The Minnesota Vikings showed their support and appreciation for their injured quarterback Kirk Cousins ahead of their game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The team wore matching T-shirts with Cousins’ name and number on the front and the words “You Like That” on the back, a reference to Cousins’ famous catchphrase after a comeback win in 2015. The gesture was a sign of solidarity and respect for their leader, who is facing a long recovery from a season-ending injury.
Cousins suffers season-ending injury
Surgery was a success! Grateful for your prayers, Dr. Coetzee’s abilities, and our medical team. Would appreciate continued prayers! One day at a time… pic.twitter.com/prVoPwLsfB
— Kirk Cousins (@KirkCousins8) November 1, 2023
Cousins, who was having a career-best season, suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of the Vikings’ 24-10 win over the Green Bay Packers last week. He was helped off the field and taken to the locker room, where he was diagnosed with the devastating injury. Cousins underwent surgery on Wednesday and said it was a “success” on his X account. He is expected to miss the rest of the season and possibly part of the next one.
The injury was a huge blow for the Vikings, who had been relying on Cousins’ stellar performance to keep them in the playoff hunt. Cousins was leading the NFL in most major passing categories, including completion percentage (73.3), yards per attempt (9.5), touchdown passes (23), and passer rating (124.3). He had also thrown only three interceptions and had led the Vikings to a 4-4 record after a 1-3 start. Cousins, who is in the final year of his contract, was widely considered as a candidate for the MVP award.
Cousins leads the NFL in passing
Cousins joined the Vikings in 2018 after signing a three-year, $84 million deal that was fully guaranteed, a rare feat in the NFL. He had previously played for the Washington Football Team, where he had established himself as a reliable and productive passer. He had thrown for over 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in each of his three seasons as a starter in Washington, and had also set the franchise record for single-season passing yards (4,917) in 2016.
However, Cousins had also faced criticism for his inability to win big games and lead his team to the playoffs. He had a 26-30-1 record as a starter in Washington, and had only made one postseason appearance, a loss to the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card round in 2015. He had also struggled against division rivals and teams with winning records, and had often failed to deliver in clutch situations.
Cousins had hoped to change that narrative in Minnesota, where he had a talented roster around him, including star wide receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, dynamic running back Dalvin Cook, and a stout defense led by head coach Mike Zimmer. However, his first two seasons with the Vikings were also marked by inconsistency and disappointment. He had led the Vikings to a 10-6 record and a playoff win over the New Orleans Saints in 2019, but had also lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round. He had also regressed in 2020, throwing a career-high 13 interceptions and leading the Vikings to a 7-9 record and a missed playoff berth.
Cousins had bounced back in 2021, playing at an elite level and silencing his doubters. He had improved his accuracy, decision-making, and pocket presence, and had also shown more emotion and leadership on the field. He had led the Vikings to several comeback wins, including a thrilling 34-31 victory over the Carolina Panthers in overtime, where he had thrown for 373 yards and three touchdowns. He had also outplayed some of the best quarterbacks in the league, such as Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Kyler Murray. He had earned the respect and admiration of his teammates, coaches, and fans, who had rallied behind him and his signature slogan, “You Like That”.
Vikings rally behind Hall and Dobbs
With Cousins out, the Vikings turned to rookie Jaren Hall, a fifth-round pick out of BYU, to start against the Falcons. Hall, who had impressed the coaches with his athleticism and arm strength in the preseason, had seen limited action in the regular season, completing 4 of 6 passes for 41 yards and a touchdown in mop-up duty. He had also been inactive for four games due to a concussion he had suffered in practice.
Hall made his first NFL start on Sunday, and he did not disappoint. He completed 15 of 22 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown, and also ran for 38 yards and another score, as the Vikings beat the Falcons 27-20. Hall showed poise and confidence in his debut, and also displayed his dual-threat ability, making plays with his legs and his arm. He connected with Thielen for a 19-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and then ran for a 12-yard touchdown in the second quarter, giving the Vikings a 14-3 lead. He also led a crucial drive in the fourth quarter, converting a third-and-10 with a 17-yard pass to Jefferson, and then setting up a field goal that put the Vikings up by 10 points with less than two minutes left.
Hall earned praise from his teammates and coaches for his performance, and also received a congratulatory message from Cousins, who watched the game from his home. Hall said he was grateful for the opportunity and the support, and that he was trying to make the most of it. He also said he was inspired by Cousins, and that he wanted to honor him with his play.
The Vikings also traded for veteran quarterback Joshua Dobbs from the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday, giving them some depth and experience at the position. Dobbs, who was a fourth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017, had played in 11 games in his career, completing 29 of 43 passes for 293 yards and a touchdown. He had also rushed for 111 yards on 15 carries. Dobbs did not play against the Falcons, but could see some action in the future, depending on Hall’s performance and health.
The Vikings players honored their injured quarterback Kirk Cousins with a Kirk Cousins shirt, showing their solidarity and respect for their leader. Cousins, who is facing a long recovery, thanked his teammates for their support and said he was proud of them. The Vikings, who improved to 5-4, will try to keep their playoff hopes alive without their star quarterback. They will face the Los Angeles Rams next week, a team that features former Vikings quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was traded to the Rams in the offseason. The Vikings will hope that Hall and Dobbs can continue to fill in admirably for Cousins, and that they can keep the “You Like That” spirit alive.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 5, 2023
— NFL (@NFL) November 5, 2023