Another big game against a good team for Kirk Cousins, another humiliating loss. By now, it's becoming less of a myth and more of the predominant narrative that tells the story of Cousins' career. After a 16-6 loss to a shorthanded Bears team in Chicago on Sunday, Cousins now sports a 5-27 record as a starting quarterback against teams with a winning record, as calculated by Aaron Leming of Bear Report. Everyone knows it's a problem, but nobody -- not Mike Zimmer, at least -- knows how to fix it.
"I don't know," Zimmer said, per ESPN's Courtney Cronin. "You'd have to ask him."
What made Sunday's defeat especially disappointing is that this was the kind of game the Vikings should've stolen -- and if not that, they should've at the very least kept things close. The Bears entered the game without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (arguably their second best player behind Khalil Mack), inside linebacker Roquan Smith, defensive end Bilal Nichols, receiver Taylor Gabriel, and right guard Kyle Long. Then, on their first series of the game, the Bears lost quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to that sidelined him for the remainder of the game and will keep him out for at least another week.
Despite all of the Bears' absences, they led from start to finish and never felt threatened by the Vikings. It was 16-0 toward the end of the third quarter. Before the Vikings mounted a 92-yard scoring drive late in the fourth quarter against a Bears defense that was happy to exchange minutes and seconds for yards, the Vikings had accumulated only 95 yards of offense (not including penalties), according to Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz. With their typically prolific running game stymied by the Bears (only 40 yards on 16 carries), the Vikings were forced to put the game in Cousins' hands.
Cousins finished with some not-entirely-terrible numbers (27 of 36 for 233 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, and a 91.5 passer rating), but he did most of his damage in garbage time, got sacked six times, and also fumbled twice (one lost). Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Cousins completed only one pass farther than 20 yards downfield. He attempted only two deep passes.
Kirk Cousins completed 75% of his passes yesterday (27 of 36), but also took 6 sacks and 10 of the 27 completions were low-value plays (negative EPA).— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) September 30, 2019
This graph shows the EPA on each of his 42 pass plays. Only 16 of his 42 plays were positive EPA (38%). Cmp% = overrated pic.twitter.com/uXyyvVgbrQ
He also missed Adam Thielen in the early going for what would've been a huge touchdown on third down.
After, Cousins admitted it was a throw he needed to hit, Thielen voiced his overall frustrations with the offense without directly calling out Cousins, and fellow receiver Stefon Diggs left the locker room before answering questions. It's not difficult to understand their frustrations.
Through four weeks (but before the Bengals-Steelers game on Monday night), Cousins ranks 25th in passing yards, tied for 26th in touchdown passes, and 23rd in passer rating. To be clear, it's not entirely Cousins' fault. The offensive line remains an issue. It's just that, when a team gives a quarterback a three-year, $84 million contract that's fully guaranteed, they're expecting that quarterback to be able to overcome such issues and elevate the team around him. That hasn't happened since Cousins signed his monster deal a year ago.
The good news is that the Vikings are almost halfway through Cousins' contract. The bad news is that the Vikings aren't even halfway through Cousins' contract. Unless they're willing to eat a lot of money, they're stuck with him through the 2020 season.