Vikings’ Kirk Cousins ​​- Loss to Giants ‘probably’ toughest career – ESPN

Vikings’ Kirk Cousins ​​- Loss to Giants ‘probably’ toughest career – ESPN

MINNEAPOLIS — This season seemed different for Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. His team won 13 regular season games, by far the most in his career. In Kevin O’Connell, he bonded with a coach who trusted him to throw more passes than ever, with less schematic guard rails than ever.

In the end, however, Cousins ​​found themselves in a familiar position Sunday at US Bank Stadium: going home to the offseason without a playoff win. The Vikings’ 24-31 loss to the New York Giants was his third loss in four postseason games of his career, and it’s one he said caused a new level of pain.

“It hurts,” Cousins ​​said. “It hurts. I’ll probably miss one, but it’s probably the hardest loss I’ve had in my career.”

When asked why, he initially said, “All the obvious reasons.”

Cousins ​​later elaborated a bit, citing the Vikings’ regular-season success and the possibility that some outstanding free agents — including center Garrett Bradbury and Stau Alexander Mattison — could depart in the offseason.

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“Thirteen wins, I’ve never really smelled that,” said Cousins. “And just the fact that the group, the Garretts and the Alexes, who are … free agents who are guaranteed not to come back, I find it difficult to leave the field.”

In a way, Cousins ​​put together his best game of the season on Sunday. He completed 31 of 39 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a third and compiled his best overall QBR of the season (85.2).

Overall, he had an odd year in his first season at O’Connell. On the one hand, he threw a career-high 14 interceptions and finished with a career-low QBR of 49.8. On the other hand, he led eight fourth-quarter comebacks under the Vikings’ NFL-record 11 one-score wins, and he had another chance against the Giants on Sunday.

But the game essentially ended when Cousins ​​threw short of the sticks to tight end TJ Hockenson in fourth and eighth near midfield. Giants safety Xavier McKinney tackled Hockenson after a 3-yard gain with 1:44 left.

When asked about the decision to throw Hockenson to Justin Jefferson or some other vertical threat instead of receiver, Cousins ​​said, “There was just one shell to read. Saw single high. Tried to work Justin Then when I went to progress I felt like I was going to be fired and I felt like I had to put the ball in play. I can’t go down with a sack so I figured I’d kick it out to TJ

“I’d gone short on a few different occasions in the game and even gone back a few weeks and just felt like going short wasn’t the end of the world. It was obviously tight coverage, so he didn’t get a chance to pull away. I figured I’d go down and grab a sack if I can’t muster it.”

O’Connell admitted that afterward he reached out to Cousins ​​to understand why he had made that pitch, and the trainer said, “I could have done a better job at the moment.”

O’Connell said he would have preferred a downfield throw but didn’t want to burden Cousins ​​with instructions before the snap.

“The intent as a playcaller is that you’re not going to name a primary concept that someone is short of sticks on, especially if it’s in fourth place,” O’Connell said. “Looking back, maybe I could have said a little more, ‘Hey, let the ball go here.’ But I want Kirk to be able to play and be free out there to make good decisions, which is what he’s been doing all night.

“In the end, I see it like this playcall is on me as well, even though we had it [eligible receivers] with possibility [to get] maybe in the field. There’s always something that could be better.”