By Eric Goska
|Adam Thielen and Kirk Cousins staked Minnesota to a 10-point lead in the third quarter.|
(screen shot from NFL Game Pass)
“How do you like me now?”
That was the question Kirk Cousins
, then with Washington
, shouted as he greeted Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan following an 18-point win over the Packers in 2016.
Now with the Vikings, Cousins had no need to pose such a query after his latest encounter with Green Bay. The answer was patently obvious.
Cousins dissected the Packers’ defense for a second time this season. The seven-year veteran fired three touchdown passes to propel Minnesota past Green Bay 24-17 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
On Sunday night, Cousins exposed Green Bay’s young defense. His arm carried the Vikings to a 24-14 lead after three quarters of play.
Afforded that 10-point cushion, Cousins then picked his spots. His final three completions, all third-down conversions, helped Minnesota control the clock in the fourth quarter.
Cousins completed 29 of 38 passes for 342 yards and three scores. His passer rating of 129.5 was the highest tallied against the Packers this season.
Cousins stayed hot while the outcome remained in question. His ratings for the first three quarters were 139.6, 129.2 and 128.5.
Cousins also fired a touchdown pass in each of those periods. He connected with halfback Dalvin Cook (26 yards) in the first, and ends Stefon Diggs (30) and Adam Thielen (14) in the second and third periods, respectively.
Eighteen of Cousins’ 29 completions brought first downs. Six stretched for 20 or more yards.
Cousins completed 13 consecutive passes in the second quarter. Only twice did he throw back-to-back incompletions.
His favorite targets were Diggs
(11) and Thielen
(9). Thielen caught eight passes for 125 yards and Diggs grabbed eight for 77.
With Cousins racking up yardage in bundles, Minnesota scarcely needed a running game. The Vikings picked up 91 yards on the ground, but 41 of that came in the fourth quarter while protecting their lead.
After Sunday’s victory, Cousins didn’t burst forth with any rhetorical questions. Even if he had, Green Bay lacked answers in defending against the 102nd player selected in the 2012 draft.
To be fair, the Packers were not at full strength. Backups Tony Brown
(cornerback), Ibraheim Campbell
(safety) and Tyler Lancaster
(defensive tackle) played a fair number of snaps. The trio was needed because of injuries to cornerback Kenny King (hamstring), safety Raven Greene
(ankle), defensive lineman Mike Daniels
(foot) and others.
Neither Brown nor Campbell nor Lancaster was on Green Bay’s active roster for the first meeting between these rivals.
Cousins also dominated in that matchup, a 29-29 tie. He completed 35 of 48 passes for 425 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Twenty of his 35 completions that day brought first downs. Seven extended for 20 or more yards.
Cousins opened by completing nine consecutive passes.
Every season, one opposing quarterback throws for more yards against the Packers than any other. This season, Cousins will get that honor.
In two games against Green Bay
this season, Cousins amassed 767 yards through the air. Matthew Stafford (twice) and Randall Cunningham are the only other players to have surpassed 700 yards in one season against the Green and Gold.
holds the record of 796 set in 2011.
In addition, Cousins became the fifth player to fire seven TD passes against the Packers in one season. Bobby Layne (1952), Tommy Kramer (1986), Daunte Culpepper (2004) and Brett Favre (2009) are the others.
Culpepper and Favre were the only two to register seven without throwing a pick. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted Cousins in that first meeting in September.
Cousins is not the first Viking to have thrown for more yards against the Packers than any other quarterback in a particular season. Nine others have done so: Fran Tarkenton (four times), Kramer (three), Steve Dils, Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, Jim McMahon, Cunningham, Culpepper (twice) and Favre (twice).
Cousins’ big night led to another milestone. His career passing yardage against the Packers swelled to 1,142. He is the 66th player to have hit or exceeded 1,000 passing yards against Green Bay.
Of those 66, Cousins is the highest rated. His mark of 129.3 is far superior to the 110.4 of second-place Drew Brees.
For the Packers, surrendering 300 or more passing yards to one quarterback in a game has been a mixed bag. The team’s record is 57-54-1 when doing so.
However, the team has failed to win the last six times it has been so generous. The team was 0-4 in 2017 and is 0-1-1 this season.
The good news for the Packers is they won’t see Cousins again this season. The bad news: Cousins is 30 years old – barely middle-aged by quarterbacks standards these days—and he may play with the Vikings long enough to give Green Bay headaches for years to come.
Passers who threw for more than 600 yards against the Packers in a single season (not including playoffs).