MINNEAPOLIS (BVM) – Kirk Cousins posted his worst quarterback rating (10.3) of the season in a Week 17 loss to the Green Bay Packers that could have eliminated the Minnesota Vikings’ archrival from playoff contention. The disappointing performance from Cousins was coupled by a no-show from the Vikings defense which allowed the Packers to rack up more than 300 yards of total offense, including 163 on the ground.
Although four turnovers from Cousins (three interceptions, one fumble lost) didn’t help, Minnesota’s defense was once again unable to stop a nosebleed. Ranking 31st (out of 32 teams) in total yards allowed, passing yards allowed and points allowed per game this season, the Vikings’ 12-4 record entering Week 18 is simply a mask for a porous defensive unit.
“I think Kirk Cousins has played well enough, the issue right now is their defense,” former Vikings quarterback (1987-1992) and 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon said on an episode of BVM Sports’ Real Spill. “They’re 31st in total defense, they’ve given up more explosive plays than any other defense in football and I just don’t think it’s sustainable.”
Cousins’ rough Week 17 shouldn’t overshadow what has been an otherwise impressive season for the veteran QB. Entering the regular season finale, Cousins completed 65% of his passes for 4,322 yards, 28 touchdowns and was just named to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year. His 14 interceptions on the season are a career high, but so too are his eight fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.
The constant fourth-quarter heroics needed from Cousins are due in part to a Vikings defense that hasn’t surrendered fewer than 20 points in two months (a 20-17 win over Washington on Nov. 6). Only the Chicago Bears (3-13) have given up more total points and points per game than Minnesota this season.
Despite the defensive struggles, the Vikings are the NFC North Champions and will host a playoff game in Kevin O’Connell’s first year as head coach. But if this Minnesota defense continues to be swiss cheese under defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, it’ll be another short postseason run for the Vikings.
“They’re a more competitive team (than last season), they’ve been better in late-game situations … but you can’t rely on Kirk Cousins and the offense to go out every week and score 30 points so something has to give,” Gannon said.