VIKINGS LOCKER ROOM
Players experience both thrill and agony
Green Bay — There were polar opposites in the Minnesota Vikings’ locker room Sunday afternoon.
Kirk Cousins, seated on a folding chair i n front of his l ocker, was all smiles and accepting congratulations from his teammates. The franchise quarterback Minnesota secured for $84 million for three years in free agency just proved his worth, leading the Vikings’ dramatic fourth-quarter comeback from a 20-7 deficit to force overtime at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Cousins’ performance was Aaron Rodgers-esque, with three touchdowns in the final quarter alone. For the game, he threw for 425 yards and four scores with one interception for a 118.8 quarterback rating.
“The fans sure got their money’s worth today,” Cousins said to his teammates. “Wow. No more 75-yard drives, we had to go for it. Big plays. Their safeties were flat-footed at times and we knew we could hit some big ones if we opened up.”
Just 10 feet away across the aisle, rookie kicker Daniel Carlson stoically went through his post-game routine.
In his first trip to Lambeau Field, Carlson missed three field goals, including a 49-yard field goal wide right on the Vikings’ first possession in overtime, and then a potential game-winner from 35 yards with four seconds left to allow Green Bay to escape with a tie.
“It feels terrible, I obviously let my team down,” said Carlson, who was released by the Vikings the next day. “Credit to them, they fought back time and time again to give me opportunities and I just didn’t execute at the end of the day.
“I think the last one was probably more just something with confidence after missing twice earlier.”
Carlson said he had never before missed three field goals in one game. Green Bay’s veteran kicker Mason Crosby kicked five field goals Sunday to tie his career game -high, but he also missed a 52-yarder at the end of regulation play that could have won it.
“I don’t know,” Carlson said. “It is what it is. I want to be able to prove to my teammates and these guys here that I can help them. We have a long season ahead and hopefully lots of big wins and big kicks.”
Carlson, the highest-drafted kicker in Vikings history, had the support of his teammates in the locker room after the game. In his post-game press conference, Cousins was asked what he would say to the young kicker.
“I just tell him, ‘Hey, get in line with the guys who have failed,’” Cousins said. “I’ve thrown 4 picks in a game. I’ve had nights where I’ve wondered if I should show up at work the next morning with how frustrated I was with myself. I’ve been benched and sat out the rest of the season because I wasn’t play- ing well enough.
“We’ve all been there. We’ve all failed and learned from it. This league tests you. If it was easy anybody could do it. It ain’t easy and that’s why it’s a special thing to be one of the 53 on the roster. He’s wired with the right kind of stuff. If there’s someone on our team who I know who can mentally and emotionally can handle it, it’s DC. He’s got the right wiring and he’ll be alright.”
After waiving Carlson, the Vikings were expected to sign former Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history.
Fans at Lambeau Field have witnessed two epic fourth-quarter comebacks to start the season. This time, it wasn’t orchestrated by Rodgers.
Cousins was simply brilliant and completed 35 of 48 passes in the contest.
“I thought Cousins played outstanding. . . we took a couple shots there (fourth quarter),” Zimmer said. “We were down a little bit, so we were a little bit more aggressive.”
“I’m proud of my team and the way we fought back. We started ourselves in a hole. We had a punt blocked for a touchdown. We can play a lot better than we did defensively today... It’s disappointing when you have the opportunity to win the football game there at the end and you come up with a tie. It’s better than a loss, obviously.”
Both teams left Lambeau Field feeling they could have, should have won the game.
Linebacker Anthony Barr, whose hit on Rodgers ended the Packers quarterback’s season at U.S. Bank Stadium last October, said he spoke to him.
“Yes, I had an opportunity to speak to Aaron and I took it,” Barr said. “That’s a conversation between us. I just talked to him for a few seconds, clear the air. So it’s all good. Moving on.”
Barr, who had six total tackles, experienced a tie for the first time.
“We started off rocky with t hat blocked punt (for a touchdown) and they drove down for a score on us, but after that we tightened up,” he said. “They are a great opponent, so it’s bittersweet. Never been part of one (a tie) before. Sad we didn’t win, but happy we didn’t lose. I don’t know how to feel. . . I wish we could have kept playing and worked it out.”
Running back Latavius Murray gained 19 yards on four carries, as the Green Bay defense limited the Vikings to 68 yards rushing. Cousins and the offense did their damage through the air, racking up 425 yards.
“We didn’t come here to tie,” Murray said. “It could have been worse. We got a lot to learn after this game. We made a lot of mistakes, had a lot of chances to win the game in all phases. . . but we have to finish. A lot of good things that we can take away from this, the way we fought, the way we came back.”
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, but three missed field goals by his teammate Daniel Carlson cost Minnesota a victory at Lambeau Field.