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Monday Morning Mailbag: Cousins' Strong Play, An Up-and-Down Day for Dalvin and Kearse’s Late Impact

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I’m so happy for Kirk, as I believe this game will catapult him into a different QB group/conversation. Gone will be the stigma of not winning the big game. This season, I’ve been so impressed with how he has handled himself while at the same time, silencing his critics with insightful comments and great play. My question is in regards to Dalvin getting more or less shut down. Obviously, this will be the goal of other teams going forward but can you comment on what specifically happened today? I know Denver has a highly rated defense but was their success due to better linebacker play, our linemen being out muscled, play calling or player error? Thanks!

— Bernie in NYC

Give plenty of credit to Kirk and everyone else on the Vikings for hanging tough and finding a way to scratch and claw to a win Sunday. Despite a frustrating first half, Cousins rallied and led his team to a crucial win.

Cousins’ final line — 29-of-35 passing for 319 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions — was fantastic. But what you can’t see in that stat line is his leadership and moxie, and that was also on full display Sunday.

As for Cook’s slow outing, give plenty of credit to Denver. They zeroed in on Cook and made sure he wasn’t going to beat them. He had just 26 yards on 11 carries, but did score on a 3-yard run. The Broncos shut down Minnesota’s rushing attack in general, as the Vikings had 18 carries for just 37 yards.

Some credit should be passed along to a defense led by Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio. When Fangio was defensive coordinator for the Bears, Chicago limited Cook to nine carries for 12 yards and 11 for 39 yards in two games in 2018.

Part of Sunday’s showing could also have been influenced by Minnesota being down by 20 at halftime and having to rely on the passing game. But another aspect was that Denver’s stout defense did its job in the run game.

OMG!!!! They shouldn't have won that game...terrible offense and defense but I'll take it...good thing I took my blood pressure pills lol

— Nicholas Balkou

You might speak for all of us regarding those blood pressure pills. That might have been one of the most emotional, up-and-down regular-season games I can remember in a long time. You certainly don’t want them all to be that dramatic, but wins all count the same in the NFL.

As for the terrible play, I’d argue that was limited to just the opening half, when the Vikings were outgained 217 to 47 on offense, and also had 44 penalty yards on four flags.

The second half was much better, including big-time performances by Cousins and the passing offense, plus a defense that limited Denver to just one of seven conversions on third downs in the fourth quarter.

You can bet Coach Zimmer will have plenty to point out when they go back and look at the film. But he’s also got to be proud of his team for the fight and resiliency they showed.

I liked how well Cousins handled himself. He really hung in there and remained to be himself through the whole game. I liked how the defense changed when Kearse was more involved. But my question is why is our secondary, particularly the CB’s, letting so many yards get by them when historically they are some of the best?

— Alec G.

Good observation on Kearse, who was called upon late when Harrison Smith left the game with a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter. Kearse told me after the game that he played the entire final drive in place of Smith, a sequence that last a whooping 19 plays for the Broncos.

But he came up clutch, especially on the final two plays of the game, as he denied touchdown passes to Broncos rookie tight end Noah Fant on back-to-back attempts.

As for the Vikings pass defense, they certainly have had their ups and downs this season. That was evident again Sunday when Minnesota allowed 189 yards on just five pass plays — an astounding 70 percent of Denver’s net passing total.

I suspect Zimmer and the defensive coaching staff will spend some time this week and next looking for ways to tinker with a pass defense that has had good moments and bad so far in 2019.

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