Chip Scoggins
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Kirk Cousins ran one play missing a shoe. Later, he kept the ball on a read option run. Teammates openly rave about his "swag" now. And if that isn't enough crazy talk, the new Cousins revealed himself in the most decisive way on Sunday.

He outdueled Russell Wilson.

Cousins was masterful on a day when a Vikings win felt as necessary as oxygen to prevent their season from imploding before October arrived.

He passed for 323 yards and three touchdowns in a tension-relieving 30-17 win over Seattle at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Cousins pushed all the right buttons, showed poise and command when pressured and continued to leave the impression that something has clicked this season.

Shoeless Kirk is playing the best football of his career.

"He's been a different Kirk," receiver Adam Thielen said. "He's just locked in."

Players, coaches and front office officials alike notice a more relaxed and more self-assured Cousins both in the locker room and on the field. Coach Mike Zimmer, at odds with Cousins over his vaccination status in the preseason, has gone out of his way recently to praise his quarterback's leadership.

"It's been so much better," Zimmer said.

Teammates seem amused after getting to see more of their quarterback's personality behind the scenes.

"He has a little more swag to him this year," running back Alexander Mattison said. "Some of the stuff he says is pretty funny coming from him. But he's definitely opened up a little bit."

Swag? Kirk Cousins?

Cousins offered up that his offensive coordinator in Washington, Kyle Shanahan, told him as a rookie that his "swag is having no swag" after Cousins showed up for his first preseason game with a jersey so large that it looked like a Halloween costume.

"There's a hint of truth in the joke," Cousins admitted.

Performances like Sunday's will only boost his swag-ometer. Cousins completed all five pass attempts on the opening drive, including a 7-yard touchdown to Tyler Conklin. He looked in complete control thereafter in dissecting a Seahawks defense that lacks the ferocious bite that it once possessed.

His season stats are impressive – zero interceptions, in particular — but it's the eye test that suggests Cousins has settled into a good space. He seems in tune with coordinator Klint Kubiak's system and play-calling.

Cousins targeted four teammates at least eight times Sunday, which shows trust in the group but also his confidence in everything that is happening around him. That comfort stems from receiving solid protection from his line in back-to-back games.

Asked what stands out about his quarterback, Thielen noted, "Attitude."

"He has no fear," he said.

One play in the fourth quarter underscored that confidence. On third-and-5, the Seahawks brought a blitz, and linebacker Cody Barton had a free run up the middle. Cousins backpedaled to buy time and then fired a perfect pass to K.J. Osborn for a 15-yard completion.

Cousins admitted that his throw was risky and that the safe play might have been to "eat" it and take a sack. But he trusts Osborn and, more specifically, Cousins probably trusts that he will do something positive, even though he acknowledged that he didn't see Osborn clearly.

"You see a flash of purple," he said. "You have a ballpark idea. Reps give you the ability to play on instinct."

Again, something feels different. Zimmer likes that Cousins is playing "very fast."

"He's playing outstanding," he said. "He's very confident where he's throwing the football."

So confident, it seems, that Cousins tried throwing in his socks. Well, one sock.

Cousins had his right cleat come off on second down in the second quarter. He asked the referee if he would stop the play clock so he could fix it before third down. Nope, he was told.

As he lined up in shotgun, Cousins reached down, ripped off his cleat and tossed it backward. Seattle blitzed and the pass was incomplete.

"I realized I was better off just going without the cleat," he said.

Maybe this is what Cousins' teammates mean by his new swag.