Ten games into their season, the Minnesota Vikings look nothing like an excellent Bowl team. The huge contract they handed to quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency during the offseason has not been money well spent.
Cousins threw two interceptions Sunday night in Chicago, one of that has been returned for a key fourth-quarter touchdown in the Vikings’ 25-20 loss to the Bears, which dropped Minnesota’s record to 5-4-1.
It’s not all about Cousins. That he actually has put up good numbers in 2010. And the Vikings’ biggest issue Sunday night was their inability to block Bears defensive standouts Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, not the play of Cousins.
But it’s a bottom-line business. And underneath line for Cousins and the Vikings is which they reached the NFC championship game last season with Case Keenum at quarterback, then said their farewell to him by signing Cousins to a fully fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract. The only way for the signing to be a success is for Cousins, a 4, 000-yard passer in each of the previous three seasons for the Washington Redskins, to simply take the Vikings to the Super Bowl.
There’s no indication at this time that’s likely to happen. The Vikings today are not in the class of the newest Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams, the NFC’s top teams. They can’t even keep pace with the Bears in the NFC North. Chicago upped its record to 7-3 with the win.
“I thought Kirk Cousins would outplay [Bears quarterback] Mitch Trubisky, ” former NFL coach Tony Dungy said at halftime on the NBC telecast Sunday night. “That has not been the case. ”
Cousins spoke during the week about the need certainly to avoid committing turnovers against a Chicago defense so adept at forcing them. He didn’t heed their own words of caution.
That he threw an ugly interception in the ultimate seconds of the first half. While under some pressure, Cousins sailed a pass high within the head of tight end Kyle Rudolph and into the hands of Bears safety Adrian Amos at the Chicago 8-yard line.
Then in the fourth quarter, the Vikings trailed 14-6 once they got the ball at their 11-yard line with a little more than 8: 30 to play. Cousins’s pass toward wide receiver Laquon Treadwell was intercepted by Bears safety Eddie Jackson, who sprinted to the finish zone. The Bears added a two-point conversion and pushed their advantage to 22-6.
The Vikings were able to make things interesting from there, completely until an onside kick recovered by the Bears to seal the outcome in the final minute. Cousins piled-up some passing yardage late. He threw touchdown passes in the last five minutes to wide receivers Aldrick Robinson and Stefon Diggs and ended with 262 yards on 30-for-46 passing.
That’s not terrible. But, in reality, Cousins’s biggest flaws were on display. He couldn’t get out of just how of the pass rush. And when crunchtime arrived, that he committed an ill-timed gaffe.
The Vikings’ season isn’t over. Even though they can’t overtake the Bears in the division race, they’ve a chance at an NFC wild-card spot. But it is a season where much more was expected. Sneaking into the postseason isn’t enough. Even winning a playoff game or two and reaching the NFC championship game isn’t enough.
Cousins was signed to be the final piece of an excellent Bowl puzzle. It does not appear he will be that. To whom $84 million is given, much is expected. Cousins is finding that out.
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