The Minnesota Vikings have won two in a row after their bye week, increasing their current win streak to six. Over these two weeks, Kirk Cousins has 497 yards, four touchdowns and one interception giving him a 92.4 passer rating. He currently has the fourth-best IQR in the NFL, (121.0), according to Sports Info Solutions (this is a metric that measures the quarterback independently).
Cousins is playing some of the best ball of his career and having one of the best supporting casts in the NFL certainly helps. He’s currently T-1 the NFL in game-winning drives since 2021, with eight, and this year, he is tied in comeback wins with four.
Cousins has been able to deliver in close games, stay poised under pressure,l and most importantly, trust his receivers when it matters most. Now let’s throw on the All-22 and dive a little bit deeper into how Cousins is able to play as well as he has.
Winning under pressure... to a point.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Cousins hasn’t been playing out of his mind or anything when under pressure, but he’s come through in critical moments. He’s currently fourth in yards (372) when pressured, according to SIS, but sitting with a 38.9 completion percentage giving him a 58.4 passing grade, when facing pressure, according to PFF.
So that tells us that overall, Cousins isn’t doing particularly well with guys in his face, but he is showing a great sense of pocket presence when looking to go deep. Last week, Cousins threw two of his best throws with defenders barreling down on him.
Cousins favors going to the non-trips side of the field. This is because there is an even number of defenders per receiver when an offense spreads out. This will leave one-on-ones on one side when the defense is in man coverage.
In the clip above, there are two receivers next to each other lined up in the inside slot and outside slot position. KJ Osborn attacked the first level of the defense and Adam Thielen made his way behind the strong safety Kamren Curl.
Even with three defenders in his face, and moving backwards, he was able to float this over the defender 30-yards down field.
According to SIS, Cousins is sixth in completions on early downs, (first downs) on attempts past the sticks.
Later downs are another story.
Highest/Lowest EPA per dropback averages on 2nd, 3rd and 4th downs of 7+ yards:
1. Patrick Mahomes (.47)
2. Josh Allen (.33)
3. Tua Tagovailoa (.30)
32. Mac Jones (-.32)
33. Matthew Stafford (-.36)
34. Kirk Cousins (-.40)
— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) November 8, 2022
Because of this, it’s important that Cousins gets the passing momentum going on early downs, and then Dalvin Cook can clean up on the third and short. The ways in which head coach Kevin O’Connell uses stacked receiver looks are a big part of how the Vikings achieve that.
Stacked looks to help the quarterback.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings’ receivers are getting open by using stacked looks. They used it last week when attacking Washington’s Cover-4 defense. In the clip below, the stacked look is on the right side of the offense with Jefferson lined up on the opposite side. Jefferson’s position is important because it pulls the cornerback and the play-side safety away from the deep crosser.
They lined up in a similar look earlier in the game,(picture below) but with Cook on the left side of Cousins that kept a defender over the middle.
Later in the game they have Cook on the right side pulling the defenders to one side of the field. This left Osborn to attack the defenders freezing them, to open the underneath.
When defenders are up against stacked looks, they are forced to play off the line of scrimmage. If they line up too close, the receivers could switch and force a collision.
This actually happens in the game winning drive in the fourth quarter. Osborn is lined up on the right side of the stacked look. He runs behind Thielen and then cuts to the outside forcing a switch. Cousins throws an absolute dime to Osborn to win the game 34-26.
Cousins in the clutch.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings offense has plenty of weapons, but with a guy like Cousins under center, his toughness can set the tone. It certainly did in Week 8, when he scrambled for a 17-yard touchdown on the opening drive.
Cousins has been able to evade pressure when needed, and as we’ve seen, taken a hit and still delivering on-point passes down field. Cousins isn’t at the top of the leaderboards like he was last year, but this is by far the best start he’s had of his career.
thru 7 Games,
2021 vs. 2022:
PFF = 90.3
Passer Rating = 103.3
QBR = 53.6
Team Record = 3-4
PFF = 74.3
Passer Rating = 90.7
QBR = 49.7
Team Record = 6-1
If you haven't realized QB Wins are a dumb stat yet, I'm not sure you ever will.
— Dustin Baker (@DustBaker) November 2, 2022
The Vikings winning four games in the fourth quarter is a big deal because these were games that they lost last year. They were on the losing side of eight one-score games in the 2021 season. Even though the scores are still close this year, the wins are an indication that O’Connell is responsible for putting his players in the position to win.
kirk is truly having the time of his life pic.twitter.com/Tz1DP7a1zv
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 7, 2022
The only thing left for Cousins is to carry this momentum into the postseason and, and take the Vikings as far as possible in the postseason.