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Kirk Cousins threw four passes that demonstrate why he is an upgrade over Case Keenum, who had a nice season opening performance against the Broncos.
1. Cousins-To-Diggs Touchdown Toss
The first touchdown the Vikings scored against the 49ers was a thing of beauty. A 22 yard strike to the left corner of the end zone to a well-covered Stefon Diggs.
Last year with Keenum, we would’ve expected a more arcing pass thrown perhaps deeper into the end zone, which would’ve given the defender a greater opportunity to make a play on the ball.
Last Sunday’s pass by Cousins had a flatter trajectory, arrived with more velocity, and was placed where only Diggs could catch it:
2. Cousins-To-Rudolph Touchdown Throw
The second throw that demonstrates Cousins’ accuracy was the touchdown toss to Kyle Rudolph, which was placed just over the shoulder of the 49ers defender, who had his back to Cousins.
Rudolph was covered on the play. It’s hard to imagine Keenum even pulling the trigger on that play because to be successful, the ball needs to be thrown with a velocity Keenum does not posses.
3. Cousins’ Sidearm Pass To David Morgan
On a third-and-one play in the third quarter, Cousins, facing pressure from a 49ers defensive lineman, slung a sidearm throw just beyond the reach of the defender who was covering a crossing David Morgan for nine yards, and a first down inside the red zone.
4. Cousins’ 14 Yard Strike To Adam Thielen
During the second quarter, with the Vikings up 10-3 on a second down and 7 play, Cousins found Thielen who had settled between two defenders for fourteen yards and a first down. (ESPN 1500’s Matthew Coller breaks down the play in the article below.)
That is a throw Keenum could not make because, again, he doesn’t have the velocity that Cousins does.
Keenum needs space to succeed because the balls take longer to get to the receiver. He knows that, so he doesn’t pull the trigger on targets like this one.
Keenum is a fine quarterback, as we saw last year. He is more mobile in the pocket than Cousins and I’m sure he’ll be successful in Denver. But Cousins is definitely an upgrade.
NFC Defensive Player Of The Week
We were bracketed by San Francisco 49ers fans at the game; a couple of rows of them in front and several rows behind us.
Early in the game, I overheard one of them from behind me claiming that Harrison Smith was very overrated.
I reflexively laughed out loud at the absurd opinion. I turned around to look at the guy who had said he. We locked eyes and said, “Well, he is.”
I laughed again. And again. And then some more. Followed by a few fits of laughter minutes later when I thought about the comment again.
Throughout the game, we would have many opportunities to mock that absurd comment.
When Smith recovered the 49ers fumble near the goal line after a long drive, we turned to the rows behind us and chanted: OH-ver-RATE-ed.
When Smith sacked Jimmy Garoppolo, we turned and chanted: OH-ver-RATE-ed.
When Smith intercepted Jimmhy Garoppolo to seal the win, we chanted: OH-ver-RATE-ed. But by that time, the row of 49ers fans had cleared out of the stadium.
Smith ended the day with seven solo tackles, one assist, one pass defended, one fumble recovery, one sack and an interception.
Smith was so overrated that he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Teammate Xavier Rhodes named Smith the third-best player in the NFC North for The Players Tribune. Here’s his reasoning:
I have a huge amount of respect for Harrison Smith. He’s the heart and soul of our defense, and he’s one of the best safeties in the game. I think Harry, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas are in a class above everybody else.
And if I had to pick one, I’m taking Harry.
He’s everywhere on the field. He’ll be playing safety one moment, then linebacker the next. He knows every position on the defense, and he knows the opposing offenses inside and out.
I’ll never forget the playoff game against the Seahawks a couple of years ago — partly because it was one of the coldest games ever at like minus-6 degrees — because of some of the things Harry did in that game that illustrate how intelligent he is.
There was one play where we were in Cover 3 and Harry was supposed to have the deep third. But he saw something in the offensive formation, and he called it out right away: “Run! Run! They’re running right!” So he just called an audible for himself, slid up into a linebacker position and blitzed. And as soon as the running back took the handoff … boom!
You can see him call it before it happens. He knew the whole play. I went up to him after he made the hit and was like, “How in the world did you know the play?”
“I saw it on film, bro.”
I’m thinking, I watched the same film and I didn’t see that….
And on top of his ability to recognize the play, for him to abandon his assignment — because he’s that confident in what he’s seeing — is crazy. He has no fear. He trusts his instincts, and he trusts his preparation.
I always tell him he’s gonna be a coach when he’s done, because I’ve never seen somebody understand both defenses and offenses like Harry. I mean, he’ll look at an offensive lineman’s hand position, and if it’s different on a certain play, Harry will call it out, because it’s an indication to him of what’s coming. He pays attention to every little detail. He knows everything.
He’s truly a student of the game.
Throwback Thursday – John Randall: A Football Life
The NFL Network is running A Football Life documentary segment about former Vikings defensive tackle John Randall. Watch it here before the NFL takes this down or look for it On Demand.
Vikings Chances vs The Packers
Last week I predicted the Vikings would lose on Sunday.
I figured the Vikings will split with Green Bay and it is more likely that we’ll lose to them at Lambeau that at home.
But that was before Aaron Rogers got injured. That was before we learned that Davante Adams was limited in practice.
The media has been milking the “will he/won’t he” storyline for all its worth this week. Oh, the drama!
He will. This isn’t a broken collar bone. I fully expect Rodgers to play Sunday.
But if he’s not as mobile, that does indeed help the Vikings.
With the addition of Sheldon Richardson to the interior defensive line, and after watching him wreak havoc against the 49ers, the Vikings are well-equipped to face off against Rodgers.
If Rodgers less mobile than he usually is, it gives Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter a chance to keep him contained in the pocket while Linval Joseph and Richardson push the pocket from the inside.
One of the things that makes Rodgers so deadly is his ability to escape a collapsing pocket and buy additional time and find open receivers deep down field.
If Rodgers does indeed have limited mobility, I’d expect the Packers employ a quick passing game, so Vikings corners will need to press receivers at the line.
The best defense against Rodgers, however, is probably a good offense that executes long, sustained drives to keep him off the field.
And that’s where things get dicey because the Vikings patched-together offensive line left something to be desired in the run-game against the 49ers.
We shall see. But I’m more optimistic about this game than I was when I checked if off as a loss before last Sunday’s win.