The Chicago Bears defense made sure the Minnesota Vikings knew their game plan was early, shut down Dalvin Cook and make Kirk Cousins beat them. Cook was held to 14 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown as the Vikings were held to just 40 rushing yards, putting the game on Cousins' shoulders. The Vikings quarterback did not rise up to the challenge, finishing 27-of-36 for 233 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in a 16-6 loss to the Bears.
The Vikings went back to a run-first offense this season to alleviate the pressure off Cousins, in the second year of a three-year, $84 million contract. Minnesota is averaging just 21 points per game and 169 pass yards per game, the latter of which is 31st in the NFL. The Vikings pass-play percentage of 47.35 percent is 31st in the league, which isn't good enough for wide receiver Adam Thielen.
If the Vikings want to compete for a Super Bowl, they need to open up the offense.
"At some point, you're not going to be able to run the ball for 180 yards, even with the best running back in the NFL," Thielen said, via The Athletic. "That's when you have to be able to throw the ball. You have to be able to make plays. You have to be able to hit the deep balls. You have to do that."
Thielen was virtually a non-factor in Sunday's loss, having just two catches for six yards on six targets. He was a product of a checkdown offense by Cousins that resulted in a 4.3 average yards per pass attempt. The Vikings had 182 net passing yards (the majority of which came in the second half when the game was out of hand) as Cousins was sacked six times.
Cousins has just completed just 64.6 percent of his passes for 735 yards with three touchdowns to two interceptions and an 88.6 passer rating. He's on pace to throw just 396 passes, far fewer than the 606 he attempted last year.
The Vikings clearly don't want Cousins to throw the ball, but still have as many losses through four games as they did last year. Sooner or later, they'll have to open up the offense.