Kirk Cousins says incompletions are wins when facing Khalil Mack


Vikings QB Kirk Cousins isn't exactly living up to the $84 million guaranteed that the Vikings paid him in 2018. He was supposed to be the missing piece on a roster primed to make a Super Bowl run. Instead, he led Minnesota to a disappointing 8-7-1 record in 2018, this coming after a 13-win season the year before.

To be fair, Cousins wasn't terrible last year. He threw for the second-most passing yards in his career (4,298) and a career-best 30 touchdowns, but those flashy stats were devoid of clutch game-changing throws.

This season, Cousins is off to an odd start. The Vikings are 2-1 and have arguably the NFL's best running back in Dalvin Cook. The shift in offensive philosophy to such a run-heavy team has caused Cousins' stats to plummet as he has just 502 yards and three touchdowns through three games. Compare that to 2018 when he had 965 yards and seven touchdown passes after three weeks, and it's clear Minnesota has turned Cousins into more of a game-manager than game-changer.

Part of being a game-manager is knowing when to take an 'L' from a passing standpoint; don't put the team in a bad situation because of an ill-advised throw. That's especially true against a Chicago Bears pass rush -- led by Khalil Mack -- that will swarm Cousins' comfort zone Sunday.

"I remember a play last year early in the game and Adam (Thielen) was coming on a shallow cross and I felt (Mack) around my back side and I realized if I take a full stroke here with my arm, he's going to get the ball," Cousins said via The Athletic's Chad Graff. "So I short stroked it and missed the throw, but I walked off the field after that drive saying I'll miss that throw all day if it's just an incompletion and we punt. If he gets my arm and it's a fumble and now they're going in at the plus-20, that changes the game. Those are the moments when your instincts are telling you, 'He's right there, let's get the ball out of our hands and if I miss the throw by a couple of feet so be it."

Mack has been on a tear the last two games and did exactly what Cousins explained against Case Keenum in Week 3:

Mack has three sacks over the last two weeks and will be hunting for more Sunday at Soldier Field. Cousins will be hyperfocused on Mack's whereabouts, which should lead to more opportunities for players like Leonard Floyd on the opposite side.

But for as much attention as Mack and the Bears pass rush will receive, Week 4's game will come down to stopping Cook and the Vikings running game. Otherwise, Cousins will be able to play it safe for four quarters, avoiding any game-changing turnovers.

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