With the Vikings' backs against the wall, playing a must-win game in front of their home crowd, Kirk Cousins stepped up and put together perhaps the best performance he's ever had in a purple and white uniform.
Cousins has taken plenty of criticism in his three-plus years as the starting quarterback in Minnesota — some of it deserved, some of it a bit harsh. But with Klint Kubiak calling plays and some changes to the Vikings' offensive line and pass-catchers, Cousins has been nothing short of spectacular so far in 2021. He was excellent in Cincinnati and Arizona, even as the Vikings shot themselves in the foot late in those games and came away with a pair of losses.
Cousins was even better in the Vikings' 30-17 win over the Seahawks on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium. He finished his day 30 of 38 for 323 yards and three touchdowns without any turnovers. That's a passer rating of 128.4. Cousins is up to over 900 yards passing and eight TDs without any turnovers this season, which is easily his best start to any season since signing with the Vikings in free agency three and a half years ago.
It wasn't all Cousins. Alexander Mattison had a career day filling in for Dalvin Cook, racking up 171 yards from scrimmage on 31 touches. Mattison ran for 112 yards and was excellent in the screen game, adding 59 yards as a receiver. He broke tackles, made decisive cuts, and showed a lot of explosiveness. Justin Jefferson had his best game of the year in front of an adoring home crowd, catching nine passes for 118 yards and a score. Tyler Conklin, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn also made plays at important times, with Conklin and Thielen catching Cousins' two other first-half TD passes.
In total, Minnesota's offense gained 453 yards on a hapless Seahawks defense. A big change from previous weeks was their efficiency on third down; after converting 31 percent of their attempts in the first two games, the Vikings were 9 of 14 (64 percent) against Seattle.
Early on, Mike Zimmer's defense had no answer for Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense. The Seahawks piled up over 300 yards of offense before halftime, but still trailed 21-17 at the break. Poor coverage, bad run defense, and missed tackles were all problems for the Vikings.
Whatever Zimmer said at halftime worked.
The Seahawks gained just 42 yards on three meaningful drives in the second half, punting twice and turning the ball over on downs on the last one. They finally were able to get pressure on Wilson, with Everson Griffen and Eric Kendricks getting home for crucial sacks. The Vikings' offense was excellent at controlling the time of possession and keeping Wilson off the field.
It was simply a fantastic performance from the Vikings in front of a raucous crowd of nearly 67,000 in Minneapolis. Cousins, Kubiak, and the offense were excellent, albeit against a woeful defense. Zimmer's defense, perhaps aided by the noise coming from the fans, turned things around completely in the second half.
The Vikings needed that win badly, and they got it. Now they're 1-2 with another huge matchup next week when Kevin Stefanski and the 2-1 Cleveland Browns come to town. The Browns sacked Bears QB Justin Fields nine times on Sunday and have a loaded roster on both sides of the ball.
If the Vikings keep playing like this, they'll have a good chance to be 3-3 or even 4-2 at the bye week and right back in the race in the NFC North.
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