The Vikings managed to beat a terrible Packers team at Lambeau Field 24-10 in a game that was never close and should’ve been a 30-point blowout. But the Vikings also very likely lost starting quarterback Kirk Cousins for the rest of the season with an Achilles tendon tear. That put a damper on the Vikings’ victory as it severely impacts their ability to compete the rest of the season.
Worst Packers Team in Decades
The Vikings’ win came against the worst Packers team in decades. The Packers went 3-and-out their first four drives and never showed anything offensively the entire game. Some conservative 4th-down decisions by Kevin O’Connell against the worst 4th-down defense in the league, along with a missed field goal, kept it from being a blowout early, but the Packers offense couldn’t do much to make it close, despite having some opportunities to do so later in the game. The Vikings defense came up with some key plays late in the game, combined with plenty of Packers’ miscues, which prevented Green Bay from making it close.
Loss of Cousins Overshadows Win
The decisive win on the road over the Packers put the Vikings back to .500 and with a playoff spot if the season ended this weekend, but the loss of Kirk Cousins for the season with what is feared to be a torn Achilles tendon- similar to the one Aaron Rodgers suffered at the beginning of the season- put the rest of the Vikings’ season in doubt.
Kirk Cousins has been carted to the locker room and has already been ruled out— PFF (@PFF) October 29, 2023
The injury was non-contact
Cousins has been the engine that has driven the Vikings offense this season, delivering the ball with accuracy to receivers and allowing them to make plays of their own. The Vikings have one of the highest passing play rates in the league, while their running game has mostly been an afterthought this season. That puts a lot of pressure on Jaren Hall or whomever replaces Cousins at quarterback to power the offense the Vikings depend upon and that has been the strength of their team for the past several years.
Jaren Hall was underwhelming in relief of Cousins late in the game- looking very much the rookie that he is. If it’s Hall the Vikings go with at least until Nick Mullens is healthy, he’ll have to play much better for the Vikings to have any chance at the playoffs.
It’s unclear if the Vikings will be content with the quarterbacks currently in their roster to lead them forward the rest of the season, or if they will look to bring in other options. It wouldn’t be at all surprising for them to do so, particularly if Mullens isn’t healthy, but whether they’re looking for another backup or a potential starter remains to be seen.
But in the meantime, Kirk Cousins has probably played his last snap under his current contract with the Vikings. And without a contract extension for Cousins, who may not be ready to practice before training camp next year, today’s injury could bring a sudden end to the Cousins era with the Vikings.
Players, Coaches Devastated by Loss of Cousins
The Vikings’ post-game press conference was delayed due to the impact of Cousins’ injury, and it was clear that players and coaches were devastated by the news and Cousins’ loss. Kevin O’Connell fought back some tears and tried to put a good spin on things by talking about the win, but clearly he was devastated by what he feared was a torn Achilles that will end Cousins’ season.
Harrison Smith also appeared devastated by the news in an on-field interview after the game, while hoping for the best and putting as good a spin on it as possible, but again the impact was clear.
Vikings locker room was pretty emotional. Multiple players, leaders, tearing up over how much Kirk Cousins has meant and means to them and to the locker room.— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) October 29, 2023
“I can’t describe it,” Harrison Smith said. “You really just have to experience it to know.”
DT Harrison Phillips on the postgame locker room: "We're thankful for a win, for sure. But not a normal 3-game win streak vibe, I would say." https://t.co/rHnY56ItUi— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) October 29, 2023
Tight end T.J. Hockenson: "There's nothing really I can say about it. I just love Kirk to death. I love his family. I love him. I love everything about him. To see a guy like that go down is always tough."— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) October 29, 2023
Long story short: the Vikings' postgame locker room seemed more stunned and confused than morose or angry. Everyone and everything just felt off.— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) October 29, 2023
Loss of Cousins Puts Immense Pressure on Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to Deliver
The reaction by both players and coaches to the loss of Cousins for the season- and potentially forever as a Viking- marks a sharp contrast to Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s cool approach toward extending Cousins earlier this year, despite Cousins being one of the top ten quarterbacks in the league since Adofo-Mensah took over as general manager.
Cousins’ loss not only puts pressure on Adofo-Mensah to field a quality quarterback for the remainder of the season, but even more pressure to find a top quarterback for next season. Adofo-Mensah not being able to strike an extension with Justin Jefferson before the season started only adds to that pressure as Jefferson- who has made it clear time and again he is driven by winning rather than money- may be unwilling to sign an extension without a top quarterback in place to deliver him the ball and compete in the postseason.
Lots to Unpack Going Forward
Cousins will undergo an MRI to confirm the Achilles tear, after which he’ll likely have season-ending surgery to repair the tendon and go on injured reserve. The Vikings will likely bring in some quarterbacks for workouts, and could potentially even trade for one with the trade deadline just a couple days away.
Beyond that, it will be interesting to see how the Vikings fare in Cousins’ absence. Clearly there are a lot of negative consequences for the offense, from a more limited playbook to lack of rapport with receivers to lack of poise, accuracy, decision-making and arm talent, depending on who takes over for Cousins the rest of the season. Jaren Hall would seem the most likely candidate next Sunday at Atlanta, but beyond that remains a question mark.
The impact of Cousins’ loss could also affect when Justin Jefferson returns, and perhaps other decisions around the trade deadline as the Vikings consider the best way forward with Cousins out for the season. Those decisions, in turn, will likely impact how the team responds to losing Cousins and whether they rally around Cousins’ replacement or largely pack it in the rest of the season.
But clearly Cousins’ injury today is a major inflection point for the Vikings this season, and potentially for many seasons to come as well.
Did Kirk Cousins play his last game today for the Minnesota Vikings?
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