EAGAN, Minn. – Even after a 400-plus yard performance, Kirk Cousins spends plenty of time self-critiquing.
Cousins had quite the outing at Green Bay in his first Border Battle experience. He helped lead the Vikings back from a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter to a game that went into overtime and ended in a 29-29 tie.
But the quarterback told Twin Cities media members Wednesday that he looks at the process over the result. He referenced the interception that was called back because of a roughing-the-passer penalty called on Clay Matthews.
"I can't control the flag or what happens. The outcome obviously protected me, but the process – the throw, the ball should have been farther in toward the hash," Cousins said. "It was a poor throw, so results like that, I look back, and you have to be hard on yourself and say, 'How can I get better?'
"I even look at the touchdown pass to Adam Thielen and, while the result was really good, I look and say, 'You know, that's probably too close for comfort with how tight that safety was there.' If you live by that, you're going to die by that. There are so many plays like those where you liked the outcome, but you have to go back and look at the process and say, 'How can I tighten that up so the results in the future are what I want?' "
Cousins later revisited the topics and pointed out that he also aims to be more explosive offensively early in the game rather than ramping it up in the final quarter when playing from behind.
"We want to be an offense that can strike at any time but that will also be a threat from the first quarter all the way through the last."
Here are four other topics covered by Cousins from the locker room at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center:
1. Keeping a pulse on the pressure
Cousins was asked by a reporter how he manages to be so aware of impending pressure when it appears he may not see the defender.
Cousins answered the question thoroughly, explaining his approach to the pocket and emphasizing that it's important not to get "too much depth" in his drop.
"We don't want to get deep enough where, when the tackle does run the defensive end by, the defensive end's still able to make a play," Cousins said. "So it's important to get your drop and not get too much depth, step up when you can, and then not step up too much, either. Sometimes you hitch in place, you call it. So you're not climbing into the rush and you're not dropping back into the rush. You're kind of settling in that true pocket.
"And then it's the O-line's job to preserve that pocket as long as possible, knowing that it's going to dwindle as we go. An NFL rush is a tough deal," Cousins continued. "Managing that rush is a challenge all year long. I try to make quick decisions, get the ball out of my hand; if I feel color or see color, I try to keep two hands on it and make sure I can move around. But believe me, I'm far from perfect figuring it out, and it's a challenging deal."
2. Responding to roster moves
The Vikings are 1-0-1 and to start the season and coming off a tough division opponent, but multiple roster moves were made this week in order to continue improving the roster.
Cousins was asked if the transactions demonstrate the team's high expectations, and he responded that he doesn't believe the two things don't necessarily correlate, but NFL teams are also working to get stronger where possible.
"I know the NFL, [to] me, stands for Not For Long. This is a highly competitive league, they bring in 90 guys every April, and they cut it down to 46 who dress [on game day]," Cousins said. "So you're constantly standing here looking around, doing the math, realizing that you better perform. And if you don't, sometimes it can be a very tough day, a very short leash.
"And that's life in the NFL," Cousins added. "I don't think it has a lot to do with expectations. I think that everybody in this league is competing and fighting for their job – coaches and players – and you're just always trying to get the best possible 46 to go win football games."
3. Bringing Elflein along
Pat Elflein was taken off the Physically Unable to Perform list prior to Week 1, but he was inactive for the Vikings first two games as he continues to work his way back from injuries suffered last season.
Cousins said he's gotten some snaps with Elflein during practice and reminded that the two also sit next to each other during team meetings.
"We just keep trying to bring him along," Cousins said of the second-year center.
Asked how long it will take for Elflein to be up to speed when the time comes, Cousins pointed out how quickly Brett Jones was thrown in after being acquired from the Giants via trade.
"We signed Brett Jones, I think a week-and-a-half before the first game, and he was out there ready to go. You just roll with it," Cousins said. "This is life in the NFL, and if you're waiting to have a perfect situation or be totally comfortable, you're going to be waiting a long time."
4. Not counting Bills out
The Bills, whom the Vikings will host Sunday, are 0-2 and have started the season being outscored by opponents 78-23.
Cousins said Buffalo's defense is a talented one, however, and the team can't be taken lightly. He opined that the Bills results thus far "were more predicated on them starting with lousy field position" than their defense failing to hold up.
"I think they have a very good front. I think they showed that last year, having been a playoff team, taking the Jaguars all the way to the final play in the [Wild Card playoff game]," Cousins said. "We have great respect for them, and we know we're going to have to be at our absolute best to have a chance because it's a really good front, and they're a really aggressive and attacking defense."