Steve Silverman Contributor
SportsMoney I have been covering the NFL for more than 30 years
A month ago, Kirk Cousins was the object of ridicule and the Vikings were pitied because their chances of success in 2019 were being ruined by their incompetent quarterback.
Kirk-tober has brought a 180-degree turnaround for the former Michigan State quarterback. Not only has Cousins put brilliant numbers on the board – 91-of-116 for 1,262 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception, along with a magnificent 10.8 yards per pass and an eye-opening 137.1 passer rating – the Vikings went 4-0 during the month.
The discussion has changed dramatically, and the belief is that the Vikings will engage the Packers in a season-long battle for NFC North superiority and perhaps the right to represent the conference in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots – check that – the AFC champions.
Not quite. After a brilliant 42-point offensive effort against the Lions in Week 7, the Vikings seemed to go through the motions for most of the game against the woebegone Redskins. Washington has been something of a disaster zone under the stewardship of owner Daniel Snyder, and this year’s team is one of the worst in his 20-year tenure. Head coach Jay Gruden was fired weeks ago and NFL retread Bill Callahan has taken over that team.
In an era of innovation, Callahan brings little to the table. While Gruden wanted to dazzle with creativity, Callahan’s goal is to run the football and take pressure off of his defense and his quarterback.Today In: Business
While there is some logic there, it’s easy to figure out for most defenses.
But not so easy for the Vikings, who found themselves tied with the Redskins at 6-6 until the final seconds of the first half. That’s when Dalvin Cook powered into the endzone on a short run and that allowed Minnesota to go into halftime with a 13-6 lead.
Mike Zimmer’s team was good enough to come away with an unimpressive 19-9 victory, but that was nothing to feel proud about.
A team that suffered key road losses to the Packers and Chicago Bears in the first month of the season should not take anyone lightly. The Vikings should have been able to jump all over the Redskins and put them out of their misery by the middle of the second quarter.
They did not do that, and the only thing that was truly impressive was the final drive of the game when the Vikings held the ball for 14 plays on a drive covering 82 yards and 8:16.
That is how good teams close out games, and Vikings did that. But for much of the game, the Redskins were punching back and the Vikings couldn’t figure out how to get rid of them.
The offensive line could not assert itself, and penalties hurt this team badly. Why is that the case at home against a team like the Redskins?
The first half saw former Vikings quarterback Case Keenum complete 12 of 16 passes for 130 yards. His receivers were breaking open against a slowish secondary, and it seemed like he was going to take the measure of his old team. Unfortunately for Keenum and the Redskins, a concussion forced him to the sidelines and ineffective rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins had to take over.
The Vikings saw another stellar performance from wideout Stefon Diggs, who caught seven passes for 143 yards. Diggs has clearly turned things around from his Week 4 blowup that resulted in a $200K fine by the organization. He has 446 receiving yards in the last three games, and his working relationship with Cousins has improved greatly.
However, Diggs knows that both he and the team can play a lot better than they did Thursday night against Washington. Diggs lost a fumble after a long catch-and-run on the Vikings’ first possession, and that miscue kept the home team from establishing dominance.
“If I don’t fumble there, we could’ve scored, and our defense got the ball back for us,” Diggs said after the game. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of work to do. We still had penalties. I still got to execute better. And we’re just a work in progress.”
The second half of the season opens with back-to-back road games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys. Both will be tough assignments and they will show a lot more about what this team is capable of doing than a Thursday night game in Kirk-tober over the lowly Redskins.