The Vikings’ Weakest Link Proves Plenty Strong
(973espn.com) - As a veteran player, Zach Brown should probably know not to poke the bear.
Always honest and often unabashed Brown, a former teammate of Kirk Cousins back in Washington during the 2017 season, told the truth about what opponents typically think about the talented Minnesota Vikings.
“Cousins, I think every defense is going to want that guy to throw the ball,” Brown told reporters after Friday’s practice. “For me, that’s probably the weakest part of their offense is him. Everything else is good. They’ve got a good running game, probably one of the best in the league. They have real good receivers. You just want them to pass the ball. You want Kirk Cousins to get it in his hands.”
During that 2017 campaign with the Redkins Cousins threw for over 4,000 yards with 27 touchdowns but also threw 13 interceptions and fumbled 13 more times. So when your other options are stopping players like Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, yeah the goal is to put Cousins in situations in which he might turn it over.
“I realized when I was in Washington, he was kind of careless with the ball,” said Brown.
The context Brown didn't add is that Cousins can also heat up and throw the football all over the yard, something he's done on more than one occasion against Philadelphia.
Last season at Lincoln Financial Field Cousins completed 30-of-37 passes for 301 yards with a touchdown and a 109.6 passer rating during a 23-21 Minnesota win. Dating back to Washington Cousins had thrown a career-high 17 touchdown passes versus just five interceptions with a 101.2 rating against the Eagles coming into Sunday's game.
During Philadelphia's 38-20 loss to the Vikings on Sunday, Cousins only turned it over once and that was because of a Diggs drop off his facemask that caromed into the air. The other numbers were 22-of-29 for 333 yards with four touchdowns, including two 50-plus bombs to Diggs and a 138.4 rating.
“Maybe that linebacker who popped off ticked him off,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
For what it's worth Cousins said he didn’t even know about Brown's bulletin-board material until after the game but everyone obviously wanted to talk about them.
“I’m here to talk about the game, not about that,” Brown said. “Any other questions besides about Kirk Cousins?”
Brown's sentiment was hardly wrong, though. Everyone on the Philadelphia defense from Jim Schwartz on down understood the path to beating the Vikings was making Cousins uncomfortable. Brown just verbalized it and Philadelphia was unable to accomplish the goal on game day.
“He did a great job today. He played good. Hats off to him," Brown said of Cousins. "... At the end of the day, we gotta do our job on our side of the football. Hats off to them, they got the best of us today. ... They got the win today, but you never know, we might end up seeing them again.”
And if the Vikings and Eagles do see each other again, the game plan will remain the same. The problem is executing it.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen