MINNEAPOLIS – It’s been years since Kirk Cousins attempted just 10 passes in a football game, but the number didn’t bother him one bit.
Cousins was more focused on Minnesota’s 28-12 defeat of Atlanta after the Vikings racked up 172 rushing yards.
“Probably haven’t had a game with that few attempts since Pop Warner,” Cousins said with a smile. “[But] It’s what the game called for. I have no problem with being conservative. As long as we win the football game, that’s all that matters to me. We found a way to get the win, so the approach was a great approach.”
The Vikings were led by Dalvin Cook, who totaled 111 yards on 21 carries. The third-year running back got into the end zone twice, starting with a 19-yard run in the first quarter to put Minnesota up 14-0.
Cook emphasized the importance of starting fast and how it could help set the tone for the Vikings 2019 season.
“We got it going early,” Cook said. “The defense kind of sparked this team, and we went in and took care of business and punched the ball, and I think that kind of got the momentum going.”
He later scored on a 7-yard run in the third quarter, after which he handed the ball to rookie center Garrett Bradbury. The former catcher showed off his arm with a solid spike of the football into the end zone turf.
Cook said that notching touchdowns on the ground “really gets those guys going” on the offensive line.
“I like giving those guys the ball to spike. That’s big with me – getting those guys going and making sure those guys are happy,” Cook said. “I like to take care of [them].”
Bradbury called his first regular-season game “a lot of fun” after so much success running the football.
“Dalvin makes us look really good a lot of times. He’s a special back, he’s a complete back, he’s a great teammate,” Bradbury said. “We’re all happy to see him have the success he does, and I’m happy to be part of it.”
Tight end Kyle Rudolph re-emphasized after the game that the Vikings did exactly what they intended in running the ball more effectively than in 2018. Minnesota’s total of rushing yards on Sunday was better than all but one game last season when the team ranked 30th overall in rushing.
But could he have predicted that Cousins would throw just 10 times? Rudolph chuckled at the stat line.
“I guess that’s how we’re going to celebrate the NFL’s 100th year – we’re going to set the game back about a hundred years,” Rudolph quipped. “But if that’s what it takes to win, I think all 53 guys in this locker room are going to be for it, and it was fun to lean on those big guys.
“[The Falcons defense] knew we were going to run the football, and we were still able to do it,” Rudolph added.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer credited Minnesota’s offensive coaches for finding ways to be effective against a defense that wanted to stop the run.
“They’re really good defensively, and they’ve got eight [players], an extra guy in the box almost every single play,” Zimmer said. “So to run the football effectively, I thought our offensive coaches did a great job making some of the scheme runs that they ran today, and then obviously Cook and the offensive line did a really nice job. I did not foresee us throwing the ball 10 times, but I’m happy we did.”
Cousins, who finished the game 8-of-10 passing for 98 yards, one touchdown through the air and a passer rating of 140.8, also got in on the run game. He finished the day with four rushing yards on six carries (two of which were kneel-downs to end the game).
Late in the second quarter on second-and-goal from the 1, Cousins went up and over the pile for the touchdown. The play made Sunday his 12th career game (second in Minnesota) with both a passing and a rushing score.
Cousins caught a little flack for his interesting touchdown celebration, but Cook – who joined in the dance along with Bradbury, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen – appreciated the moves for what they were.
“Kirk is kind of the football dad,” Cook said with a laugh. “If we can get him to show his personality and get going in the end zone and do some dancing, man, we love that.
“That gets us hot right there, to get Kirk going in the end zone,” he added. “And it was actually a funny dance. He wanted to do it bad.”
Later in the third quarter, Cousins picked up two yards with another QB sneak to convert on third down and keep the drive moving.
“I can’t take much credit for a sneak,” Cousins said. “If your center and your two guards get push, I can follow right behind them. It was like a snow plow. They got push, and it’s always fun to get those sneaks.”
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium.
While Cook took the bulk of the run responsibility, rookie Alexander Mattison also had a good showing, totaling 49 yards on nine carries, including a run down the sideline that nearly made it into the end zone.
Ameer Abdullah added eight yards on two attempts.
Cousins said that keeping Cook healthy and part of the game plan will be “key” to Minnesota’s success as it gets deeper into the season.
“I think we need the White Tiger to be there for 16 games, right?” Cousins said, referencing the nickname he assigned Cook last season. “He’s been special when he’s had the football in his hands, and we’ve got to have him out there.”
Cook echoed Cousins’ thoughts, saying he hopes to build on his performance from week to week.
“As long as I’m on the field, a lot of special things can happen,” Cook said. “That’s the main goal, just being available for my team to help win football games. Being out here with these guys is fun, and that’s why I worked extremely hard this offseason and training camp to be out here with these guys so I can have fun with them.
“Today was a great start for what we’ve got going,” he added.