Ex-Michigan State star QB Kirk Cousins has 'taken charge' with Vikings
Allen Park — Through 70 career games, Kirk Cousins has only played his home state team once.
That will change starting Sunday as he now figures to be a long-term fixture for a divisional rival.
Cousins, who grew up in Holland and attended Michigan State, signed a three-year deal in the offseason with Minnesota and is 4-3-1 as the Vikings’ starter.
“He’s done great,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday. “He’s very much taken ownership, taken charge. He’s very, very accurate, wants to be a leader.
“All the things have been good with him.”
Cousins leads the league with 241 pass completions and has a career-high 70.7 percent completion rate, connecting often with prolific wide receiver targets Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the latter on pace to set the league’s single-season receptions record.
“I think part of it is Kirk throws the ball well and in a lot of good places, and Adam is extremely competitive trying to get open,” Zimmer said. “I just think Adam is a good player and he makes a bunch of catches, good catches, and he runs good routes.”
Cousins’ 16 touchdowns-to-four interceptions ratio is by far the best ratio of his career after starting 57 games over six seasons with Washington.
Cousins came to Ford Field in 2016, losing 20-17 as Matthew Stafford out-comebacked Cousins’ comeback.
Cousins ran for a 19-yard go-ahead touchdown with 1:05 remaining before Stafford and the Lions drove 75 yards for a touchdown, finding Anquan Boldin for a 18-yard score with 22 seconds left.
Zimmer said he was pleased with Everson Griffen’s return Sunday to the lineup against New Orleans.
The defensive end, traditionally a terror for Stafford and the Lions, is back with the Vikings after missing five games with a mental health issue.
Griffen, who has 11.5 sacks and 21 quarterback hits in 15 career games against the Lions, had a tackle in 43 snaps in the 30-20 home loss Sunday night.
“Everson is always a guy that’s going to hit the ground running,” Zimmer said. “It’s different conditioning and running and lifting weights and all that stuff, and then you’re go out and you’re playing football. I’m sure there were some plays he’d like to have back and there were some good things as well.”
While the defense benefited from the return of nose tackle Linval Joseph after a one-game absence, linebacker Anthony Barr (hamstring), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and safety Andrew Sendejo (groin) missed the game.
Zimmer said he was hopeful to get more guys back this week as preparations began later Wednesday.
“I think we’re going to get some guys back, hopefully,” he said. “It sounds more encouraging.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.