EAGAN, Minn. -- On the heels of his worst game with the Minnesota Vikings, quarterback Kirk Cousins figures he had better turn things around in a hurry.
In last Sunday’s 21-16 loss at Green Bay, he completed 14 of 32 passes for 230 yards while throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble.
“I’m not going to be playing quarterback here if I play the way I did this past Sunday for much longer,” Cousins said Wednesday, Sept. 18. “So, I understand that, and I look forward to getting out there and playing at a much higher level.”
Next up for Cousins and the Vikings (1-1) is Sunday’s noon kickoff against Oakland at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Two years ago, Cousins had one of the best games of his career against the Raiders. With Washington on Sept. 24, 2017, he completed 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns and a passer rating of 150.7.
Games like that played a part in Cousins signing a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract with Minnesota in 2018. There always has been pressure to deliver; now it’s really on.
Cousins threw a 45-yard touchdown to Stefon Diggs in the third quarter against the Packers but finished with a completion percentage of 43.8 and passer rating of 52.9 — each by far his lowest in 18 games since arriving in Minnesota.
Trailing 21-16 Sunday and facing first-and-goal at the 8 with 5:17 left in the game, the Vikings had their fate sealed when Cousins threw into double coverage at the back of the end zone and was picked off by cornerback Kevin King.
Asked what he should have done instead, Cousins said, “I’m going to throw it away. If I’m in that situation again, the ball’s going in the stands.”
Cousins had seven lost fumbles last season, tied for the NFL lead, and lost two against Green Bay in the first quarter. The Vikings recovered the first after an 11-yard run by Cousins and lost the second after he was sacked.
“It’s important to get the ball out of my hand, one — avoid sacks however I can,” he said. “Two, try to make people miss, and then three, sometimes a sack is OK. … The coaching point there is to take a sack, hold onto the ball, don’t fumble and take a sack.”
Raiders coach Jon Gruden is expecting Cousins to bounce back. He has followed him closely since Cousins participated in Gruden’s QB Camp prior to his third-round selection by the Redskins in the 2012 draft.
“I’ve always liked Cousins,” Gruden said. “He works hard at football. He’s had a lot of production. … He does great (in Washington), he gets a heck of a contract to go to Minnesota. Hopefully, we can find a way to slow him down.”
Cousins has received plenty of coaching pointers since last Sunday’s game. Head coach Mike Zimmer anticipates he will respond to them.
“Kirk had an up-and-down game last week,” Zimmer said. “He’s going to be fine. We have the utmost confidence in him. He’s in a good place where he’s going to play good this week and continue to play good for the rest of the year.”
Diggs, the intended target on King’s interception, took some responsibility for the game-changing interception on Sunday.
“I don’t want him to take full responsibility because we all played a part in that,” he said. “We’re all pieces of the puzzle, and him taking full responsibility, it’s a quarterback thing to do. He’s a leader, but at the end of the day it’s not all his fault. … We’ve got to have his back at all times.”
Cousins appreciates the support but he knows he must deliver on the field.
“You’ve got to go out and earn it,” he said. “In this league, no one’s giving you anything. This isn’t a charity. You’ve got to play well to earn people’s confidence.”