Bengals 27, Vikings 24 (OT)
by Patrick P. Marek
There was so much yellow laundry tossed on the field at Paul Brown Stadium during the Vikings season opener in Cincinnati that Minnesota’s offensive line looked like they were auditioning for a Tide commercial. Vikings’ fullback C.J. Ham was flagged for a false start on the first play of the game, and by the time that Evan McPherson’s field goal sailed through the uprights to seal Minnesota’s fate in overtime, the Vikings had collected 12 penalties for 116 yards. Minnesota managed to avoid the team record for penalties in a single game of 16, but that was only because a number of additional penalties were called but weren’t accepted by the Bengals.
Where is former Vikings’ head coach and ultimate “offensive line whisperer” Mike Tice when you need him? Minnesota has invested millions of dollars and invested precious capital in high draft picks on improving their offensive line, and this year’s version looks like it might be even be more putrid (if that is possible) than last year’s pitiful unit. I know this is painful, but let’s review the offensive line’s report card for penalties in Sunday’s loss: Oli Udoh, 12:16, first quarter, offensive holding, 10 yards; Garrett Bradberry, 9:08, second quarter, offensive holding, 10 yards; Rashod Hill, 1:44, second quarter, offensive holding, 10 yards; Brian O’Neil, 0:35, second quarter, false start, five yards; Rashod Hill, 0:30, second quarter, offensive holding, 10 yards; Oli Udoh, 6:49, third quarter, unnecessary roughness (I thought Zimmer was going to stroke out after this penalty) 15 yards; and finally … Ezra Cleveland, 7:18, fourth quarter, offensive holding, 10 yards. Ouch. With all of those infractions, it’s a miracle that Minnesota was able to have a chance to win the game in overtime.
There was a lot of blame to go around after the loss, and of course the number one target was the offensive line. However, Coach Zimmer threw Kirk Cousins under the bus in a halftime interview, when he said that a lot of the holding penalties were because his quarterback was holding the ball too long.
Zimmer has a point. Cousins spends so much time standing around in the pocket that he looks like he is a model for a sculpture class. Some experts (including yours truly) have speculated that he is afraid to make mistakes that will hurt his stat line. On Sunday, he actually threw the ball out of bounds on purpose when he was under duress to avoid getting sacked with the Vikings clawing back into contention, but that is the exception that proves the rule for his career.
Cousins has a million-dollar arm, but I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for his feet. You could say that he is immobile, but that would be giving him too much credit. He simply doesn’t have a clue about how to avoid the rush while in the pocket, and he looks stiff, awkward, and slow while trying to buy time to get his receivers perfectly open. Wide open receivers are a rarity in today’s NFL. Even mediocre quarterbacks quickly become adept at getting the ball out quickly and putting throws into tight windows. The best quarterbacks, like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, have the skills and the confidence to actually throw their receivers open with perfect passes. That will never be Kirk Cousins, but what can he do about his hesitancy and clumsy attempts to move in the pocket and bail out his offensive line?
For a possible solution to Kirk’s problem. All you have to do is look to the Flintstones and Mr. Rogers (not Aaron). Ballet class! Fred Flintstone was having horrible problems with his bowling footwork. His scores were down, and his team was depending on him. What did he do? Fred went to ballet class, and BAM …300 games and a league championship. Hall of Fame Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann credited years of ballet classes with his ability to stay flexible and run precise routes. He even visited “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” during a memorable episode, and brought Fred Rogers along as a guest to his ballet class. For the record, Kirk Cousins will never be able to achieve the grace and fancy footwork that Rogers and Swann exhibited on the dance floor.
However, with a few ballet lessons it’s possible that Cousins will be pirouetting away from rushers and earning his new nickname: Kirk “Twinkletoes” Cousins in no time.
Stay purple my friends.