While the modern NFL emphasizes the quarterback duel and often attributes wins and losses to a team’s signal caller, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook attests that Sunday’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be more than just Kirk Cousins versus Tom Brady.
“We can’t make this a personal matchup,” Cook said in a Wednesday press conference. “We have to make this a matchup about all phases of the game. I think Kirk is going to play a good game.”
Although the Vikings are 0-5 against Brady all time, the more important matchup to Cook will be the Vikings’ offense versus a vaunted Buccaneers defense. Tampa Bay boasts the league’s most stingy run defense, allowing just 74 rushing yards per game — a product of the team’s discipline in filling gaps while also blitzing the most on the league.
“It’s a fine line when you think you’re gonna pressure the quarterback but you gotta have gap control when you are blitzing to make sure [Cook] doesn’t get out,” Arians said. “Once he breaks it, it’s usually going to the house.”
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Cousins Looking to Recapture ‘You Like That’ Moment Against the Buccaneers
The last time Cousins played the Buccaneers was in 2015, his first year as a full-time starter in Washington. Cousins was unproven, starting in just seven games in his career before that season and struggled early. He had six touchdowns and eight interceptions to his name entering a Week 7 matchup with Tampa Bay with Washington 2-4 on the season.
An unfortunately all-too-familiar fumble by Cousins put the Buccaneers up 24-0 early in the second quarter. Cousins fought back, running in a touchdown to close the first half and threw a trio of touchdown passes, the final with 24 seconds left in the game to give Washington a 31-30 victory and birthing his infamous catchphrase.
October 25, 2015
After falling in the hole 24-0 in the first half against the Buccaneers, Kirk Cousins throws 3 second half touchdowns including the go ahead with :25 seconds left to complete the biggest comeback in Washington history.
— . (@ViewsFromThe50) October 25, 2020
Bruce Arians: ‘I Don’t Think Anything Shakes Him’
Cousins’ comeback in 2015 has been emblematic of several games he’s played this season in bringing the Vikings back after he committed costly turnovers.
Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians spoke on Cousins in a recent press conference and alluded to Cousins’ ability to bounce back.
“I love the guy. He’s tough he’s a competitor. You know he’s a gym rat. You know he loves the game,” Arians said. “I don’t think anything shakes him up. It’s going to be a 60-minute battle with him. One or two plays isn’t gonna deter him in any way. We have all the respect in the world for him.”
Cousins could see his stock as a quarterback rise if he can pick up the first win of his career against Brady after previously going 0-2 in his career against the former New England Patriots icon. Cousins has overcome a shaky start to the season after posting a league-leading 10 interceptions through six weeks this season. He has since thrown 15 touchdowns to just two interceptions to coincide with the Vikings winning five of their past six games.
Through Weeks 3 to 8, Brady had through 17 touchdowns and just one interception this season but has since thrown seven interceptions in the past four games. He’s shown to still have plenty prove in his first year away from New England, making for a competitive duel on Sunday.
Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.