The Minnesota Vikings' strange season continued to be weird on Sunday as they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 34-26. The Vikings blew two seven-point leads in the first two quarters before falling behind by eight in the third and failed to score at all in the fourth. Kirk Cousins had numerous opportunities to close this deficit if he made an accurate throw at the right time, but he failed to do so. And nobody was more frustrated about this than Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson's aggravation first appeared during Minnesota's first attempt to lessen the eight-point lead the Niners had late in the third. The Vikings scored a touchdown to make it 34-26 and went for two. Jefferson got wide open in the end zone, as he is wont to do. Cousins missed him. Badly. Jefferson did not try to hide his reaction afterwards.
This was merely the first missed opportunity by Cousins to close the gap. In the fourth quarter, the Vikings had four shots within the 10-yard line to score. On fourth and goal, Cousins first managed to line up under the right guard instead of the center after trying to get his teammates set up correctly, forcing Minnesota to burn a timeout. You can see Jefferson throw his hands up afterwards, although just about everybody in Vikings colors did the same, whether they were in the game or watching from home.
That play happened right before Cousins launched a pass six feet above Jefferson in the end zone, forcing a turnover on downs. We would call it a throwaway if it had taken place on third down. It was a complete air-mail. Jefferson didn't outwardly react on that throw, but he sure did on the final offensive play of the game for the Vikings, which was very similar even if it took place around midfield. Jefferson looked like he was about to lose his mind.
It's hard to blame him! On both of those throws, all Cousins had to do was get it in Jefferson's general vicinity. Just give him a chance. He's a good enough receiver that he could make something happen if the pass is close enough for him to grab. Both times, Cousins failed to even do that.
It sure feels awfully similar to how Stefon Diggs used to react to Cousins' awful throws during his final year in Minnesota. The one constant between those two situations is the quarterback. Everybody knows Cousins isn't going to win a Super Bowl anytime soon, but he has a bigger cap hit this season than any quarterback in the entire NFL except Russell Wilson. He has two elite playmakers. And he can't even throw the ball close enough to those receivers that they can make a play.
Unfortunately for Jefferson, things aren't going to change anytime soon. Cousins has a $45 million dead cap hit if the Vikings trade or cut him in 2022. So that's not happening. Jefferson still has two years left on his rookie deal, which means unless he goes the Diggs route and forces his way out, he's stuck there. Like the rest of the Minnesota faithful, the star wide receiver just has to deal with the valleys of the Cousins experience and make the best out of his peaks.