MINNEAPOLIS — There might have been plenty of national chatter about Kirk Cousins leading up to Sunday night’s prime-time division showdown at U.S. Bank Stadium.
But there were no such whispers within the Vikings locker room.
Cousins’ teammates knew the quarterback would come through against one Minnesota’s biggest foes.
And deliver Cousins did, as he completed 29 of 38 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in a crucial 24-17 win over the Packers.
“It just kind of shows his character,” said Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. “Shows what kind of player he is to be able to just not really care about people talking about him, not really care about what happened what last week, and just be able to go out there and play some really good football.
“I mean, the throws he was making, really his full game was really impressive,” Thielen added, “and that’s what you expect out of him.”
Added Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs: “We’ve got 100-percent faith in the guy. He’s proven why he’s as good as we say he is. We’re behind him all the way. Tonight, as far as putting people to hush, he doesn’t really focus on that, but he focuses on doing his job the best way he can, and today he did that.”
Cousins finished with a quarterback rating of 129.5, which was his highest of the season. His second-best rating was 118.8 in Week 2 when Minnesota and Green Bay played to a 29-29 tie at Lambeau Field as Cousins threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns.
All in all, Cousins threw for 767 yards in two games against Green Bay in 2018, which set a franchise record for the most passing yards against the Packers in a single season. (Randall Cunningham had the previous record of 706 yards in 1998).
“Last week left a bad taste in our mouths, so the chance to come back on Sunday Night Football against a division rival at home was a great opportunity, and I’m glad we made the most of it,” Cousins said. “It took a great team effort, a lot of people involved to make that happen, and I’m thrilled with the outcome.”
Cousins was coming off his first and only multi-interception game of the season in last Sunday’s loss at the Bears.
But he was on target early, throwing for 254 yards and a pair of scores in the first half alone.
He even received a football on the night when Head Coach Mike Zimmer opted to present the quarterback with a game ball, a move Zimmer rarely does.
“He did a great job of managing what we needed to get done,” Zimmer said. “And some of the things we talked about, me and him this week, I thought he did tonight.
“So that was … I was really proud of him, and I thought he played exceptionally,” Zimmer added.
Cousins spread the wealth Sunday night, completing passes to seven different receivers while tossing touchdowns to Thielen, Diggs and running back Dalvin Cook.
He also chipped in on the ground at times, rushing for 17 yards on six carries (including two kneel-downs in the victory formation for minus-2 yards).
A pair of Cousins’ teammates up front had plenty of praise for the quarterback.
“Incredible,” Vikings center Pat Elflein summed up Cousins’ performance. “Kirk is an incredible player.
“We tried to give him as much time as we could up front … I know if we can do that, then that guy is special,” Elflein added. “He can really make some plays happen … he’s doing a great job.”
Added Vikings guard Tom Compton: “I don’t even know what [stats] he ended up with, but I’m sure it was a lot. He’s a helluva guy. He’s shown it. I’m glad he could show it out tonight. There were a lot of people doubting him, so it was good for him.”
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Packers under the lights for Sunday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Cousins’ big game came in what was a pivotal clash between NFC North foes fighting to stay in the division race and in the fight for the playoffs.
Minnesota moved to 6-4-1 on the season with a win and would be the No. 5 seed as a Wild Card in the NFC Playoffs if the season ended today.
But it doesn’t, and there are still five games left to jockey for playoff positioning. If Cousins plays this way down the stretch, the Vikings could find themselves in the dance come January.
“I think it meant a lot to Kirk and meant a lot to this team,” said Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. “Our backs were against the wall, and we couldn’t afford to lose one at home to a division opponent in the situation that we were in.”