Last season, he beat the Packers on a Sunday night and won a late-afternoon kickoff against the Eagles. For the most part, the Cousins-led Vikings have extended the narrative of Cousins-led Washington that he plays very well in run-of-the-mill games but that he turtles when the stakes are high.
From last year’s Thursday night game against the Rams to the Sunday night game against the Saints to the Sunday night game against the Bears to the Monday night game against the Seahawks to last year’s games at Green Bay to this year’s game at Green Bay to this year’s game at Chicago to this year’s game at Kansas City, when opportunity comes a-knockin’, Kirk goes a-hidin’ under the bed.
The problem is simple, and obvious. He’s hyper-aware of the circumstances, holding the ball too tight and thinking too much when he knows it’s a big spot. Unlike Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who just shows up and plays no matter whether it’s day or night or road or home or 0-8 opponent or 8-0 opponent, Cousins freaks out in big moments.
On Sunday night, he gets his latest chance to change the narrative. The problem is that, with each blown opportunity to change the narrative, it gets harder to change the narrative because the snowball keeps getting bigger and bigger.
If Cousins and the Vikings don’t get it done tonight, next comes the Seahawks on a Monday night. Then the Chargers on a Sunday night (barring a flex). Then the Packers on a Monday night. Then, potentially, another win-and-in-lose-and-out Week 17 playoff play-in game. Cousins has lost a pair of career games in such circumstances, and the one time he went to the playoffs he was one and done.
Before the Vikings can ever become contenders with Cousins at quarterback, they need to start winning big games in the regular season. Then and only then will they have a chance to win big games in the postseason.