The Minnesota Vikings, for much of the season, appeared to be one of the NFC heavyweights and a team to beat in the conference, but found themselves eliminated from the playoffs thanks to their 31-24 loss to the New York Giants in their Wild Card clash on Sunday.
The Vikings posted 13 wins during the regular season, the most in the career of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, but their regular season success didn’t translate to the playoffs where they were quickly ousted.
“It hurts,” Cousins said, according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. “It hurts. I’m probably missing one, but this is probably the toughest loss I’ve had in my career.”
“All the obvious reasons” he elaborated.
Cousins pointed to the 13 wins and the upcoming offseason which could see the Vikings lose key players in free agency, such as center Garrett Bradbury and running back Alexander Mattison.
“Thirteen wins, I haven’t really sniffed that before,” Cousins said. “And just the fact that the group, the Garretts and the Alexes that … are free agents that are not guaranteed to be back, I think it’s hard to walk off the field.”
Cousins certainly did his part on Sunday, as he completed 31 of 39 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns and compiled his best Total QBR of the season (85.2) while adding in a rushing touchdown.
Cousins targeted tight end T.J. Hockenson more than superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson, or even Adam Theilen, something that many questions as the game wore on.
“Just a shell read there” Cousins explained. “Saw single high. Tried to work Justin. Didn’t feel good about putting it up to Justin. And then when I went to progress, I just felt like I was about to get sacked, and I felt like I’ve got to put the ball in play. I can’t go down with a sack, so I thought I would kick it out to T.J.”
“The intent as a playcaller is you’re not going to call a primary concept where somebody’s short of the sticks, especially if it’s fourth down,” Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said. “Looking back on it, maybe I could have been a little bit more, ‘Hey, this is where you want the ball to go.’ But I want Kirk to be able to play and be free out there to make good decisions. He did all night long.
“In the end, I look at it as it’s as much on me with that playcall, even though we had [eligible receivers] with a chance [to get] down the field maybe. There’s always a play that could be better.”