Wil­son, Cousins re­unite on Mon­day night

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By TIM BOOTH AP Sports Writer

SEAT­TLE >> When Rus­sell Wil­son made the de­ci­sion to trans­fer to Wis­con­sin for his fi­nal col­lege season, he be­came con­nected with Kirk Cousins.

It started that season when Wil­son’s Badgers and Cousins’ Michi­gan State squad played a pair of mem­o­rable games, in­clud­ing a Big Ten cham­pi­onship game won by Wil­son. It con­tin­ued that off­sea­son as the pair ended up work­ing out to­gether at the same fa­cil­ity to get ready for the NFL draft.

And now in their eighth NFL sea­sons, they are again con­nected be­cause of the suc­cess of their teams and their in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances as two of the best quar­ter­backs in the league this year.

“I’ve spent a lot of one-on-one time with him just talk­ing about life and ev­ery­thing else. It’s been cool just get­ting to know him,” Wil­son said of Cousins. “Like I said, he’s a great foot­ball player. He’s a great com­peti­tor.”

Amid pos­si­bly the best sea­sons of their ca­reers, Wil­son and Cousins will re­unite on Mon­day night when the Sea­hawks host the Vik­ings in a key matchup for the NFC play­off pic­ture. Last year when the teams met in December in Seat­tle, it was wild-card po­si­tion­ing at stake, and Wil­son got the bet­ter of Cousins on a night nei­ther were that great.

This time, it’s the divi­sion ti­tle

races of con­cern to both. Seat­tle (9-2) is on the heels of San Fran­cisco in the NFC West. Min­nesota (8-3) is locked up with Green Bay in the NFC North but dropped the first matchup with the Pack­ers, with an­other com­ing in Week 16.

“I don’t know of a game that we play where it’s lack­adaisi­cal and not that much in­ten­sity or not that much on the line, but cer­tainly a night game in Seat­tle with two teams hav­ing good sea­sons so far, there is a lot there, and I think that’s what makes it fun,” Cousins said. “It’s a lot more fun to play in a game like this with a lot of the line against a re­ally strong op­po­nent than if you’re in the back of the pack and strug­gling.”

The rea­son both teams are in po­si­tion for trips to the post­sea­son is at least in part be­cause of how their quar­ter­backs have played.

While Wil­son has been in the mid­dle of the MVP con­ver­sa­tion seem­ingly from the start of the season, the year be­ing put to­gether by Cousins is pretty good, too. En­ter­ing Week 13, Cousins leads the league in passer rat­ing at 114.8; Wil­son is se­cond at 112.1. Wil­son has 24 touch­down passes and three in­ter­cep­tions. Cousins has 21 TDs and three picks. Cousins has com­pleted 70.6% per­cent of his passes; Wil­son 67.3%.

“I think (Cousins) is just a lot more com­fort­able,” said Seat­tle safety Quan­dre Diggs, who was traded from Detroit ear­lier in the season. “I think he’s at that spot where he’s com­fort­able in his skin. He’s not try­ing to live up to any­body’s ex­pec­ta­tions. He’s just go­ing out there hav­ing fun. Calm­ing the team down. I think he’s just in a per­fect sit­u­a­tion.”

A year ago, when the Vik­ings lost 21-7 in Seat­tle be­came a turn­ing point for Cousins and Min­nesota’s of­fense. John DeFilippo was fired as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor af­ter the game and re­placed by Kevin Ste­fan­ski. In the 14 games since, the Vik­ings are av­er­ag­ing 26.2 points and Cousins has a 113.3 passer rat­ing.

“New coaches, new ev­ery­thing. Play­ers have grown, we have brought in play­ers that have stepped up and play key roles for our team,” Vik­ings run­ning back Dalvin Cook said. “Our whole scheme, our whole phi­los­o­phy, our whole ap­proach to our game­play and what we got to do, I think our play­ers are key­ing in and lock­ing in and you’re see­ing out­put on Sun­days, game time.”

For Seat­tle coach Pete Car­roll, he was nostal­gic this week think­ing about Wil­son and Cousins and their paths as pros. Dur­ing the com­bine in 2012, Car­roll re­mem­bered in­ter­view­ing Cousins and Wil­son back to back and came away highly im­pressed with both guys. It hasn’t been for­got­ten that Wil­son was taken in the third round by Seat­tle and Cousins in the fourth round by Washington, and both have proven to be the class of that quar­ter­back draft class.

“You couldn’t ex­pect to be more im­pressed by two back-to-back guys com­ing out and talk­ing about the game, their fu­ture, their aware­ness, their re­solve, their com­mit­ment and com­pet­i­tive­ness,” Car­roll said. “All that came through. It was mem­o­rable, ob­vi­ously, that those were the two guys that were re­ally the most im­pres­sive in that group that we brought through that year. He had to go head to head. It was kind of cool.”

BRUCE KLUCKHOHN - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Min­nesota Vik­ings quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins (8) is sacked by Den­ver Bron­cos de­fen­sive tackle Shelby Har­ris (96) dur­ing the se­cond half of an NFL foot­ball game, Sun­day, Nov. 17, 2019, in Minneapoli­s.

MATT ROURKE - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Seat­tle Sea­hawks’ Rus­sell Wil­son passes dur­ing the first half of an NFL foot­ball game against the Philadel­phia Ea­gles, Sun­day, Nov. 24, 2019, in Philadel­phia.

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