MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings are heading into their bye week. Critics of Kirk Cousins also might be taking some time off.
The quarterback led Minnesota back from a 20-0 halftime deficit Sunday, Nov. 17, to a 27-23 win over Denver at U.S. Bank Stadium. That came a week after he engineered a marquee 28-24 win at Dallas in prime time.
“He is playing lights out and doing a great job,’’ said Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs. “You guys (the media) need to give him more credit. You are hard on him when he isn’t playing well and he’s doing everything that he can…. I want you guys to give him a pat at the back.’’
Cousins on Sunday completed 29 of 35 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Diggs helped out plenty by catching five passes, all in the second half, for 121 yards and a touchdown.
So is it time to take it easier on Cousins, who has been under plenty of scrutiny since signing a three-year, $84 million contract with Minnesota in March 2018 after six years with Washington?
He failed to lead the Vikings to the playoffs last year and had some struggles early this season before leading them to six wins in the past seven games.
“You guys can be as hard on me as you want,’’ Cousins said after Sunday’s game. “I’m living a dream. I’m well compensated, and I’ve got to take the good with the bad, right? Welcome to maybe living life at a higher altitude than I used to. So that’s OK. … I’d like to set an example for my teammates of what it should look like to take blame and to point the finger at yourself and to own up.’’
There was plenty to fault with Cousins in the first half, when he couldn’t lead the Vikings to any points and lost a fumble on a sack. He completed 11 of 12 passes but they went for just 58 yards.
In the second half, though, the Vikings went to a no-huddle offense. And Cousins aired it out.
He threw touchdown passes of 10 yards to tight end Irv Smith Jr., 54 yards to Diggs and 32 yards to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Smith’s touchdown was set by a 44-yard heave to Diggs.
“He’s playing very well,’’ Diggs said. “He fought us back into this game, made some great plays and throws.’’
About the only thing Cousins didn’t do at the end was yell “You like that?’’ When asked how Sunday’s game ranked in terms of comebacks, he pointed to a 31-30 win over Tampa Bay in 2015, when the Redskins came back from a 24-0 second-quarter deficit and Cousins yelled the now-famous catch phrase.
“We were down 24-0, but we scored right before the half, so I guess it was a second-(quarter) deficit,’’ Cousins said. “But they were both unique, and they were both big comebacks.’’
After Sunday’s, Cousins mentioned a message he got from an unnamed person about his resiliency.
“You have to have character, and as one person texted me, ‘That doesn’t happen to basic people,’ ’’ Cousins said.
Cousins definitely hasn’t been basic lately. He was the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for October. There was a bit of a lull in a 26-23 loss Nov. 3 at Kansas City, but he’s quieted plenty of critics over the past two games.
“He played great (today),’’ said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “He’s played great for a long time now.’’