Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was livid entering halftime of Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Vikings offense failed to sustain any momentum, with five of six first-half drives stalling in six or fewer plays. They dug themselves in a hole that, despite a second-half resurgence, they could not dig themselves out of, falling 27-24 in overtime.
Zimmer voiced his frustration and laid blame on the man who seems to be at fault for every loss: Kirk Cousins.
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Zimmer: 1st-Half Struggles Were Cousins’ Fault
FOX Sports on-field reporter Jen Hale appeared during halftime of the season-opening broadcast and said Zimmer told her “many” of the first half problems on offense are on “Kirk Cousins holding onto the ball too long,” per SKOR North’s Phil Mackey.
Despite Hale’s report, Zimmer remained cordial and quiet about Cousins’ play during the postgame press conference after recollecting himself following the disappointing loss.
When asked if he thought Cousins was holding onto the ball too long, Zimmer only named one instance.
“I don’t know. I’ll have to look at it,” he said. “The only time I think he did was when we were backed up on the 1-yard line. They did a good job on defense with a lot of man-to-man.”
The offense scored on three possessions in the second half to force overtime. Cousins completed 36 of 49 pass attempts for 351 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was sacked three times total — twice during the first half.
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The Real Culprit of 1st-Half Futility
While Cousins bears some blame for Sunday’s loss, the biggest culprit of the offense’s first-half futility was poor offensive line play.
Penalties piled up on the offense that set the team behind the chains often. The Vikings had 12 penalties accepted against them for 116 yards, 10 of which came in the first half.
“That’s obviously going to be an emphasis,” receiver Adam Thielen said. “If we play clean football, we can move the ball all day. But when you start drives first-and-20, second-and-20, I think we averaged third-and-20 in the first half or something like that. You can’t win football games doing that. It starts with the whole offense, right? There were receivers. Every position group had mistakes.”
The offensive line was responsible for seven of 12 penalties on Sunday.
If the offensive line wasn’t holding on for its life, Cousins was running for his. Cousins’ average depth of target was only 5.1 yards as he rushed through his progressions and checked down often.
The offense failed to take advantage of the Bengals loading the box often to stop Dalvin Cook, who was held to 61 rushing yards. By not allowing enough time for receivers’ deep routes to develop, Cousins was left with short to intermediate routes to target.
Despite the struggles on the offensive front, Cousins is optimistic the offensive line will improve its play.
“I do. I think so. I’ve played a lot of snaps with all kinds of different linemen. I’ve played against all types of linemen and schemes. The coaches do a great job of game-planning each week with what you’re facing and putting us in a position to be successful.”