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Cousins Excited for Opportunity to Play at 'Much Higher Level'

EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins isn't ignorant of the criticism he's received since Sunday's 21-16 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field.

He's aware that Vikings fans weren't happy, and that people around the football world have scrutinized his play over and over again.

"Believe me – I'm not going to be playing quarterback here if I play the way I played last Sunday for much longer," Cousins said Wednesday in the Vikings locker room. "I understand that, and I look forward to getting out there and playing at a much higher level."

The Vikings quarterback gets it, too, especially since he's coming off a game when he completed just 14 of 32 passes for 230 yards with a touchdown.

He also had two interceptions to go along with a lost fumble, and his passer rating of 52.9 was the third-lowest of his career as a starter.

But Cousins is also embracing the opportunity that lies ahead, starting with a bounce-back effort Sunday at home against Oakland.

Cousins said he'll rely on his 80 games of NFL experience as a starter, and that he'll go back to things that worked when he faced adversity in the past.

"I think it does help that I've played a lot of football," Cousins said. "You play the next game, and what was difficult or had you down three weeks ago is quickly forgotten once three weeks go past.

"You realize that you have to play each game at a time and that each one is the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but then you're right back at it. What's so important is that you can't let one [rough outing] turn into two, three, four," Cousins added. "As a younger player, I'm sure that can happen. But when you've been around the block, you'd like to think you've been through that before and you've learned."

Cousins on Wednesday also took accountability again for his fourth-quarter interception in the end zone against Green Bay. The turnover came with the Vikings inside the 10-yard line and trailing by five points with just over five minutes remaining.

He rolled out and lofted a pass toward Stefon Diggs, but Packers cornerback Kevin King had ample time to position himself for the pick.

If or when Cousins is in that scenario again, he said he'll simply chuck it away and move onto the next play.

"I'm going to throw it away. If I'm in that situation again, that ball is going into the stands," Cousins said. "If you're asking how to make tight-window throws, I would say I've probably thrown 2,000 passes in my career.

"You learn after 2,000 reps that it's going to be tight with NFL defenders and that I have to trust what I see and let it go," Cousins added. "When you get outside the pocket like the situation I was in, the ball has to go in the stands."

Much like immediately after Sunday's loss, those within the Vikings organization voiced their support for the 30-year-old quarterback despite his rough outing.

"Kirk had an up and down game last week. He's going to be fine," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "We have the utmost confidence in him. He's in a good place where he's going to play good this week, and continue to play good for the rest of the year."

Added wide receiver Stefon Diggs: "It takes a different kind of man to take responsibility. We're a team. I don't want him to take full responsibility because we all played a part in that [loss]. We're all a piece of the puzzle. Him taking full responsibility is a quarterback thing to do. He's our guy, he's our leader. But at the end of the day, it's not all his fault."

View exclusive black-and-white images from the Vikings game against the Green Bay Packers.

Through two games, Cousins has completed 22 of 42 passes for 328 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The quarterback is now tasked with helping the 1-1 Vikings get back on the winning track against the Raiders, who are also 1-1.

Cousins said he understands the spotlight will be on him at U.S. Bank Stadium. But he added that won't be much different than any other week.

"I do know that when you're a quarterback in the NFL, you're going to be evaluated, critiqued and if you're not playing at a high level, you're not winning, then all the more so," Cousins said. "You invite that on yourself. I just look forward to the challenge of playing better than I did this past Sunday. And I look forward to that opportunity this Sunday to play at a much higher level.

"But as long as I'm playing in this league, you're going to be coached and scrutinized," Cousins added. "But that's OK, it comes with the territory."