MINNEAPOLIS — All through one of the best NFL season he has been part of since he got here into the league in 2012, Kirk Cousins retains saying the strangest factor: He insists he is not enjoying effectively. The mantra started in September and it reached an apex Thursday evening after the Minnesota Vikings quarterback completed one of the vital environment friendly video games ever towards a New England Patriots protection beneath coach Invoice Belichick.
Cousins accomplished 30 of 37 passes for 299 yards three touchdowns, and compiling a season-high 84.8 Whole Quarterback Ranking in a 33-26 win. Then he opened a window into his distinctive mixture of anguish and aid throughout a postgame assembly with reporters.
“It is humorous as a result of we’re successful, so I really feel like speaking to you guys has been rather a lot simpler this 12 months,” he mentioned. “However I am not enjoying any higher. If something, I am coming to those press conferences making an attempt to smile, having to work to smile, as a result of I am considering to myself, ‘Man, I’ve obtained to play higher.’ I recognize successful as a result of it does make this just a little simpler.”
The Vikings are 9-2 (.818 win share), one of the best document for any NFL staff Cousins has been on by 11 video games. His cumulative season statistics are nowhere close to his profession excessive by 12 weeks (he had a career-high 68.5 QBR by 11 video games in 2016 with Washington), and he did throw a foul interception within the first quarter Thursday evening — a floater off his again foot that led to a Patriots subject purpose. However Cousins additionally made a collection of on-the-money throws — the kind he has made to win video games all season — together with a 36-yard dime to receiver Justin Jefferson within the fourth quarter that arrange a 15-yard toss to receiver Adam Thielen for the landing that gave the Vikings the lead for good.
In the long run, the Vikings’ 81.6% staff completion share was the second-highest ever towards a Belichick-led Patriots protection. However when requested if he really thought he ought to have performed higher, Cousins rattled off an inventory of imperfect throws. One was to receiver Okay.J. Osborn that fell a bit brief, and one other towards Jefferson that was off the mark and will have been intercepted.
“That is the best way I’m, man,” he mentioned. “I am type of exhausting on myself. I’m going again there and consider all of the methods I should be higher.”
In reality, the 2022 season is not near one of the best of Cousins’ profession from a person standpoint. His 49.8 QBR this season is definitely the worst it is ever been by 12 weeks of the season. His 9 interceptions are the second-worst, as is his 65% completion price. However the throws he has made to win video games are what his teammates and coaches need him to concentrate on.
Cousins, whose groups at the moment are 11-18 when enjoying in prime time, was requested if he would ever enable himself to say he had performed an amazing sport.
“No,” he mentioned. “I do not know. I most likely drive myself loopy, my household loopy being this fashion. It is s simply the best way I’m wired. I am an improver. I am type of obsessive about enchancment. Even when issues are good, my thoughts goes to how can they be higher. You type of torture your self that approach.”
The Vikings did not beat the Patriots solely on the energy of Cousins’ arm. Kene Nwangwu‘s 97-yard kickoff return within the third quarter offered an enormous emotional swing. Their move safety improved dramatically one week after Cousins was buried by seven sacks in a 40-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Their very own move rush got here alive within the fourth quarter to sack Patriots quarterback Mac Jones twice, and the NFL’s replay evaluate system reversed a third-quarter landing move to Patriots tight finish Hunter Henry, forcing a Patriots subject purpose.
And, to make certain, Cousins is not the primary skilled athlete who has refused or deflected credit score. However Cousins revealed that his try derives from a deeply held private fixation — all at a time when coaches and teammates are attempting to pump him up.
Cousins divulged that Thielen pulled him apart earlier than Thursday’s sport and “shared an encouraging phrase.” Thielen did not particularly handle that dialog in talking with reporters Thursday evening, however he mentioned it will be important for Cousins to not really feel like he is “carrying the burden of the staff on him.
“I believe that is one thing that we frequently attempt to discuss to him about,” Thielen added. “Simply go on the market and play soccer. You are a dang-good soccer participant and also you show that week in and week out. You present how powerful you’re. You present how ready you’re. When he does that — and he did it tonight — he is top-of-the-line within the league.”
Jefferson, in the meantime, lauded Cousins’ rising confidence in throwing him the type of “50-50” balls which have led him to attain three red-zone touchdowns up to now 4 video games, in addition to haul in deeper passes of 37 and 36 yards Thursday evening.
“Ever since I have been right here I have been asking him to do it,” Jefferson mentioned. “I really feel like each single week he is getting increasingly more assured to present me these sorts of footballs. I simply love going up and making a play.”
Cousins has been genuinely moved by such encouragement, in addition to the unwavering confidence coach Kevin O’Connell has displayed since becoming a member of the group in February. Hardly ever sentimental in public, Cousins expressed appreciation Thursday evening for his or her common encouragement to push him previous his errors.
“Kevin [O’Connell] has empowered me a lot,” Cousins mentioned. “This staff has empowered me a lot. The blokes have simply been super. I am unable to say sufficient about the best way that they’ve had my again after these interceptions, assist me all week lengthy, assist me pregame within the locker room. … At occasions it virtually brings me to tears the best way these guys assist me and have my again. It actually provides to the enjoyable of enjoying and dealing collectively.”