GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The Vikings offense was eight yards from the end zone, just two dozen feet from completing a remarkable comeback in a hostile environment.
Facing first-and-goal with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Kirk Cousins faked the handoff and rolled to his right as wide receiver Stefon Diggs headed to the back right corner of the end zone.
With the Vikings trailing by five, Cousins kept moving to his right before eventually lofting a pass that had the potential to give Minnesota the lead.
Instead, it was picked off by Packers cornerback Kevin King.
That was as close as the Vikings would get to the end zone in the fourth quarter of a bitter 21-16 loss at Lambeau Field, one that came in frustrating fashion for the offense.
“You just can’t do that,” Cousins said of his interception. “In happened last week in our game [by our defense], and we talked about it all week, how you can’t do that.
“It’s uncharacteristic of me. I can’t do it,” Cousins added. “What I was thinking was, ‘Give Stefon a chance, kind of an ours-or nobody’s thing.’ It wasn’t nobody’s, [King] just went and made a play. You just can’t do that.”
A year after throwing for 425 yards with four touchdowns for a passer rating of 118.8 in Week 2 in Green Bay, Cousins couldn’t replicate his success this time around against the Packers defense.
He completed 14 of 32 passes for 230 yards with one touchdown and a pair of interceptions, plus a lost fumble that led to a Green Bay touchdown.
Cousins didn’t mince words as he put the single-digit loss squarely on his shoulders.
“It was just a gut-wrenching loss. I’m proud of the way my teammates fought, kept fighting … but I’m very disappointed in my performance today,” Cousins said. “It just wasn’t good enough. At the quarterback position, to expect to win, I felt like with the way our team fought, we were right there at the end, as a result of the way our team kept playing.
“Walking away, I feel like I didn’t feel like I did my part today and I didn’t feel like I gave our team the chance it needed from my role,” Cousins added. “That’s very, very frustrating. Very disappointing. I’ll stand up here and take ownership of that. I had a lot of plays that did not get made, that got left out there. I think that’s why it’s extra frustrating.”
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer summed up what he saw from Cousins on the day.
“It was up and down,” Zimmer said. “He had some throws and some misses.”
Down 7-0, Cousins led the Vikings into field goal range on the opening drive but Dan Bailey’s 47-yard try was no good. That led to another Green Bay score and a 14-0 deficit for the Vikings.
Cousins then fumbled on back-to-back plays, with Green Bay recovering the second one at the Vikings 33-yard line.
The Packers needed just four plays for another score as Green Bay took a commanding 21-0 lead.
Dalvin Cook got the Vikings on the board with a career-long 75-yard touchdown run before the teams traded punts, with the Vikings getting possession at their own 40-yard line with less than five minutes remaining in the first half.
Instead of pulling to within one score, however, Cousins was intercepted on third down to thwart the drive.
The missed chance was part of a 1-for-7 performance from Minnesota on third down in the first half, as the Vikings were 4-of-13 on that down in the entire game.
Cousins explained the frustrations on not being able to move the sticks.
“There are certainly more plays that are significant when the game does or doesn’t go your way, and third downs are one of them,” Cousins said. “Obviously, those today were not good enough … there were a couple of third-down throws that were really tough to not hit.
“One was to Adam [Thielen] on the sideline early in the game in the first half, and the other was a deep one to Stefon [in the fourth quarter] that was overthrown by a few yards,” Cousins added. “That’s tough because you feel like if you hit that, maybe he scores, maybe we’re first-and-goal from the 5, or whatever it is. It changes the flow of the game. Those are ones you are really frustrated about when you’re walking to the sideline.”
Although Cousins put the blame on himself, a pair of defensive standouts for the Vikings said it was a team loss.
“Kirk is always going to say that; he’s our quarterback. They did some stuff on offense, too,” said Vikings safety Harrison Smith. “If we don’t get down as far as we do, we make it easier on them the rest of the game. We just have to start faster on defense.”
View images as the Vikings take on the Packers at Lambeau Field during Week 2.
Added defensive end Everson Griffen: “This is the best team sport, team game. We have to do better, collectively.”
The quarterback tried to lead a furious second-half rally, hitting Diggs for a 45-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but another attempt to find him for a score ended up in the hands of King, the Green Bay defender.
“Trying to make something happen late in the game,” Diggs said.
Through two games, Cousins has completed 22 of 42 passes for 328 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
As the Vikings look ahead to a Week 3 home game against Oakland at U.S. Bank Stadium, Zimmer said he has plenty of confidence in Cousins going forward.
“Today, he made a couple of mistakes,” Zimmer said. “but the guy made some great plays as well, the throw to Diggs.
“He’s got all of the talent,” Zimmer added. “We just need to continue to coach him.”