EAGAN, Minn. — The passing stats were prolific in Kirk Cousins’ first season in Purple, but the victories weren’t as plentiful as the quarterback and team hoped for heading into 2018.
Season milestones included the following:
425 completions (setting a new Vikings record — Sam Bradford, 395 in 2016)
606 attempts (tying Hall of Famer Warren Moon’s team record set in 1995)
70.1 completion percentage (second in team history — Bradford, 71.6 in 2016)
4,298 passing yards (second in team history — Daunte Culpepper, 4,717 in 2004)
99.7 passer rating (fourth in team history — Culpepper, 110.9 in 2004; Brett Favre, 107.2 in 2009; Randall Cunningham, 106.0 in 1998)
All of those numbers place Cousins’ first of a three-year deal among the best passing seasons in franchise history.
He also brought continuity to a position, becoming the second quarterback to start all 16 games for a Vikings squad led by Head Coach Mike Zimmer, joining Teddy Bridgewater (2015).
It was just the 17th time in 58 seasons of Vikings football for a quarterback to start every game in a season and the ninth time for a quarterback to start all 16 games (the NFL switched from 14 regular-season games to 16 in 1978, but the 1982 season was only nine games).
Cousins became just the third quarterback in franchise history to attempt every pass by the Vikings in a regular season, joining Tommy Kramer (556 attempts in 1979) and Christian Ponder (483 attempts in 2012). An injury to Ponder, however, kept him from playing in the Wild Card playoff game against the Packers.
Note: Daunte Culpepper attempted 548 of Minnesota’s 552 passes in 2004.
While the continuity was there, the consistency wasn’t as Minnesota finished 8-7-1.
Cousins had seven games with a passer rating in the triple digits, including two of the final three games of the season (after Minnesota made quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski the interim offensive coordinator).
He also had four games with a passer rating lower than 85.0 and had multiple games undermined by turnovers, with 10 interceptions and nine fumbles (he recovered two of his own fumbles).
1 — Cousins is the only player in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns, complete at least 70 percent of passes and throw 10 or fewer interceptions in a season (Drew Brees finished 2018 with 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns, a 74.4 completion percentage and five interceptions in starting all 15 of the games he played).
Cousins garnered a rare game ball from Zimmer after completing 29 of 38 passes for 342 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers in a 24-17 victory over the Packers on Nov. 25.
425 completions on 606 attempts (70.1 percent) for 4,298 yards with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a passer rating of 99.7
Active for all 16 games; did not play
Inactive for all 16 games
2 Highest highs
1. In just his second game with the Vikings and first on the road, Cousins orchestrated a 22-point fourth quarter in Week 2 at Lambeau Field, bringing Minnesota back from a 20-7 deficit in a game that eventually ended with the 11th tie in franchise history.
Cousins connected with Stefon Diggs for touchdowns of 3 and 75 yards during the period before threading a brilliant 22-yarder between the corner and safety for a touchdown to Adam Thielen with just 31 seconds remaining in regulation. Cousins was then on the mark with a 2-point conversion pass to Diggs to tie the game at 29. He gave the Vikings two opportunities in overtime to win the game with a field goal, but neither attempt was successful.
2. Another of Cousins’ top performances also didn’t result in a victory, but he helped Minnesota keep it interesting in Week 4 against the Rams in Los Angeles. On a night when the Vikings vaunted defense struggled, Cousins completed 36 of 50 passes for 422 yards with three touchdowns for a passer rating of 117.2.
2 Lowest lows
1. It was impossible to not see Minnesota’s 27-6 home loss to Buffalo coming back to haunt the Vikings later in the season.
A disastrous first quarter by the Vikings gave the double-digit underdog Bills a 17-0 lead and a loss in a game that helped keep Minnesota out of the postseason.
Cousins finished the opening period 3-of-6 passing for 11 yards with two fumbles lost.
2. Even after the bizarre tie, the loss against Buffalo and the uncharacteristic game by the defense at Los Angeles, the Vikings entered Week 17 needing a home win, or even another tie, against the Bears to secure a postseason berth.
Minnesota struggled at Chicago in Week 11, falling behind by 14 at halftime in an eventual 25-20 loss in which Cousins threw a pick-6, and had a shot at redemption but couldn’t capitalize.
Cousins avoided turnovers in the rematch, but the Bears limited the QB to his fewest passing yards of the season (132), a completion rate of 60.6 percent (tied for his second lowest in 2018) and passer rating of 79.4 (third-worst of the season).
At halftime, Cousins was 10-of-15 passing for 44 yards and trailed 13-3.
“Well, it is a disappointment. I don’t think — it’s up for interpretation. It wasn’t what we wanted, what our fan base wanted. It’s OK to be disappointed. I think, if anything, it will sharpen us and give us an edge as we prepare for next year. And I think that’s a good thing.”
— Cousins after Minnesota’s Week 17 game against Chicago