The veteran quarterback entered Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day nightcap against the New England Patriots with a 10-19 primetime record and hadn’t won on Thanksgiving in his 11-year career. He put forth his one of the best games of the season against a vaunted New England defense, completing 30 of 37 passes for 299 yards and a season-high three touchdowns in a 33-26 win on November 24.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell lauded Cousins’ performance in an epic locker room speech.
Kevin O’Connell Has Kirk Cousins Doubters Second-Guessing Gametime vs. Patriots
In the locker room after the game, O’Connell sounded off on Cousins’ performance, letting doubters of his quarterback check their watches again.
“Last time I checked, that game started at 7:25. That makes it a primetime football game. Your quarterback (Kirk Cousins) went 30 of 37 for 299 and three touchdowns,” O’Connell said before the locker room erupted in cheers celebrating the team’s ninth win of the season.
The win was a breakthrough turnaround for the offense after being held without a touchdown in a 37-point loss to the Dallas Cowboys just four days prior. Minnesota bounced back against a Patriots defense that ranked in the top five in both points and yards allowed entering the game.
That included finding answers in pass protection after Cousins was sacked a career-high seven times against the Cowboys. The Patriots boast the league sack leader Matt Judon and were second in team sacks behind Dallas entering Thursday’s matchup.
“We used a lot of different techniques on the edges to try to condense that rush, try to let Kirk (Cousins) have some clean pockets. I will say they got the NFL sack leader over there, some really good interior rushers, timely pressures. Kirk Cousins was phenomenal tonight getting us in and out of the plays he did, standing back there and making some big-time throws,” O’Connell said in a November 24 postgame press conference. “I can’t say enough about the protection as well, those guys doing their jobs. It was not easy. It’s never going to be easy against that defensive structure, team or coaching staff. So I give our guys a ton of credit for making plays and just consistently finding ways to drive the football.”
Kirk Cousins Trending the Right Direction Approaching Final Stretch of Season
With six games left in the season, Cousins is continuing to master the new offense under O’Connell, while O’Connell is also learning to put Cousins in the best position ever play.
It’s been week-to-week with Cousins, who despite posting his lowest passer rating (88.6) of his career as a starter this season, is also making more clutch plays, leading a career-high five game-winning drives so far this season.
But with a backup left tackle in Blake Brandel protecting his blindside, Cousins showed a poise that was lacking against Dallas — leaving signs of encouragement moving forward.
“I think he had a very, very good week of preparation on a short week. His ownership, I know we’ve talked a lot about that. You don’t play like he did tonight without really starting to develop some ownership of our offense. I think the way he played at Buffalo to kind of will us to a victory, then we all had to learn some lessons coming out of Sunday, me included. Maybe me more so than anybody. But I can tell you that Kirk played really, really well tonight,” O’Connell said. “There’s really so many plays you can kind of go back to and call on, third-down plays, play-action shots, great decisions to check the ball down. Didn’t allow the rush when it did get there to really affect him. He overcomes the early adversity of the interception. That’s probably a bad play call by me. Trying to do too much on a third-and-long. I’ll continue to improve, always look inward. Really spend a lot time over this mini-bye making sure that I am at my best when we show up ready to roll next week.”