EAGAN — In the NFL you won’t find too many coaches or coordinators who are in one place long enough to have a decent sample size against another individual team or player but in the case of the Cowboys and Kirk Cousins, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has seen the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback six times since 2015. The Cowboys came out on top in five of those six matchups and Cousins is 1-6 overall in his career against America’s Team.
Since NFL broadcasts and national media reporters love nothing more than cutting up Cousins’ record in different situations (primetime, versus winning teams etc.) you are likely to come across his W-L record against the ‘Boys a few times heading into Sunday night’s massive matchup between 5-3 Dallas and 6-3 Minnesota.
“Like a lot of good road stadiums in the league you’re going to have noise, the stadium is naturally going to make it loud,” Cousins said about playing in Dallas. “They’re going to pack it out, there’s not going to be an empty seat.”
In his six starts against Dallas from 2015 to 2017, Cousins posted strong traditional statistics against Marinelli’s defenses with a 70.1% completion, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions, 7.8 yards per attempt and a 102.0 rating.
However, those numbers are boosted by a wild game on Thanksgiving Day in which Washington trailed for the entire game and Cousins finished with 449 yards and three touchdowns. In the other five games against Dallas, Cousins’ offense failed to produce more than 24 points in four of them.
That doesn’t always mean that he performed poorly. Just like traditional stats like yards and QB rating, win-loss records are not always reflective of QB play. Pro Football Focus’s grades and ESPN’s QBR statistics attempt to contextualize a QB’s game in different ways. PFF grades each throw while QBR factors in game situation.
Both metrics scored Cousins’ games against the Cowboys as varying widely and somewhere around an average grade in both systems.
In the games in which Cousins had stronger teams in 2015 and 2016, the three losses were all separated by one score.
So the answer to the headlining question is that Cousins has basically been his usual self in games against good teams — sometimes high, sometimes low, sometimes in the middle.
In the case of this Sunday’s matchup with Dallas, a low or average performance might not get the job done.
The Cowboys rank eighth in the NFL in yards per play allowed, fifth in passing yards and eighth in QB rating against. Three weeks ago they held Carson Wentz to 191 yards passing at Cowboy Stadium.
“If you’re going to be a playoff team you’re going to have to win tough games in tough environments at some point or otherwise you’re probably not getting into the playoffs,” Cousins said. “We see this week as a great opportunity to do that.”
Each time the Vikings have taken a tough loss this season they have picked up an impressive victory the following week. This time around, of course, it won’t be against weaker opponents like the Raiders or Giants.
“You hope you have a resilient group and the only way you can show that is by bouncing back,” Cousins said. “It will probably be the toughest challenge of the ones we’ve had to date against a really good football team. Great opportunity but we gotta go do it.”