Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins downplayed the notion that there’s a greater sense of urgency in games like this — a showdown against the Bears for first place in the NFC North.
“If it takes an extra sense of urgency for a big game, what were we doing the other nine games so far?” Cousins said this week. “Is there a sense of urgency? Sure. We understand the important of a division game. A great opportunity on the road, against a great football team. But hopefully we’re bringing it every week regardless of the situation.”
That’s a nice sentiment, but Cousins’ record of achievement in the NFL says otherwise. The Barrington native and former Michigan State star has made his mark in the NFL meeting one challenge after another. He started by wrestling the Redskins’ starting quarterback job from former No. 2 overall draft pick Robert Griffin III in 2015.
Since being a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, the same year Griffin was taken in the first round, Cousins has played with something to prove. And he typically has played his best in big games with the Vikings after signing a three-year, $84 million contract in free agency. His four best passer ratings this season have come against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (118.8), Jared Goff and the Rams (117.2), Carson Wentz and the Eagles (107.7) and Drew Brees and the Saints (109.6).
Cousins has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 2,685 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions for a 102.1 rating, which is ninth-best in the NFL.
The Bears know what they’re up against in Cousins. He is 2-0 against them, winning 24-21 in 2015 at Soldier Field (300 yards, 104.2 rating) and 41-21 in 2016 at Soldier Field (270 yards, 104.1 rating.)
“He’s a very accurate passer. He’s a very good diagnoser of defenses,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “He knows where to go with the ball based upon the route they have called vs. the coverage you have called. He’s a very good processor of information. And he’s got a deceptively very strong arm that I don’t think he gets enough credit for.”
Cousins, 30, grew up in Barrington, went to school with Walter Payton’s kids and was coached in youth football by Mike Singletary. He moved to Michigan when he was 13.
“Very much a Bears fan growing up,” he said. “I grew up in the Northwest suburbs, so I understand the environment at Soldier Field. I understand that fan base. I understand the proud history there.
“Any time you get to go [to Soldier Field], it’s a special place. Lot of history there. So I love the opportunity to play at Soldier Field.”