EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins has squared off against rookie quarterbacks and MVPs in his first season in Minnesota.
But an entirely different aura awaits Sunday as the Vikings travel to New England to face the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady.
Cousins and Brady won't be on the field at the same time — unless you count the coin toss and a postgame mingle — but the Vikings quarterback made it clear Wednesday that he has an immense amount of respect for his counterpart.
"I haven't played him much, being that they're in the AFC, but obviously when you've played as long as he has at such a high level, there's a lot of tape. I've watched a lot of tape on a guy like that," Cousins said. "I wouldn't know where to begin with what you can learn from him.
"He won his first Super Bowl when I was in seventh grade, so I've been watching him for a long time, obviously the ultimate competitor," Cousins added. "This game matters to him so much, and you see him in the way he conducts his business."
Brady has an NFL-record five Super Bowl rings, and has been named the Super Bowl MVP on four separate occasions.
The 41-year-old has passed for 3,031 yards with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.
Brady ranks fourth all-time with 69,190 career passing yards and 507 passing touchdowns. He needs one more score to tie Hall of Famer Brett Favre for third.
"He's very comfortable in the pocket, does a great job of feeling the rush and not seeing the rush," Cousins said. "In that way, he's very mobile, and he's always been great in crunch time.
"He's a winner. I think he's really set the bar for all of us who come after him and really everybody who came before," Cousins added. "They call him 'The GOAT' for a reason."
Here are three other topics Cousins addressed during his session with media:
1. Prepping for the best
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has 258 career wins, which ranks third all-time behind Don Shula and George Halas. Belichick has a .718 playoff winning percentage (28-11 record), which is the best in NFL history.
And much like Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, Belichick has made his name as a defensive mind that constantly churns out one unit after another that frustrates opposing offenses.
Since Belichick took over in New England before the 2000 season, his defenses have finished in the top 10 in points allowed in 14 of 18 seasons. The Patriots could get there again this year as New England is currently tied for 11th at 22.6 points allowed per game.
Cousins explained what makes Belichick and his scheme so tough to beat.
"A good defense, well-coached. They've done a great job of pressuring the quarterback all year," Cousins said. "Any time you've been running the same scheme for two decades, you're doing something right.
"They do a great job in their preparation. I have the utmost respect for their coaching staff and scheme and the way they execute with their players," Cousins added. "Obviously going into their place, that adds an element as well."
2. Spreading the wealth
The Vikings have plenty of playmakers on offense, whether it's one of the top wide receiver duos in the league, a reliable tight end or a young running back who can regularly make defenders miss.
But the truth be told, Cousins said Wednesday that he hardly cares whether it's Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph or Dalvin Cook (or any other offensive skill player, for that matter) who helps move the chains on game day.
"It's all about being explosive … sustain drives and convert third downs and make explosive plays," Cousins said. "It doesn't matter if Diggs is getting the ball 15 times and nobody else is getting it, or Dalvin gets it 30 times and it's all runs.
"I don't really care who gets it or how many times they get it, we just want to be explosive and be multiple and keep defenses guessing. From week to week it may change in how we want a defense to play us and how our game plan is set up and how the flow of the game happens," Cousins added. "But whoever gets the ball, gets the ball. As long as we're moving it, scoring points, being explosive, being good at situational football … that's what important to me."
3. On the move
Cousins had six rushing attempts on Sunday, which was his highest total of the season. That included a pair of kneel-downs in the victory formation as the quarterback accumulated 17 yards on the ground.
Cousins was asked Wednesday about the uptick in rushing attempts and how he decides when to take off or stay in the pocket.
"Well, sometimes sitting in the pocket and getting hit by a 3-technique [defensive tackle] hurts a lot more than running and getting tackled by a linebacker," Cousins said. "It takes just as much to stand there in the pocket as it does to take off and run. You've got to play by instinct and by feel.
"What I don't want to do is leave the pocket too early and not go through my progression and not trust the protection. Other times, you don't want to trust it too much and you're being patient and keeping your eyes downfield and you take a sack," Cousins said. "It's a fine balance, and knowing when the clock goes off and when to run and when to hold is something I'm always trying to find and work on. It'll never be perfect, but the more I can steal a first down now and then by running the football, the better our offense will be."
Cousins has 103 rushing yards and a touchdown so far in 2018.