “Bad Kirk” played like he had just washed his throwing arm, and couldn’t do a thing with it.
Minnesota’s first drive was a preview of coming detractions. Despite having the number-one running back in the NFL, Minnesota chose to throw on its first three downs. First down was a play action short pass on the sidelines that sailed high over Dalvin Cook’s head. Then came a throw to Stefon Diggs. Airmailed. Finally, it was Adam Thielen’s turn for a pass that turned out to be his only target before leaving the game after reinjuring his hamstring. Not even close. Later in the first quarter Cousins overthrew Stefon Diggs on a sure touchdown pass. Diggs is likely to be featured on Minnesota milk cartons this week. He only managed one reception for seven yards. In Minnesota living rooms across the state, cries of “Oh-Oh!” drowned out the Skol chants. Maybe it was the play calling, the after effects of bad foie gras the night before the game, or the racist amplified tomahawk chop chants, but Cousins was definitely off his game.
He was so befuddled that he slid two yards early on a third-down scramble and cost Minnesota a key first down. However, just to drive everyone crazy, “Good Kirk” showed up for a handful of pinpoint passes, including a fastball to Kyle Rudolph for a three-yard touchdown that put Minnesota briefly in the lead. To be fair, Cousins did not commit a turnover for the third straight game, his longest stretch as a Viking.
Without the threat of an accurate passing game the inspired Chiefs’ defense feasted on what Dalvin was cooking. Cook was hit behind, or within one yard of the line of scrimmage on 15 of 21 carries, including on a three-yard loss with 6:59 remaining in the game and Minnesota leading 23-20. Garrett Bradbury and Pat Elflein were routinely bullied by the K.C. line, but Cousins was only sacked once during the contest. However, an ineligible lineman downfield penalty from Bradbury and an illegal hands to the face flag by guard Josh Kline cost Minnesota two first downs on drives in the third quarter that eventually culminated in punts.
This defeat was especially painful because everyone else in the NFC North also lost on Sunday. A win would have tied the Vikings for first place with the Packers.
How did the game slip away? There’s a lot of blame to spread around. Dan Bailey missed a key extra point. The Vikings’ offensive play calling was as atrocious as it was mysterious. Zimmer’s defense once again played soft, and gave up the longest run of his coaching history. Zimmer’s phantom timeout at the end of the game cost Minnesota a sack and gave the Chiefs another chance to connect with Tyreek Hill and put the game away. Britton Colquitt had a brilliant day of punting … until he shanked a 29 yarder to guarantee a Chiefs’ field goal and victory. And then there’s our enigmatic, erratic, and expensive signal caller … Kirk Cousins. What are we going to do with that guy?
Stay purple my friends.