The Vikings beat the 49ers on Monday night, 22-17, in one of those games that is extremely stressful but - if your favored team wins - also extremely fun. Minnesota should have put away the favored 49ers about six different times, but managed to kick poorly and throw passes in the red zone poorly, all of which contributed to the game being way closer than it should have been.

From texting with friends, it seems like two things were true last night, although I seemed to be the one who believed the second one more strongly than anyone:

  1. Kirk Cousins was really good last night.
  2. Cousins nearly ended up killing his team last night.

Minnesota outgained San Fran 452-325, and held the ball for nearly 35 minutes. Cousins was 35/45 passing, for 378 yards, and was a big part of the reason that the Purple converted 8 of 13 third downs. And Cousins only turned the ball over once, whereas Brock Purdy and the Niners lost the ball three times.

So how come Minnesota needed an interception, in its own half of the field, to seal the game in the closing seconds?

The first reason is kicking; Greg Joseph missed an extra point, and later missed a 50-yard field goal (although I’m old enough to remember when this was not a strike against a kicker), and if he’d made both kicks then the game would have been a two-possession game, and we wouldn’t have been talking about this.

The second reason, though, is Cousins’ inability to complete passes in goal-to-goal situations. The quarterback threw the ball into the end zone three times, and was 0-3, including missing open receivers twice, and sort of panicking and winging the ball into the middle of the end zone once.

It must be said that the Vikings also ran the two most cursed quarterback sneaks ever: one that went backwards, and another where center Garrett Bradbury somehow failed to snap the ball and earned a five-yard penalty. They were truly plays where everything came together: poor execution, bad decision-making, and a total lack of coaching (had the Vikings ever practiced this, like ever?)

Cousins remains impossible to sum up. He’s clearly not a bad quarterback, but equally he doesn’t seem to be all that good. He’s hamstrung by his complete inability to move, even in the pocket; the Vikings offensive line is to be commended, because they’re trying to protect a stationary target, and somehow they managed to keep San Francisco from recording a single sack.

But at the same time, Cousins is reasonably accurate passer, and - goal-to-go situations aside - seems to be a pretty good decision-maker. Watching Purdy toss the game away in the fourth quarter was a reminder that you rarely see Cousins completely air-mailing throws to safeties.

ESPN’s “Total QBR” rating system has Cousins ranked as the 12th-best passer in the league this year, even though he’s first in the NFL in completions, attempts, and yardage. And over the last few years he’s been 23rd, 15th, 18th, 13th, and 14th, so at least by ESPN’s reckoning, Cousins is as good as he’s ever been.

I think we all end up seeing what we want to see, with Cousins. If you want to dislike him, you have plenty of ammo. If you want to like him - and I think more people are in this camp after the “Quarterback” documentary on Netflix - there are plenty of reasons to do so, too.


WILD vs Edmonton, 8pm, BSN, somebody give me one good reason this home game doesn’t start until 8



WOLVES at Toronto, 6:30, BSN


WILD at Philadelphia, 6:30, ESPN+ and Hulu
GOPHERS MEN’S HOCKEY vs Wisconsin, 8pm, BTN


GOPHERS WOMEN’S HOCKEY at Ohio State, 5pm, No TV despite these being two of the best teams in college hockey
WILD at Washington, 6pm, BSN
GOPHERS MEN’S HOCKEY vs Wisconsin, 8pm, BTN