Though Kirk Cousins demurred on a number of questions after the Vikings’ 28-11 loss to the Colts on Sunday, saying he needed to analyze the film of the game to have a better idea of what happened, he knew a detailed re-watching could only lend so much nuance to what ranked as the worst game of his NFL career by many metrics.
Cousins posted a 15.9 passer rating Sunday — the lowest of his career as a starter by 16 points. His 42.3 completion percentage was the second worst of his career, and he threw three interceptions for just the fourth time in the NFL.
Advanced metrics were no kinder to the QB. Even factoring in three dropped passes, a throwaway and a spike, Cousins’ adjusted completion percentage of 58.3 was the second lowest in the NFL on Sunday, per Pro Football Focus.
And so, after reviewing the game, Cousins kept his second summation of his performance succinct.
“I don’t have a whole lot to add from Sunday’s game,” he said. “As suspected, we’ve got to be better. I’ve got to be better. Now we’re back to work this week, a new opponent, and we get that chance next Sunday to get this bad taste out of our mouths.”
To do so, Cousins said he’ll return to a set of processes that have helped him reach two Pro Bowls and throw for 4,000 yards four times in five full seasons as a starter.
“I’ve kind of just built habits for myself over the years that I’ve found worked for me,” he said. “They’re the same habits you had last week before a tough game, but they’re the same habits you have when you have good games, so you just go back to your process and take it one day at a time and believe that over the long haul, good things will happen and you’re going to play better football more often than you’re not.”
The challenge for the Vikings’ offense, in Cousins’ third season as a starter, is to build enough chemistry between the quarterback and his group of receivers to recreate the kind of production the team had a year ago, when it ranked eighth in the league in points.
The Vikings have been unable to open things up for Dalvin Cook, with a league-worst average of 2:01 of possession per drive, and Cousins has struggled to connect with receivers other than Adam Thielen, whose 16 targets (on 51 Cousins passes) are more than twice as many as any other Vikings receiver.
“Some teams have been kind of having a safety on top of Adam or double-covering Adam, so it’s just up to the other receivers to go out there, make those big plays and get open,” rookie receiver Justin Jefferson said Wednesday.
Jefferson said double moves — along the lines of what Stefon Diggs used to get open on downfield shots off play action last year — can require more time for a receiver to develop a connection with a quarterback, and “throughout time, Adam built that trust with Kirk. That’s the same thing I have to do.”
Only nine quarterbacks in the league have been pressured more often than Cousins, who’s faced pressure on 31.7 % of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. But he has played with changes on the offensive line throughout his Vikings career, and Cousins said Wednesday the latest round of changes — with Dakota Dozier at left guard and Dru Samia stepping in for an injured Pat Elflein at right guard — are something he tries to block out as much as he can.
In the first days of his new contract, it comes down to Cousins simply being better.
“I always have urgency,” he said. “Going into Week 1, I feel it. Going into Week 2, I feel it. And certainly now going into Week 3, I feel it.
‘‘The urgency doesn’t really go down, but it also probably doesn’t go up, just because you only get 16 of these opportunities.
“All March, April, May, I’m at my house training five, six days a week for only 16 opportunities. The urgency’s there, but we need the production to go with it.”