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Cousins Efficient During On-Schedule Plays, Effective Off-Schedule

MINNEAPOLIS — Kirk Cousins wasn't flashy.

Instead, he was just what the Vikings needed him to be: effective.

Cousins bounced back from a rough outing in Week 2 to put together a solid performance against Oakland, making plays through the air and with his feet to help the Vikings to a 34-14 win.

"I'm just happy to win. That's really all that matters," Cousins said. "If we had won last week, and I basically had played the way I had, yeah, [I would be] upset personally, but you'd be really happy that you found a way to win.

"That's really all that matters," Cousins added. "Winning is what's going to tell the story, and I'm thrilled that we came away with a win."

Cousins had three turnovers and turned in a passer rating of 52.9 in Week 2 against the Packers, the third-worst single-game total in his career as a starter.

But the quarterback was on time and effective against Oakland, completing 15 of 21 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown Sunday. His passer rating was 112.0, marking the 35th time in 81 career starts he has garnered a passer rating of 100 or more.

Cousins was helped by a fast start — and a punishing run game that went for over 200 yards — as he completed his first three passes for 60 yards on Minnesota's opening drive.

His third and final throw of that sequence was a play-action pass as Cousins rolled out to the left before finding Adam Thielen for a 35-yard touchdown across the field.

"What's key is having the edge," said Cousins, who delivered the pass before taking a hit. "The edge being clean, and so I was able to get outside and then set up.

"You do have a lot of grass over there to work with, so that also helps," Cousins said. "When you have a receiver like Adam you really trust putting the ball out there and him making you right."

Cousins also wasn't afraid to move around in the pocket and take off, as he totaled 16 yards on four carries with a long of 10 against the Raiders.

He moved the chains on the 10-yard scamper, and later gained 4 yards on a designed quarterback run with the Vikings at the Raiders 5-yard line.

"I think you do it and then you get more comfortable with it," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said of Cousins' ability to run and make plays off-schedule. "He's been practicing it a little bit more in practice and then some things opened up for him in the game today.

"And so the more that you do that, the more your confidence builds and the more chance that you will continue to do that," Zimmer added.

Cousins chuckled to himself when asked about his designed run, which eventually led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Thielen.

"I looked down, I said, 'Boy, 5-yard line, this is going to be a little farther than I would have liked,' " Cousins said. "The seas parted. I took off, and I saw the safety, and I thought, 'Uh-oh.' They told me to get down, but I didn't really know what to do.

"When you're on the goal line, where am I going to slide? Where am I going to go? So I figured, let's just play football and probably safest if I take him on like a football player," Cousins added. " 'That's probably the safest way to play this.' You do get hit, but you've got gear on and you get up and play the next play."

Overall, Cousins said he was more than happy to benefit from the Vikings ground game, as Sunday's win felt a little like Minnesota's Week 1 victory over Atlanta.

While Cousins had more than double the amount of pass attempts Sunday, he only threw the ball seven times in the second half against the Raiders, and did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter.

"Anytime you can run the ball, it helps the pass game," said Vikings right tackle Brian O'Neill. "[Defenders] are not just teeing off when we're in shotgun, so that's an added bonus.

"It always helps being able to run the ball and with play action and doing the things we want to do as an offense," O'Neill added.

Still, Cousins' teammates weren't surprised he was able to bounce back after a disappointing performance against the Packers.

"That's the cool thing about Kirk, and something that's special about him, is that he has a tough game or things don't go his way and gets a lot of ridicule, but he doesn't care," Thielen said. "He's going to bust his tail every single day and try to be the best player he can be. It's nice to have a guy like that on your side."

The Vikings will need another effective outing from Cousins next week as Minnesota travels to Chicago in Week 4.

Cousins and the Vikings struggled in a pair of losses to the Bears in 2018, as the quarterback completed 50 of 79 passes for 394 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Minnesota scored 30 total points against the Bears top-ranked defense a season ago.

"They're the division champs. We're going into their place, and it'll be an absolute battle," Cousins said. "If we are to win, it'll be because it's an absolute dogfight, and we find a way to scratch and claw and get a win.

"It's not going to be a walk in there and have a 21-point lead at halftime. I just don't think it'll play out like that. They have excellent players across the whole defense, an excellent scheme, and we'll have our hands full," Cousins added. "It's really what the NFC North and when people think Vikings-Bears, NFC North, I think that's the kind of game you're going to get, and we're looking forward to it."