Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins claims he doesn’t read the newspaper, win or lose, and he certainly doesn’t scroll Twitter in the locker room after games. Thus, he isn’t privy to the massive amounts of criticism he gets whenever he crumbles under pressure.
In fact, Cousins said pretty much the only time he has to come face to face with what others are saying about him is during his weekly news conference with reporters.
“I don’t hear the critics too much,” he said Thursday, Dec. 3. “I probably hear them on this 10-minute call more than anything. Just answering these kinds of questions. I don’t really know all that’s out there. It’s just fun to play well and win.”
It’s a shame Cousins doesn’t follow along, because if he did, he would know that his critics went radio silent this week.
After all, there was nothing to criticize after he led the Vikings to a 28-27 victory over Carolina last Sunday. He completed 34 of 45 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns, even saving his best for last on the winning drive in the final minutes of the game.
That performance led to Cousins being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Thursday, joining running back Dalvin Cook, who has won the award twice this season.
Asked about Cousins earlier this week, Cook made sure to bring up the critics, particularity how quiet they were after the come-from-behind win. It was stark contract to a couple of weeks ago when Cousins took a lot of heat for falling short in a 31-28 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
“To see him silence the critics puts a smile on my face,” Cook said. “The things he has done in the past, I think it tends to carry over with him. I think it goes overlooked the plays he makes. Then when he plays that lights-out football, people start to be shocked. I’m like, ‘That’s just the Kirk Cousins I know.’”
It is the Cousins who has been showing up for the past month and a half.
In the month of November, Cousins completed 105 of 145 passes for 1,293 yards and 12 touchdowns, while leading the Vikings to a 4-1 record to put themselves back into the NFC playoff race. They take on the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) at noon Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium with a chance to get back to .500 for the first time this season.
“He’s entering the games with a lot of confidence,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “It just comes with playing and competing. He obviously is playing very well right now.”
That confidence has started to carry over to the rest of the team. That’s why no one panicked last weekend when the Vikings got the ball back with 1 minute, 51 seconds left, needing a touchdown and extra point to win the game.
“You saw it across our whole sideline,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “It was really just a matter of seeing how much time we’d have and then going and executing and getting a touchdown.”
That’s just what happened as Cousins orchestrated a masterful 75-yard drive, capping it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to receiver Chad Beebe. As our hero has said: You like that?
But Cousins isn’t resting on his laurels. He knows he’s only as good as his last game. He plans to carry himself with that mentality until the day he retires.
“You’re always looking to climb the next challenge and make the next play happen,” he said. “That’s kind of where all my energy goes, rather than ever starting to feel like, ‘You did something and accomplished something.’ You’re primed to get knocked off that way. Just always looking forward.”