EAGAN, Minn. — Don’t be surprised if the quarterbacks in Sunday Night Football’s prime-time showdown let loose and uncork a deep touchdown pass or two.
While each team features a top-5 defense in terms of points allowed, both Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott have had a penchant for taking shots and hitting on them.
According to the analytics website Pro Football Focus, the quarterbacks rank among the league’s best on deep touchdown passes. PFF categorizes such throws as ones that are 20-plus yards downfield.
PFF has Prescott ranked second with eight deep touchdown passes, while Cousins is tied for fourth with six such throws.
Prescott has 15 touchdown passes in 2018, five of which have gone for 40-plus yards. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has two of them, while Michael Gallup, Devin Smith and Blake Jarwin have one apiece.
Cousins, meanwhile, has 16 touchdown passes in 2018, with five coming at 25 yards or longer. Stefon Diggs has three of them, and Adam Thielen has the other two.
Dallas leads the NFL in yards per pass play (8.42), and Minnesota ranks second (8.31).
As for limiting gains through the air, the Vikings defense ranks seventh (6.20 yards allowed per pass play), and the Cowboys rank fifth (6.11).
Cousins knows he will have his hands full against Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli, who has been in that role since 2014, and a strong collection of talent on that side of the ball.
“Coach Marinelli has been there for a long time, and you feel his presence when you watch them because of how hard they play,” Cousins said. “One of the things we talked about when we played them in the past was they played with an intensity and high motor that really came from him and the way he motivated them and coached them. You still see that play-in and play-out in the way they play.
“The scheme is pretty similar, but there’s some differences. When you bring in other coaches, you naturally evolve when your talent changes or your roster changes,” Cousins added. “They’re their own defense this year, but I think that the passion, swagger and intensity you see them play with has been pretty consistent with them for several years now.”
Cousins is no stranger to playing at AT&T Stadium.. Although he is 1-2 as a starter in the massive venue, Cousins has completed 79 of 105 passes (75.2 percent) for 876 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions in those three games.
Cousins’ first trip to the stadium was in 2012 when he was a rookie with Washington. Even now, the quarterback said he still enjoys playing down in Dallas.
“We played there on Thanksgiving Day [in 2012], and back then, some of the other great stadiums hadn’t been built,” Cousins said. “It was a special day. Thanksgiving Day, too, as a rookie, you are taking that in for the first time.
“It’s certainly lived up to the expectation or hype. It’s a great place to play a football game,” Cousins added. “I think a lot of other teams have taken their cues from that stadium and built similarly outstanding stadiums in other parts of the country.”
Doctson hopes to contribute Sunday in Dallas if active
Josh Doctson has yet to see the field in a game with the Vikings, but the wide receiver is hoping that changes Sunday in Dallas.
Minnesota signed Doctson on Sept. 4 when he was released by Washington. But the former first-round pick was inactive for the season opener against Atlanta and was then put on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury on Sept. 12.
Doctson resumed practicing with the Vikings last week, and is now eligible to be added to the active roster. Minnesota has until the end of next week to do so, but can make the roster move at any time.
The former Texas Christian University standout said he is hopeful to be put on the roster and play Sunday against the Cowboys.
“Just taking it a day at a time and doing what I can do to help the team win,” Doctson said. “I’ve gotta wait to see what Coach decides, and then we’ll go from there.
“I’m anxious,” Doctson later added. “Obviously new system, new team, I’m excited to come play and help this team win. … I’ve just gotta wait and see what’s going to be called this weekend.”
Much like Cousins, Doctson knows AT&T Stadium well. He has nine catches for 92 yards and a touchdown in two career NFL games at the venue.
Doctson is also a Texas native. He grew up in Mansfield, which is equidistant from Dallas and Fort Worth. He also played at the stadium once in college, and had two receptions for 43 yards.
“I love playing there. That’s one of my favorite places to play,” Doctson said. “I’m a hometown kid, so it’s a good environment for me every time.”
Doctson has 81 catches for 1,100 yards with eight touchdowns in 33 career games.
Hughes wants INT to complete comeback
Mike Hughes has already proven he can comeback from tough circumstances, as the second-year cornerback is playing well following a torn ACL in 2018 that limited him to just six games.
But the No. 30 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft wants something else to complete his comeback — an interception.
“I feel like I’m finding a groove. Like I’ve been saying each and every week, I feel a lot better and my body is getting a lot more in tune to the game. I’m taking care of it a lot more,” Hughes said. “I’m getting in a groove. Hopefully I can get my hands on a couple balls this week. I’m ready to get a pick. Once I can do that, I can get rolling.”
Hughes has one career interception, which occurred in his NFL debut. He picked off 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and took it 28 yards to the house in his first professional game.
But Hughes said he’s been thinking about getting another turnover under his belt.
“Since I started back playing [in Week3]. In this league, it’s hard to get a pick,” Hughes said. “A lot of great quarterbacks can make throws and fit balls into windows you think they can’t, so you just have to be ready with your technique and details.”