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Monday Morning Mailbag: Kirk Cousins' Hot Start Continues, Vikings Defensive Adjustments

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Nice team win by the Vikings. All three phases played pretty well, especially as the game progressed. My question is: had the miscues in the first two games not had happened (fumble in Cincinnati and the missed field goal in Arizona) — and we walk away from those two games with wins along with the win over Seattle — would Kirk Cousins be in the early MVP conversation? He's playing — in my opinion — the best football of his career this season, regardless of the 1-2 record.

— Brandon in Winona, Minnesota

Happy Victory Monday to those who celebrate. The Vikings needed Sunday's win in the worst way, and Cousins was undoubtedly a catalyst in getting that crucial win.

Brandon brings the heat with his backing of Cousins, who is playing as well as any quarterback in the league right now.

He's averaging 300-plus yards per game this season and ranks fourth among QBs in passer rating (118.3). He's been at 100-plus in that latter category in each game this season and now has 17 consecutive games with a passer rating of 90 or higher.

But perhaps most importantly, Cousins is taking care of the ball. He has a sterling 8-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio so far this season, the most touchdown passes without a pick by any quarterback so far this season.

I thought Everson Griffen's postgame comments about Cousins were spot on:

"Kirk's playing his [butt] off, the offense played their [butt] off. I haven't seen Kirk play like this in a long time. He's playing great football right now. You've got to recognize that, and we've just got to keep it going."

View postgame celebration images from Week 3 as the Vikings beat the Seahawks, 30-17.

Brandon is also correct here, too. Cousins certainly did his part in Weeks 1 and 2 to put the Vikings in position to win, but a fumble and missed field goal turns the spotlight away from him a bit.

Is he an MVP candidate right now? I'll say no, but only because of that 1-2 team record pundits will likely hold against him.

But if he keeps up this level of play? Absolutely, especially if he helps the Vikings get back into the playoff race and atop the NFC North.

Imagine where the Vikings would be without Cousins through three games. Let's enjoy the ride he's on and hope it lasts all 17 games.

Awesome second-half adjustment with our defense! And the offensive line playing well. Our offense did good chewing the clock up keeping our defense fresh.

— Toby Smart

Here was the half-by-half breakdown for the Vikings defense against Seattle.

First 30 minutes: 308 yards allowed on 33 plays (9.3 yards per play) with 17 points allowed.

Final 30 minutes: 81 yards allowed on 19 plays (4.3 yards per play) with zero points allowed.

Eric Kendricks said part of the second-half success was that the defense made some on-the-fly adjustments … after already attempting to do so earlier in the game. Credit Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer — and his coaches and players — for being resilient and adaptive throughout the entire game.

If Minnesota's defense can play like that going forward, the Vikings might have one of the most well-rounded teams in the league with how the offense is humming.

And speaking of the offense, big props to that unit for an outstanding outing against Seattle. It was just the seventh time in the Zimmer era that the offense has tallied 450-plus yards and at least 30 points.

The offensive line deserves plenty of credit, too — for both how the played (one sack allowed and 140 rushing yards gained) … and for how they have bounced back after a rough Week 1.

A key reason the Vikings defense thrived in the second half is that the offense controlled the ball for 22-plus minutes and kept that unit fresh as Toby mentioned.

It was a team effort in every aspect.

Special teams were outstanding … three FGs and three extra points made from Greg Joseph. Our punter did very well, too, with the old-fashioned coffin corner punt. It couldn't have come at a better time at the end.

— Jeff Ludwig

And yes, that team win includes special teams and Joseph, who rewarded Zimmer's faith in him from last week.

"Lots of kickers miss field goals," Zimmer said. "Let's give the kid a break, OK?"

That's a bit of a different tone from Zimmer than we have seen in recent years, but perhaps his patience has grown a bit with that skill position.

Joseph noted last week that he still had plenty of confidence in himself despite the 37-yard miss (and missed extra point) against Arizona.

And when asked last week about his future, I suggested he deserved some time to redeem himself.

Turns out we were both right, as Joseph made all three field goal tries (20, 34 and 43 yards). He was also true on all three extra points after missing one last week. He has now made six of seven field goals on the year.

"Greg has done a great job for us," Cousins said. "Did a great job today and there will be a lot of big kicks up ahead. It's a huge part of the game."

I actually expected Sunday's game to be closer than it was, and I'm happy the Vikings earned a double-digit win. But Cousins is correct, Joseph will be called upon in a high-pressure situation at some going forward and the Vikings will need him to deliver.

Berry's second punt was actually one of my favorite plays of the entire game. The result was already likely wrapped up before that punt, but to just casually knock it out at the 1-yard line was a simple way to remind us all of the skill it takes to play in the NFL. Even as a punter.

Let's hope they can build on this much-needed win. In truth. we should've been 2-0 going into this game, but I'll take 1-2 if we can continue to develop the toughness we need to move forward. Skol.

— Nicholas Balkou

Let's not kid ourselves, this was a make-or-break game for the Vikings. A loss would have been crushing in so many ways.

They were at home in front of a ravenous bunch of 66,279 fans, up against a quarterback who was undefeated against them and coming off a gut-punch loss in Week 2.

And for the first 20 minutes or so, the game seemingly was headed in Seattle's favor as Minnesota trailed 17-7.

But the Vikings got off the mat and reeled off 23 unanswered points. The victory provided a dose of affirmation and might make a difference in the long run.

According to stats provided by NFL Media Research, there have been 152 teams that have started 0-3 since 1990. Only four of them (2.6 percent) made the playoffs. Nearly one quarter (80 of 323) teams who started 1-2 from 1990-2020 made the playoffs.

And while a 17th game should help improve those numbers, an 0-3 start for the second straight season would have been hard for a lot of people to swallow.

View game action photos of the Vikings before the team's home opener at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Seahawks.

So kudos to Zimmer for keeping his squad focused on the task at hand and not worrying about the outside noise.

"Like I told the team last week, we work so hard, we prepare so hard. We deserve to win," Zimmer said. "These guys are working their rear ends off every single day. They're studying really hard, they come out to practice and they go hard.

"They try to execute, do the things we're trying to get them to do, and it's just good that it pays off so they can see there's some success at the end of the tunnel," Zimmer added.

As Zimmer noted, Sunday's win was big for the Vikings to see their hard work pay off in the form of a 'W.'

But they have to continue that same approach going forward, especially with a strong team like Cleveland (2-1) coming to town in Week 4.

The grind continues.

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