MINNEAPOLIS – Kirk Cousins faked the handoff to C.J. Ham, burst forward, juked to the right around a crowd and got into the end zone.
And then, he danced.
The Vikings quarterback swayed and swung his arms back and forth, breaking out the “dead-arm” dance a series after Adam Thielen scored and brought back one of his favorite college moves. Cousins then transitioned to an arm above his head and hand on his stomach, shaking his hips in a nod to a dance that Stefon Diggs performed after a score in Week 1.
“I told Kirk it was a great cut, but we need to get those hips a little looser on the dance moves,” Thielen quipped after the game.
Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell gave Cousins’ moves a B-plus, but he said “the cut was an A-minus for a quarterback.” Linebacker Anthony Barr generously gave Cousins a 10-out-of-10 score.
“I would probably suggest something else next time,” Barr deadpanned. “But what he did, I have to give it up to him.”
Cousins joked afterwards that he’s comfortable with embracing his “limitations as a dancer.”
“I guess I’m just honest about it,” Cousins told media members. “I was asking Diggsy about his dance … and didn’t really know what he was trying to do, and I tried to do both of them after the rushing touchdown. We had fun with it. It was great when the linemen joined, and it’s kind of a group thing.”
Even more fun than the celebration, though, was the play that led to it.
Cousins verbally walked through the score, emphasizing the block that Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph put on Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea that allowed Cousins a lane to the end zone.
“It’s 1-on-1 with him, so that’s a block that’s got to get made, then I just read the end and pretty, pretty [standard] play,” Cousins said. “Both the receiver (Diggs) and Kyle did a great job of holding up to get me in there.
“I think it was another good play call and gives us some flexibility,” Cousins added.
Cousins’ score extended the Vikings lead to 27-10 midway through the third quarter, and Minnesota hung on to the advantage for the remainder of the game. Cousins finished the day 24-of-34 passing for 233 yards, one passing touchdown and one interception. His passer rating was 87.0.
The quarterback’s day was not without adversity. Late in the second quarter, Cousins was sacked by Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by safety Budda Baker and returned 36 yards for a touchdown.
“I was climbing the pocket, I didn’t want to take another sack, I had two people I could dump it to in front of me, and I was just trying to dump it, and I was trying to pull my hands apart to dump it,” Cousins explained. “The minute you don’t have two hands on the ball, now it’s free reign for the defensive lineman to grab it. I thought he had me more on my lower half, and I thought I could rid of it, but he clearly was able to punch it out.”
Cousins acknowledged that he needs to improve ball security while not being afraid to push the envelope.
“If I’m going to drop back scared about fumbling, I’m never going to make a throw or a play,” Cousins said. “There were completions today that the only reason they’re being made is because I’ve got to be aggressive and fight to keep the play alive and find a completion. So finding that balance of protecting the football while being aggressive is, ‘Welcome to quarterbacking in this league.’ ”
Arizona’s defense put plenty of pressure on Cousins, sacking him four times for a loss of 17 yards. Safety Tre Boston also snagged an interception of Cousins, but the Vikings responded by shutting down the Cardinals offense and forcing a punt.
Despite the ups and downs of the day, however, Cousins never lost confidence.
He continued to make moves, throw guys open and play with certainty.
Thielen said after the game that Cousins’ mentality is largely why the team doesn’t “get too stressed out” if a mistake is made.
“We know how good of a player he is. And we know that he just keeps going. He just keeps going and going,” Thielen said. “And there’s been a lot of evidence of that in the pass game. When a quarterback does that, you just have faith and trust that he’s going to make those plays and he’s going to come back even stronger – which he did.
“It’s just great to have a leader like him and a guy that just keeps playing ball, no matter what happens,” Thielen added.
The Vikings have witnessed Cousins’ leadership since he joined the team this spring in free agency. What’s been a more recent development, however, are his fiery pregame speeches delivered in the huddle.
Cousins inspired Minnesota last week after being asked by defensive tackle Linval Joseph to give the pep talk. According to Cousins, Joseph told him on the return flight from Philadelphia that he would repeat the duties again prior to Sunday’s game against Arizona.
“In pregame, he just looked at me and pointed and stared at me. That was enough for me to know I better bring it,” Cousins said. “I gave him the thumbs up – ‘I got it.’ ”
Safety Harrison Smith said Cousins “walks the talk.”
“He’s not a rah-rah guy, but he’s going to lay it all out there. He’s going to run it in for a touchdown and dive on third down and stay in the pocket and deliver the ball down the field. He’s the real deal. The guy is going to give everything he has, and we love that.”
Vikings running back Latavius Murray, who finished with a career-high 155 rushing yards, said he makes sure to listen when Cousins speaks up.
“[When Kirk] talks, he usually has something very important and meaningful to say … Whether it’s on the field or off the field,” Murray said. “He’s a very smart guy, a brilliant guy, so I think during these pregame speeches, now two in a row, I think he really knows how to get us going, and I think we need that. I think he knows that, too.”
The Vikings moved to 3-2-1 on the season after Sunday’s defeat of the Cardinals, and they are 2-0 after Cousins provides an extra pregame boost in the huddle.
Murray said the tradition should probably continue now, but he joked that Cousins’ freelancing should stick to speeches rather than celebrations.
“I think it was really cool. Him putting that move on, that was special,” Murray said of Cousins’ touchdown. “And then that dance at the end … I would prefer I don’t have to see it again; it was pretty funny, though.”