Vikings didn't trust Kirk Cousins but he came through vs. Bears anyway

Cousins puts together a terrific performance despite Dalvin Cook being slowed in Chicago

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From the opening drive of Monday Night Football, it was clear that the Bears were going to do what they do against the Vikings: Shut down Dalvin Cook.

With advantages on the defensive line with Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack and at linebacker in Roquan Smith, they swarmed to the ball and held down the NFL’s most explosive running back.

Chicago came into the game with the mentality that they were going to make Kirk Cousins beat them. And he did.

The Vikings’ quarterback put together a terrific performance in the 19-13 victory, exorcizing both his Chicago and Monday Night and demons in a victory that keeps the Vikings in the playoff race.

Cousins appeared to be on his game right from the start, hitting throws of eight yards to CJ Ham and nine yards to Adam Thielen on the opening drive before completing a 13-yard throw to Kyle Rudolph that ended in a fumble.

The Vikings quickly recovered with a Harrison Smith interception and Cousins tossed a brilliant 17-yard touchdown to Thielen, who brought the ball in with one hand.

After a long Chicago drive that resulted in a field goal, the two teams exchanged punts and then the Vikings went back to work moving the ball through the air. On their fourth drive, Cousins found Tyler Conklin for nine and then Justin Jefferson for 13 yards. But a throw to Thielen bounced off the Pro Bowler’s hands and into the mitts of Mack for an interception.

The Vikings’ defense, behind Zimmer’s well-schemed third down blitzes, continued to stop Chicago’s offense from converting in big situations. Despite a 21-yard completion following the INT, the Minnesota defense forced the Bears to kick a field goal to bring the score to 7-6 with 50 seconds remaining in the half.

Last week the Vikings scored quickly at the end of the half. Not this time. Zimmer’s team ran the ball twice and left those two timeouts in Chicago rather than believing in Cousins to take them down and score.

They would pay for the lack of aggressiveness immediately as Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.

The Vikings responded with a 14-yard throw to Jefferson for a first down but then ran themselves out of a drive by handing off for a 3-yard gain and then throwing short of the sticks on third down.

Despite Cousins’s smart decisions throughout — including a few good throwaways to avoid mistakes — the play calling kept putting him behind. The Vikings gained 3.1 yards per carry on the night but converted 8-of-15 third downs.

Down three, Cousins found Justin Jefferson for a 54-yard pass down the middle of the field to set up a Dan Bailey field goal.

At 13-13, the Vikings committed a holding penalty on a Cook run, putting them back to first-and-20 but Cousins responded by finding Rudolph for 22 yards. The Vikings finally gained some steam on the ground when Hicks went out with a hamstring injury but an ill-advised second-and-10 run set up Cousins with third-and-4 at the Chicago 6-yard line.

He fired a dart to Thielen for a touchdown to put the Vikings ahead by six. But only six because of another special teams miscue. Struggling long snapper Austin Cutting bounced a snap on the extra point.

Zimmer’s defense again sent a blitz that baffled Foles and the Vikings were given a chance to put a nail in Chicago’s coffin. Cousins came through with a first down pass to Cook on the run but the Vikings’ O-line held again and the Vikings punted the ball back to Chicago with just over four minutes remaining.

On Chicago’s last chance, they lost yards on a third down bubble screen and went for fourth-and-9 and Foles overthrew an open receiver. The perfect summation of a pathetic night of offense from the Bears.

Finally the Vikings made something easy for Cousins at the very end: The Bears forgot about Rudolph in the flat wide open for a first down that put the game to an end and brought the Vikings to 4-5 on the season.

Cousins fist pumped and jumped around after the completion to Rudolph. He deserved the celebration. His final line for the game: 25-for-36, 292 yards, two touchdowns and one pick that wasn’t remotely his fault.

The Vikings’ QB did the things we often say he can’t do: Overcame poor play around him, won in Chicago, won without the running game, beat a team with a winning record and did it on national TV.

Now, will the Vikings trust him a little more over the next few weeks as they need their franchise QB to bring them back in the race against lowly Dallas, Jacksonville and Carolina?

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