EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is pleased with his quarterback.
After Minnesota played a rough first half of football against Denver on Sunday, the team bounced back for a come-from-behind win, and Kirk Cousins led the offense to a four-touchdown performance in the second half.
Zimmer spoke to Twin Cities media members on Monday and said that Cousins "played fantastic, probably the best game he's played since he's been here."
Statistically speaking, Cousins' completion percentage of 82.9 was his second-highest since signing with the Vikings prior to the 2018 season, behind 88.5 against Washington in Week 8.
He finished his outing against the Broncos 29-of-35 passing for 319 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 133.2.
Zimmer said Cousins' performance was so impressive because of the "things he had to do" to get Minnesota back in the ball game.
"The [touchdown pass] he threw, the post to [Stefon] Diggs, was an outstanding ball," Zimmer said. "Just seeing where he was going, where he was going with the football, his accuracy … It was really, really good."
Zimmer was specifically asked about Cousins' fourth-quarter play.
Against Denver, he was 9-of-10 passing for 149 yards, two touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. In Weeks 5-11, his fourth-quarter stats are as follows: 28-of-38 passing (73.7 percent) for 390 yards and four touchdowns with a passer rating of 141.3. He has been sacked just once.
"It's been good," Zimmer said. "That's another area that we talked about this spring and worked on. Maybe just being in those situations help.
"He's not doing it by himself; there's a lot of other guys helping him," Zimmer added. "The receivers have made good catches, the offensive line blocked well. There's a lot of guys who have helped."
It's fair to say that Cousins has silenced the critics, but Zimmer isn't too concerned about that one way or the other.
"I don't worry too much about the narrative," he said. "I don't care what they think or say. I just want him to keep playing the way he is."
Zimmer later added: "I like everything he's doing."
Here are four other topics touched he touched on during his media session:
1. 'If we play like we can play'
During his opening statement, Zimmer emphasized the resiliency shown by the Vikings on Sunday.
Asked later what the team showed him in the exciting win, Zimmer responded with the following:
"It tells you two things, really. If we wait to flip the switch, we're not going to win many of these games. But if we play like we can play, and we use the competitiveness and the fight and the toughness and the intelligence that we – mostly – played with in the second half, we can win a lot of games."
2. A focus on pass defense
Minnesota has now sealed a win in the final play of the game in two straight weeks. But in each contest, the Vikings defense has given up multiple explosive plays.
At Dallas, the Vikings gave up 20 plays of double-digit gains, five of which gained more than 20 yards. Against the Broncos, they allowed 12 plays of double-digit gains (three runs; nine passes). Of those plays, five were throws that gained 29 yards or more.
"We need to get better. We need to get better in pass defense," Zimmer said. "So, that will be a big emphasis for us as coaches and players as we start moving forward. We've gotta get better."
3. Checking in on Thielen's progress
The Vikings have been without receiver Adam Thielen, who suffered a hamstring injury at Detroit in Week 7 and re-aggravated the injury early on in an attempted return at Kansas City in Week 9.
Zimmer was asked if he expects to have Thielen back in action for Minnesota's Monday Night Football road game at Seattle on Dec. 2.
"We have 14 days from today, so we'll just have to see how he continues to get better," Zimmer said.
4. Entering the final stretch
Zimmer has handled the bye week on a case-by-case basis throughout his six seasons at the helm in Minnesota.
This year's Week 12 bye is the latest under Zimmer, who said he's looking at it "a little different" than previous breaks when setting the team's schedule.
"Just because of the fact that we've gone 11 ball games now, so I think they need to get a little rest," he explained before declining to provide further specifics.
The Vikings are pleased with their 8-3 record but also understand they're navigating tricky waters in a competitive NFC race.
"I mean, I know where we're at," Zimmer said when asked if pays attention to the conference standings. "There's still quite a few games to play, I guess, so it will all sort itself out here in this next month and a half."