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'A Great Opportunity' Awaits Cousins & Vikings on 'MNF'

EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins anticipated the question was coming, even if it happened to be the very final one Thursday morning at his weekly podium session in the Vikings locker room.

It's public knowledge that Cousins has never won on Monday Night Football, posting an 0-8 record between his time in Minnesota and Washington.

And with the Vikings set for the final Monday night game of the 2019 season, it's only natural the topic would come up again. Especially with the Vikings Week 16 contest coming at home and against their biggest rival in a game that features two teams with 10-plus wins and big-time playoff implications.

"Yeah, I'd love to get a win for a lot of reasons. Hopefully we can get that done," Cousins said. "It is what it is. Can't change the past but we certainly have a great opportunity Monday night."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was also asked about Cousins' record so far. He brushed off the notion that one player has a bigger hand than any other in determining the outcome of a game.

"Kirk has done a great job for us this year. He's been outstanding, he's played great all year long," Zimmer said. "If we get beat on Monday night, it's not going to be because of Kirk Cousins. It's because we didn't win as a team.

"When we've won games this year, it hasn't been because of Kirk … even though he's played good, but we've won as a team. So we're just going to stick to that mantra, that that is who we are and how we do things here," Zimmer added. "Hopefully he has a great game and hopefully we win, but it's not all on him. We have 21 other players, and they have to go out and execute just as much as he does. But unfortunately, [he] and I get all the blame."

A deeper dive into Cousins' history on Monday night shows that perhaps the quarterback isn't to be blamed.

He has completed 191 of 292 passes (65.4 percent) for 2,153 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions, and his passer rating is 92.7 in those games.

Cousins' first four starts on Monday Night Football were all at home with Washington, but they came when he was either not the full-time starter, or in his first or second season as a starting quarterback.

Cousins, like most NFL players, has progressed over the years and improved overall as a player.

Yet unfortunately for him, his past four starts on Monday Night Football have not only been on the road, but have taken place in Kansas City, Philadelphia and Seattle (twice) — three places generally regarded as some of the toughest to win at in the NFL, no matter the day.

In the 2017 game against the Chiefs, Kansas City's defense scored on the final play of the game to make the 29-20 score look more lopsided than it was.

Cousins also lost in Philadelphia in 2017, which was the same year the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

And Cousins and the Vikings have dropped back-to-back Monday night affairs in 2018 and 2019 in Seattle. While the entire offense struggled in 2018, Cousins threw for 257 yards and a pair of scores with an interception that hit off his receiver's hand earlier this month.

To Zimmer's point above, Cousins certainly wasn't the reason Minnesota couldn't find a rare road win in Seattle. But the quarterback knows the criticism will come his way regardless of the outcome.

"I just go out and play. There have been games where the stat line wasn't the best, but I knew I played really well," Cousins said. "There have been games we've lost where I said, 'I'm playing my best football.' There are games where we've won, and it just wasn't good enough by the quarterback position.

"It's always a work in progress, and I don't really like putting my stake in the ground and saying something or other about my performance," Cousins added. "I do think the longer you play, the more comfortable you get in a system, the more comfortable you get with teammates, the better you can make decisions in split seconds [like] whether to check the ball down or take the deep shot, throw it away, avoid a sack. The longer you play, the better of a feel you have for that. You're always chasing playing better and better; it's a work in progress."

Cousins has been plenty good in 2019. He has completed 291 of 413 passes (70.5 percent) for 3,481 yards with 25 touchdowns and five interceptions. His passer rating of 111.1 ranks third in the NFL.

That wasn't enough to get him selected to the initial Pro Bowl roster, much to Dalvin Cook's disappointment.

"A lot of guys didn't get in there. I feel like a lot of guys got snubbed," Cook said. "You know, I don't think Kirk is a guy who plays for stuff like that; he just likes to win football games, and that's a lot of the guys in the locker room.

"But I would have loved for Kirk to have been one of those first selections," Cook added.

Cousins was indifferent to the idea of not getting selected to the Pro Bowl, praising to top-heavy crop of NFC quarterbacks.

But it was clear anyway that Cousins is locked in on beating the Packers and not just because it would quiet the naysayers about his record on Monday night.

With the Vikings sitting at 10-4, they could be playing for a spot in the playoffs and the opportunity to stay alive in the NFC North race.

Cousins wants a win in the worst way, but not because it would help his own image.

"Big game this week. Great opportunity and great to be back at home," Cousins said. "Got a good football team coming here to play us, and we're going to have to have a good week of practice to be ready to go.

"I'm excited for the challenge," Cousins added.