Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins suffered a non-contact ankle injury in the fourth quarter Sunday at Green Bay.
Cousins planted as he surveyed the field on third-and-19 and came up gimpy. He protected the football as he was tackled by Kenny Clark for a sack with about 10 minutes remaining in the game. Minnesota ruled out Cousins during the ensuing Green Bay possession with an ankle injury, but the Vikings are fearful that further evaluation Monday will confirm an Achilles injury.
Rookie Jaren Hall finished the game for Cousins as Minnesota's defense delivered multiple stops to preserve a **24-10 victory**.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, who found the positives multiple times when his team opened his second season with three losses, balanced the potentially tremendous loss of Cousins within Minnesota's third consecutive win and fourth in five games to even its record at 4-4.
"Very, very excited about our team's performance. We made it a point at the start of this month, knowing we would have five opportunities in the month of October to reset our season, we've done that. We're 2-0 in the NFC North, a lot of good football out in front of this team," he said, "but I do want to start off and say, thinking about our quarterback, went out today again as he has for most of the 2023 season and played the quarterback position as well as anybody in our league and just continued to build and build and build.
"Currently he's being evaluated and will be, into tomorrow. We are fearing an Achilles injury," O'Connell added. "The severity of that, I do not know at this point, but that's what our fear is in the moment, and we'll confirm that as soon as possible. Thinking of Kirk, our locker room, every single player in our locker room, thinking about our leader, our guy right now. I'm just so proud of him, proud of the way he's played all season long.
"Whatever is the case, if we don't have him for one snap or for the duration of our season, that will not change the fact of what I believe Kirk Cousins, the level he played to this year and ultimately what he's meant to me and our organization, so thinking about him right now," O'Connell continued.
Cousins finished his day 23-of-31 passing for 274 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 122.2.
He entered Week 8 leading the NFL in completions, pass attempts and touchdown passes, ranked second in passing yards and fourth in passer rating.
Beyond the impressive statistical output that has continuously shown up for Cousins despite numerous changes, he was showing a mastery of all the details within the offense.
"I do know one thing. It's going to have to be an injury that makes him not capable physically of playing because if it has anything to do with pain tolerance or a choice to go out on the football field, Kirk Cousins is going to be out on the field," O'Connell said. "We'll figure out the severity of it. You guys know what my fear is of the injury, and when we confirm that as an organization, we'll try to move forward in the short term. Like I said, I'm not sure anybody in this league overall was playing as well or if not as well as Kirk at the position this year."
How will the Vikings approach the aftermath of the injury?
Minnesota's depth at the sport's most important position had been tested already this season.
The Vikings opted to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster to open the season.
Experienced backup Nick Mullens, however, landed on Injured Reserve on Oct. 11 because of a back injury. Injured Reserve rules require Mullens to miss at least one more game before he can return. Minnesota also has veteran Sean Mannion on its practice squad.
"He's progressing along, and that will definitely — that's why I don't want to commit one way or the other," O'Connell said of Mullens. "We've been kind of allowing Nick to rehab, and he's done a really nice job. He's getting stronger. I'd imagine he'll be a real possibility for us. I don't know what next week looks like. That's why I don't really want to confirm or commit to anything yet, but I'll keep you guys posted as the week goes on."
Hall logged meaningful reps in the preseason before making his professional debut Sunday. He suffered a fumble during a sack on a third-and-8 play from the Minnesota 12, but the Vikings defense kept the Packers from scoring.
With a second opportunity, Hall faced a third-and-8 again and calmly delivered a strike for a 16-yard gain to T.J. Hockenson with 4:28 remaining. The play forced Green Bay to burn its final two timeouts and allowed Minnesota to run more clock before punting with 2:41 left in the game.
"He did a great job of staying calm, stepping in the game," said left guard Dalton Risner, who made his second start as a Viking. "We could have helped him as an offensive line in some areas. Toward the end of the game, there were two plays in the run game that we've gotta be way better at to move the chains and not put him in a third down right when he's getting in the game.
"But for him to know the playbook and get in there and be able to know the silent count and just coordinate and run the show as a quarterback, I'm very, very impressed," Risner said. "As a rookie, he stepped in there very, very nicely. Very impressed with what he did."
Despite Cousins' years of durability, Hall has put it on himself to prepare with a one-play away mentality and credited Cousins' level of preparation as the biggest thing he's learned from the veteran so far.
"Kirk loves this game. He gives everything to this game, and you hear it every time he addresses the team. Every time we're in meetings, the questions he asks. The things he wants to get clear before we go out there," Hall said. "The dude's just the most prepared guy I've ever seen in the game, and I really respect that because I think that's when you play your best and that's what we always talk about. That's just one of the things about him and I can go on.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Kirk. I've really got no words for it. It breaks your heart," Hall continued. "That guy's the leader of the team. He's the heart and soul of the team. Had such a great season to this point. It's been an honor and so fun to watch. You just hope and pray for the best and hope everything is ok. That's just the guy that we play for. I can't say anything else. Just thoughts and prayers with him and his family right now."
The Vikings will do their best to have everyone rise up in response to the injury, similarly to the way players have elevated their games in the absences of starting receiver Justin Jefferson and outside linebacker Marcus Davenport.
"Everybody's in it collectively, no matter what happens. Whether it's a day, two days, a week, two weeks, whatever it is — everybody's going to have to try to step up to fill the void of what he brings to our team," said Brian O'Neill, who returned this season after suffering an Achilles injury on the same field on Jan. 1.