Kevin O’Connell Breaks Silence on Kirk Cousins’ Costly Error in Vikings Loss

Kirk Cousins

Getty Kirk Cousins in the Minnesota Vikings' 2023 season opener versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Minnesota Vikings were marching on what could have been a go-ahead scoring drive before halftime of their season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Facing second-and-1 on the Buccaneers’ 13-yard line, Kirk Cousins dropped back and threw the ball to K.J. Osborn. The pass, slightly behind Osborn, was stripped out of his hands by Buccaneers rookie Christian Izien for a game-changing interception.

The Vikings offense sputtered in the second half of an eventual 20-17 loss. After the game, Cousins said that he felt trying to fit the throw to Osborn between two defenders was “too aggressive.”

“Just looking back, I would have just progressed to the under route to Jordan [Addison]. I tried to knife it in there, was a little too aggressive,” Cousins said.

Kevin O’Connell begs to differ.

I didn’t mind the decision,” O’Connell said in a postgame interview. “We’ll take a look at it, whether the location could have been better. But ultimately, I want him to be aggressive. We fit that ball in that window and score, everybody thinks it’s a great execution.”

Kirk Cousins’ Grappling With Aggressive Play Continues

Even back during the Mike Zimmer era, Cousins was encouraged to play aggressively.

Late in the 2021 season, Cousins was coming off a trademark game where he outdueled Aaron Rodgers in a 34-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers at home. He completed 24-for-35 for 341 yards and three touchdowns, including a bullet to Adam Thielen that set up the game-winning field goal.

It was a rare off-schedule improvisation from Cousins, who threw the ball upfield to Thielen, in the middle of his break, instead of delivering it to him on the end of a comeback route that cornerback Rasul Douglas had sniffed out.

“I mean, I could point to a half-dozen throws there that were too aggressive, and I could argue that that’s one of them and I don’t think you want to live doing that,” Cousins said, per The Athletic.

“I think that we got away with it a couple times. I keep saying we’re (on the) razor’s edge, but that’s a play where it’s an example of it. The difference between (Thielen) catching that and making the play he did and it going the other way is very small. Tyler Conklin did a great job on his route winning on that play, and so I’ve got to go back and look at it and say, ‘How can we give Adam a better chance to create separation?’ Maybe a different route concept for me to give to him and then even what took me there, should I have worked with Tyler instead? And so you’re hard on yourself working through all that because you don’t want to live in a world throwing the ball into a covered player and crossing your fingers. You don’t want to live in that world. There’s a time and a place for it, but you also want to be a smart football player.”

That “razor’s edge” is what O’Connell spoke of on Sunday with Cousins’ interception. Had the ball been threaded just slightly more forward to Osborn, it could have been secured for a touchdown.

O’Connell has continued to encourage Cousins to take those risks, and he showed a willingness to do it last season. But Sunday’s admission that the play was too aggressive was a call back to Cousins’ risk aversion and rationale that’s persisted throughout his career.

 Vikings Offense Produced But Didn’t Capitalize vs. Buccaneers

If you looked at the box score, you would assume that the Vikings won on Sunday.

Cousins threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns, while Justin Jefferson had 150 yards receiving.

However, three turnovers killed potential scoring drives as Minnesota failed to put away a Buccaneers team that will likely be in the bottom half of the league this year.

Fans witnessed the other side of the close-games conundrum that the Vikings seemingly outran last season after winning 11 single-score games. When the game comes down to a few final plays, the results become as split as a coin flip.

Minnesota outgaining Tampa Bay 369 to 242 yards did not matter in the end if you can’t score points.

The Vikings will try to remedy their offensive woes on a short week but have an even tougher test on defense ahead in the Philadelphia Eagles.

“It always hurts losing in this league,” Cousins said after the loss to the Buccaneers. “It beats you up, and because the margin for error is so small, that’s what beats you up is the plays where you know we ought to have made that play and it’s a different game if you can make it.”

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Joe Topolka
Joe Topolka
10 days ago

Are we looking for good stats, I want to win games. Get rid of cousins, your never going to win the big one with him and his record proves it.