Kirk Cousins is an easy punching bag at times, but Pro Football Focus graded him quite well late in games last year.
For the Minnesota Vikings, less of Kirk Cousins was more in 2019. After setting a career-high with 606 pass attempts in 2019, A Gary Kubiak-influenced offense yielded 444 pass attempt in 15 games (Week 17 was meaningless for the Vikings), and Cousins posted a career-best 107.4 passer rating with 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
Minnesota earned a playoff spot with a 10-6 record last year, then they beat the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round. Cousins offered a rebuttal to his detractors in overtime of that game, with a clutch deep ball to Adam Thielen followed by a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph on the game-winning drive in overtime. The Vikings gave Cousins a two-year contract extension in March, surely to the chagrin of a big chunk of Vikings fans.
It will take more than one moment for Cousins to erase the narrative that he can’t step up in big games against good teams, with a tilt toward falling short in games that aren’t at noon Sunday Minnesota time.
But Pro Football Focus was complementary of Cousins’ work late in games last season.
Is Kirk Cousins clutch now? #ClutchKirk?
The full context isn’t clear, but my assumption is Cousins earned the No.1 PFF grade for quarterbacks in the fourth quarter and overtime during the regular season.
His raw numbers in the fourth quarter during the regular season were pretty good.
Kirk Cousins-Fourth Quarter 2019: 67.7 percent completion rate, 803 passing yards, 8.6 yards per attempt, 8.96 adjusted yards per attempt, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 107.1 passer rating, 36 of 63 completions for first downs
The 107.1 passer rating was only third by quarter for Cousins last year, behind the first (119.3) and third (108.0). The fourth quarter yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt marks were tied for his best and his second-best respectively for a quarter in 2019.
Efficiency will remain the name of the game for Cousins in 2020, with Kubiak taking over as offensive coordinator. But if he plays well again late in games and it leads to wins in the biggest games, the negative connotation of the “Primetime Kirk” label will start to erode.