Kirk Cousins “didn’t feel good about putting it up to Justin” Jefferson on final play

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings
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With a game at Buffalo hanging in the balance, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins decided on fourth and 18 to throw it up for grabs to receiver Justin Jefferson. And it worked.

With the season hanging in the balance on fourth and eight against the Giants in the wild-card round, Cousins opted not to throw it Jefferson’s way.

After the 31-24 defeat, Cousins explained the decision to throw short of the sticks, to tight end T.J. Hockenson. The Giants stopped Hockenson well short of the line to gain.

“[I] saw single-high [safety],” Cousins told reporters, “tried to work Justin, didn’t feel good about putting it up to Justin, and when I went to progress, I just felt like I was about to get sacked and I felt like I’ve got to put the ball in play, and I can’t go down with sack, so I thought I’d kick it out to T.J. I had thrown short of the sticks on a few occasions in the game and even going back a few weeks and just felt like just throwing it short of the sticks isn’t the end of the world. It’s just obviously tight coverage, so didn’t have the chance to pull away. But I just felt like I was going to go down and take a sack if I didn’t put it out.”

Cousins added that the deep safety shaded toward Jefferson.

“Most of the day they were moving over to Justin,” Cousins said.

Coach Kevin O’Connell took the blame for the play that was called.

:I could have done a better job in the moment,” O’Connell told reporters. “He knew it was fourth down, and he just didn’t want to — he wanted to make sure he put the ball in play. I’ve got to go back. I was watching some of the routes down the field to kind of materialize, and the pocket may or may not have been collapsing on him, and he just wanted to make sure he gave somebody a chance, and they made a play. Had some double coverage to Justin on that drive, and trying to have K.J. [Osborne] come to life, trying to have Adam [Thielen] come to life. We’ll take a long hard look at it. Our two-minute offense has been pretty darn good all season helping us, and in the end we didn’t get it done on that drive, and it did feel rather abrupt the way it happened.”

Obviously, O’Connell didn’t envision the ball being thrown short of the sticks.

“The intent as a playcaller is you’re not going to call a primary concept where somebody is short of the sticks to gain, especially on fourth down,” O’Connell said. “If it’s third down and you can catch, convert and make it a fourth and two or three, that’s OK. But yeah, looking back on it, I maybe could have just been a little bit more, ‘Hey, this is kind of where you want the ball to go.’ But I want Kirk to be able to play. I want him to be free out there to make good decisions. He did all night long. Moved our team. Stood in there, getting the ball out of his hand in rhythm. It just so happens that that down — we just didn’t get enough on the play regardless. In the end I look at as it’s as much on me in that play call, even though we had eligibles with a chance down the field. Maybe. There’s always a play that could be better for your guys out there, and that one will stick with me.”

Arguably, Cousins should have given Jefferson a chance, regardless of the coverage. Cousins also seemed to have more time. He seemed to get a little skittish, to panic just enough to make a bad decision in the moment.

It’s unfortunate, but it happened. And if robbed the Vikings of a chance to force overtime or win it with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

75 responses to “Kirk Cousins “didn’t feel good about putting it up to Justin” Jefferson on final play

  1. Kirk is fine with losing as long as he isn’t blamed for losing. It must be very difficult to look your teammates in the eye and get any respect when you aren’t even willing to throw the ball to your best player beyond the sticks and instead check down on a pass guaranteed to end your season. A team will never truly rally around a QB like Kirk.

  2. Kevin O’Connell deserves his fair share of blame for the play call though. Three receivers deep and two receivers short of the sticks when you only need 8 yards? Abysmal.

  3. Don’t worry Viking fans. You still have four draft picks to your name for the 2023 draft. Of course Kwesi still has two months to get rid of those.

  4. After that roughing the passer call and JJ not getting ejected and fined for hitting the ref with helmet. Viking’s can never complain about the refs again

  5. Though it was actually quite nice of Coach Opie to share some of the blame for that final play call, it was downright criminal for Cousins to ignore the only player who shows any real talent on that team.
    Another generational player’s career is being wasted by that dysfunctional, abysmal organization again.

  6. Hey, stop giving Vikings fans a hard time about no trophies. Nobody pops into the league and immediately wins a Lombardi in your first 63 seasons.

  7. Kirk Cousins is the new Jay Cutler. He and the Vikings are lucky to have each other. This is their 31st playoff loss, which is now the most in NFL history.

  8. You guys can say what you want about Kirk Cousins. But you’ll never find a better teammate or all around person than him. Never in trouble, never throws his teammates under the bus and always thanks his coaches and loyal fans. And as usual the first guy on the podium to take the heat for the loss.

  9. I feel like most the people ragging on Kirk didn’t watch the whole game. He played pretty well overall, and definitely well enough to win if our defense decided to make a play at any point during that game.

    I’m not defending the last pass, as I think it was a horrible decision and one he’s kind of trademarked in his time here (short pass on 3rd/4th and long), and I don’t think we’re ever going to win a Superbowel with him, but he was not even close to the reason we lost the game today.

  10. Maybe they will trade for a younger version of Cousins …. Justin Herbert. That way they have a choking qb locked up for another 10 years. Cousins only has a few choking years left in him.

  11. Always the first guy at the podium after a loss is just about the lowest standard you could muster for a franchise QB. Geesh!

  12. 13 wins and all they get is another lousy participant ribbon.

    Cousins has become one of the all time choke artists.

  13. The story of this game was the wretched performance of the defense. That effort for a home playoff game was just abysmal.

    The Vikings defense is aged and lacks talent relative to other teams but they are all still NFL players and Donatell had them near the bottom of the League all season. Had they been even middle of the pack the Vikings offense would have blown teams away.

    People are piling on the Vikings tonight and deservedly so but this was a first year coach that basically resisted blowing up the roster when a LOT of observers called for it heading into the season (several Twin Cities sports journalists were baffled by Kwesi not detonating the whole roster and heaped criticism on the team for giving it another go with what they had).

    Would expect nearly the whole D to be remade next year and that should definitely include the coordinator. No matter what he had to work with Donatell still had NFL players and he had them near the bottom of the League most of the season and turned a player like Danielle Hunter in a mirage, not to mention others. He needs to go along with the vets that will need to be moved out for new talent.

  14. Rams’ Sean McVey coaching tree:
    Head coach of Packers
    Head coach of Chargers
    Head coach of Bengals
    Head coach of Vikings
    That’s a pretty big tree for the youngest coach in the NFL.

  15. It was a dumb decision. It looked like KJ was the best option, from what I saw. Do I feel like Cousins was the reason they lost? Not really, although that play did play a part, the defense was atrocious. I mean, the 2 times they did stop them was…relief. How they won 13 is a testament to how well Kirk and the offense played most of the season. After winning 11 straight of these close games, it’s fittingly Vikings to end it by losing one.

  16. This guy as been pointed out is another Derek Carr only on a better team. Cousins sucks up way to much of the salary cap. He gets paid like he’s Payton Manning in his prime. Time to move on. It’s over for Kirk Cousins as a top paid QB. He’s had every chance to prove himself and proved the opposite. Minnesota come on man! Move on already. You can get a guy to do the as Cousins for 5 million or less.

  17. No dog in this hunt. Blame Cousins all you want, but before you even get to him remember ALL WINTER that some dude named Daniel Jones threw for 301 yards with an 8.6 yard average, and rushed for another 78 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry even accounting for losing 12 yards in sacks.

    Take away this game, and the game he has against the Vikes in week 16, and Jones is a bottom 1/3 QB in the league. You are not a SB-contending defense if you are elevating bottom tier QBs into middle tier ranks.

  18. Farve and Rodgers ended four Packer seasons by chucking it up for grabs. But yeah, Kirk should have taken his chances and thrown downfield to Jefferson or any other wide out. Hockenson had gained significant yards all day after the catch, but this is the one time he didn’t.

  19. Yeah it’s all Cousins fault, the entire game was only about that one play. Nothing to do with a shaky O Line or non existent defense.

  20. I don’t blame the Packers fans having a field day, it’s the only joy they’ll get out of the play offs this year.

  21. Kirk will never win anything. The 4th and 8 play is a perfect example of his career. You could put him on the 49ers and same thing would happen.

  22. All this talk about 4th down. He threw a bad pass on 3rd down. That could have been a first down if he led the receiver with the ball outside a bit further instead of throwing at his chest where it got knocked away.

  23. Aaron: Hey, Kirk

    Kirk: Yes, Aaron?

    Aaron: I hear that San Francisco is pretty good…You sure you want to go there?

    Kirk: Good point. It was pretty bad for me last time I went there for the playoffs

  24. The Vikings playing the same as they played Indianapolis but against a playoff team there was no comeback.

  25. Cousins is just another good second – third tier quarterback. Like Trubisky, Bridgewater, Goff, Stafford, Alex Smith… he can make all the throws from a clean pocket, but when you ratchet up the pressure, he makes poor decisions, poor throws.

  26. A few things, if you don’t feel like giving up to your best play maker when the game is on the line you probably should be QB and number two if the play call is bad or you see something in the defense the QB can always audible.

  27. I’m a Cousins apologist…but you can’t make that pass to Hockenson. It’s unforgivable. He deserves all the criticism that’s coming his way for that boneheaded decision.

  28. I don’t know how he could feel good about the decision he made.

    Throw it up to one of your receivers past the sticks. Even if it’s a prayer. Maybe you get a pass interference call. You get nothing throwing to Hockenson.

  29. For everyone blasting Kirk for a short pass; a pass route short of the sticks has been a trademark play call all year. It was a fitting way to end the season. I have to ask; on a 4th & 8, WHY were there ANY pass-eligible players running a route short of the 1st down??? O’Connell treated a racehorse like a trotter.

  30. With their traditional 32nd ranked defense, 1 and done is all they could expect.

  31. Congrats on the great regular season to bad it’s a only going to last one year

  32. Good things happen to good people
    Bad things happen to people who go around saying nasty things like “Kurt Warner is a phony.”

    It’s simple karma; you’d think there’d be a lesson learned by now

  33. hawk986 says:
    January 15, 2023 at 11:41 pm
    Kirk Cousins is the new Jay Cutler. He and the Vikings are lucky to have each other. This is their 31st playoff loss, which is now the most in NFL history.

    They also own the all-time NFL record for one-and-done postseason appearances but who’s counting?

  34. I laugh at all those dumping on KC. How many of you have played QB in the NFL? Get a life and step away from the keyboard. The guy made almost every play…

  35. The Vikings are pathetic, they consistently choke in the playoffs which is exactly why they have ZERO Championships.

    Always overhyped, always overrated.

  36. Ya, Kirk made a bad choice but the reason the Vikings lost is their defense. Viking fans should be up in arms about a defense that gave up 31 points at home to a Giants team that is hardly an offensive juggernaut.

  37. Not taking away from the g-men but I know it is hard not to blame cousins and it is easy to do right now, but , he is not the sole reason that they lost. A team loss is just that, I remember darisaw false start at the end, what about the 430 yds given up by the D. Maybe just maybe hold donetell accountable. Let’s say they win. My thinking is they go to SF and give up 530 yds and make purdy an all pro again. As a lifeline fan, you kind on hope that they will win but you expect them to lose. When it all come down to it, did we really think they would go to the dance with that horrendous defense? They just lost sooner that later and all us viking fans are left waiting another 365 days.

    Until Aug/sept

    Let’s all say it……SKOL

  38. The guy made almost every play…

    True. And embedded in that sentence is difference between “good” and “champion.”

  39. It’s a gut-punch, and I know the feeling. I had my hopes the Vikings would click in the postseason, I really did. I have Viking Fan family, friends, and neighbors and they’ve all suffered enough. It’s tremendously difficult to win in the postseason, especially deep into it. Everything needs to get hot at the same time for everybody and timing and luck all play into it. I thought the Vikings might have all of it. The TE (which was the best mid-season pick-up I have seen in a long time,) was killing the Giant defense again and again. If you’re going to go to that well one last time in crunchtime, you’d better be certain the receiver has a reasonable chance to get a first down. That was hard to watch.

  40. So many lazy, stupid takes. There is one reason the Vikings lost this game, and one reason only — the defense. Cousins is the one that actually kept it close. Was a fun season with no expectations. I felt bad about 98, bad in 09, even bad after the Minneapolis Miracle, but not this year. This Vikings team over-performed. Look how many reams with superior talent didn’t? And I don’t have to name them . . . .

  41. purpleguy says:

    So many lazy, stupid takes. This Vikings team over-performed.
    Yeah. We know. That’s why we kept telling you the record was fraudulent.

  42. Let’s look at this game. Giants had constant pressure on Cousins. Many QBs don’t deal with pressure well- which is how the Giants beat Brady 2x in Super Bowls. They took JJ out of the game, and frankly I’d rather have a TE try and beat me than a game breaker like JJ.

    The difference in this game and the last time the Giants played the Vikings was the Giants didnt turn the ball over. For the most part, in this game, the Giants drove the entire field to score their points.

    For all of the armchair coaches commenting here – did you see who was open when Cousins threw his final pass? Did you notice, he was about to be sacked, and wanted to get rid of the ball? Blame the coaches for calling a play with receivers short of the sticks. But what would the commentary been if Cousins ate the ball and took the sack on 4th down? And frankly, if it wasnt for that BS roughing the passer call, it wouldnt have been that close. They were outplayed by the better team yesterday.

  43. It’s unfortunate, but it happened.


    No, it isn’t unfortunate. Not at all. “Hilarious” is a better word.

  44. Justin Jefferson had 100 yards receiving…. combined, in his last 3 games. After all his talk …

  45. arealisticpackerfan says:
    January 15, 2023 at 11:16 pm

    Kirk is fine with losing as long as he isn’t blamed for losing. It must be very difficult to look your teammates in the eye and get any respect when you aren’t even willing to throw the ball to your best player beyond the sticks and instead check down on a pass guaranteed to end your season. A team will never truly rally around a QB like Kirk.

    Or, throw to him in the 4th quarter even!

  46. When you’ve been choking for 62 years, you’re bound to turn purple.

  47. Don’t understand the Cousins hatred. You can change quarterbacks but it’s more likely you’ll get worse at the position than better. You could make a highlight reel of bad quarterback play for ANY quarterback that ever played the game and make a case for replacement. Be careful what you wish for.

  48. longtimelistenerfirsttimecaller says:

    Let’s look at this game. Giants had constant pressure on Cousins. Many QBs don’t deal with pressure well


    He was never sacked. And it’s not because of his incredible mobility.

  49. philmccracken says:
    January 15, 2023 at 11:19 pm

    I like 13 win teams that don’t choke away their season in the wild card round.///////////////

    A slightly favored team losing in a close game isn’t a choke. You packer fans are a joke, can’t wait to come here and post dumb comments. Your #1 seed teams going one and done is a choke. Now do you see the difference? Now wear it.

  50. Oh Kirk, if you had thrown it to JJ and it was intercepted or broken up because of double/triple coverage, I could hear them now, “Why did he force it to JJ, with JJ being double-covered someone else had to be open, why didn’t Kirk find him?” OTAs start in May, I believe, so all you couch professionals can get a chance to tryout.

  51. How often do we see this? It seems like it happens every game – 4th down, QB throws short of the sticks, and it’s a turnover on downs. There shouldn’t be any receivers short of the sticks on a play like that. Maybe a RB in the flat, at most. But you can’t throw short and expect YAC to get the first down.

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