5 things that must change for the Minnesota Vikings in 2019

(Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) Kirk Cousins /
2 of 6
Vikings interim offensive coordinators Kevin Stefanski talked with Kirk Cousins in the forth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday December 16, 2018 in Minneapolis, MN.] The Minnesota Vikings beat the Miami Dolphins 41-17 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Jerry Holt • Jerry.holt@startribune.com(Photo By Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images)
(Photo By Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images) Kevin Stefanski and Kirk Cousins /

Kirk Cousins needs to lead the Vikings to a fourth-quarter win

If you are looking only at individual performances, then Kirk Cousins had the best season of any Vikings quarterback since 2009. However, when taking a closer look at the entire quarterback play for the team a slightly different picture emerges.

Cousins’ quarterback rating of 99.7 last season is just slightly better than the combined rating of 99.1 for Case Keenum and Sam Bradford from 2017. Cousins threw for 4,298 yards in 2018, the most since Brett Favre amassed 4,202 in 2009. However, it is only 179 yards more than the Vikings got from Bradford and Shaun Hill in 2016.

If 2018 was a mere speed bump or a short departure from making the postseason, then Cousins needs to play better in 2019. Sure, his stats were great, but there is the intangible of leading your team to a victory they had no business winning.

In seven seasons, Cousins has 12 game-winning drives, 11 of them after becoming the full-time starter for the Redskins in 2015. None of them came last season.

In two of his three seasons as the starter in Washington, Cousins led the Redskins to four game-winning drives. In 2017 that was good enough to lead the NFL. The other season he did it three times. The same year he had four game-winning drives, he was sacked 41 times for a league-high 342 yards.

So that fact he was under constant pressure last season while being sacked 40 times does not excuse him from winning a game when it counts and lead the Vikings to at least one game-winning drive.

He needs to deliver as he did in Washington, averaging 3.6 game-winning drives in three years as the starter. That is the difference between 8-8 or 9-7 and 11-5 or 12-4.