As the Minnesota Vikings playoff chances took a debilitating hit following a 33-27 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, widespread scrutiny will be the theme among fans in the upcoming weeks for a team that has weathered unprecedented circumstances this season.
A recent clip midway through the Bears game has already gone viral as rookie Justin Jefferson was perceived to have been cursing Kirk Cousins’ name and critiquing him to “throw the ball.”
In the waning seconds of the first half, Jefferson’s reaction to a missed red-zone connection with Cousins was heard on the Fox NFL broadcast and disseminated through social media.
The tweet sharing the playback of the broadcast has gone viral, although, the interpretation of Jefferson may be off as the rookie was not condemning his quarterback but the officials.
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Jefferson Did Not Say ‘Throw the Ball’
Several Twitter users responded to the tweet, after listening closely, and have claimed Jefferson said “throw the flag,” not “throw the ball.” Jefferson has remained publicly supportive of Cousins, who addressed the throw in a postgame interview.
“I was working inside on an under route, it got meshed, so I turned to my left and was playing off schedule at that point,” Cousins said. “Was trying to throw it high and safe to Justin — kinda put it in an ours or nobody’s spot — but it ended up being nobody’s.”
After the misinterpretation of the soundbite, fans continued to speculate what was really said in the heat of the moment and its meaning. Did Jefferson mean for Cousins to throw the ball to the corner of the end zone on a flag route? Was he talking about the refs? There’s plenty of speculation left in a disappointing loss but Jefferson’s knee-jerk reaction seemed to be more reactionary than malicious.
Jefferson addressed the video after the game as several fans attacked his character, calling him a diva.
😂😂😂😂y’all love blowing stuff out off proportion. And I ain’t no diva don’t get it twisted. https://t.co/SfVo6quwpr
— JJETS✈️ (@JJettas2) December 20, 2020
Cousins Heavily Pressured
Expecting pressure from opposing pass-rushers, Cousins has made escaping the pocket and running a point of emphasis in his play this season that’s proven reliable. Entering Sunday’s pivotal Week 15 tilt with the Chicago Bears, Cousins had rushed for the sixth-most first downs (8) in the past four games among quarterbacks — ahead of the likes of dual-threat QB Kyler Murray and Patrick Mahomes.
But Cousins’ added option in his repertoire has come at a cost. His release time is the eighth-slowest in the league, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Cousins was pressured on nearly 40% of dropbacks for a second consecutive week, per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, as the offensive line has not help Cousins who often is rushed through his progressions.
While blame can fall on the offense that had an opportunity to win the game in the final 56 seconds, the crux of the loss comes back to a patchwork defense that was missing Pro Bowlers Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter along with newly acquired nose tackle Michael Pierce, who opted out this season under unique COVID-19 rules.
Christmas Day’s game next week will be a must-win for the Vikings who will also need some help from around the league to move into the seventh seed in the NFC.
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- Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.