Ten games into their season, the Minnesota Vikings look nothing like a Super Bowl team. The huge contract that they handed to quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency during the offseason has not been money well spent.
Cousins threw two interceptions Sunday night, Nov. 19, in Chicago, one of which was returned for a key fourth-quarter touchdown in the Vikings' 25-20 loss to the Bears, which dropped Minnesota's record to 5-4-1.
It's not all about Cousins. He actually has put up good numbers this season. And the Vikings' biggest issue Sunday night was their inability to block Bears defensive standouts Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, not the play of Cousins.
But it's a bottom-line business. And the bottom line for Cousins and the Vikings is that they reached the NFC championship game last season with Case Keenum at quarterback, then said their farewell to him by signing Cousins to a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract. The only way for the signing to be a success is for Cousins, a 4,000-yard passer in each of the previous three seasons for the Washington Redskins, to take the Vikings to the Super Bowl.
There's no indication that's going to happen. The Vikings right now are not in the class of the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams, the NFC's top teams. They can't even keep pace with the Bears in the NFC North. Chicago upped its record to 7-3 with the win.
"I thought Kirk Cousins would outplay [Bears quarterback] Mitch Trubisky," former NFL coach Tony Dungy said at halftime on the NBC telecast Sunday night. "That has not been the case."
Cousins spoke during the week about the need to avoid committing turnovers against a Chicago defense so adept at forcing them. He did not heed his own words.
He threw an ugly interception in the final seconds of the first half. While under pressure, Cousins sailed a pass high over the head of tight end Kyle Rudolph and directly into the hands of Bears safety Adrian Amos at the Chicago 8-yard line.
Then in the fourth quarter, the Vikings trailed 14-6 when they got the ball at their 11-yard line with a little more than 8:30 to play. Cousins's pass toward wide receiver Laquon Treadwell was intercepted by Bears safety Eddie Jackson, who sprinted to the end zone. The Bears added a two-point conversion and pushed their advantage to 22-6.
The Vikings managed to make things interesting from there, all the way until an onside kick recovered by the Bears to seal the outcome in the final minute. Cousins piled up some passing yardage late. He threw touchdown passes in the final five minutes to wide receivers Aldrick Robinson and Stefon Diggs and ended with 262 yards on 30-for-46 passing.
That's not terrible. But, in truth, Cousins's biggest flaws were on display. He couldn't get out of the way of the pass rush. And when crunchtime arrived, he committed an ill-timed gaffe.
The Vikings' season isn't over. Even if they can't overtake the Bears in the division race, they have a chance at an NFC wild-card spot. But this is a season in which much more was expected. Sneaking into the postseason isn't enough. Even winning a playoff game or two and reaching the NFC championship game isn't enough.
Cousins was signed to be the final piece of a Super Bowl puzzle. It does not appear he will be that. To whom $84 million is given, much is expected. Cousins is finding that out.
This article was written by Mark Maske, a reporter for The Washington Post.