Bears-Vikings has lackluster QB showdown of Nick Foles vs. Kirk Cousins
Both teams have learned the hard way the last few years that it’s hard to be a contender without a strong quarterback, even with everything else in place.
If you love great quarterback play, this is not the game for you.
When the Vikings and Bears meet on ‘‘Monday Night Football,’’ the country will be subjected to a showdown between Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles. Neither has been what his team needed, and whichever team wins this game probably won’t do so through the air.
Cousins is 15th in passer rating; Foles is 27th. Foles is 20th in yards per game; Cousins is 25th. Cousins is 21st in completion percentage, one spot ahead of Foles.
Both teams have learned the hard way the last few seasons that trying to win a championship with everything but a potent quarterback is nearly impossible.
Foles burst onto the field for the Bears in Week 3 to lead an incredible comeback with three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter against the Falcons, but he hasn’t done much since. In six games as the starter, he has seven touchdown passes, six interceptions and an 82.5 passer rating.
The Vikings, meanwhile, thought they had struck gold by signing Cousins in 2018. He has been fine, but he hasn’t been enough to turn them into a contender. He’s the seventh-highest-paid player in the NFL this season.
Cousins had 11 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions for an 88.2 rating through the first six games as the Vikings started 1-5, and he talked openly about the possibility of being benched. But he has sharpened up the last two weeks in victories against the Packers and Lions.
Even in victory, though, he passed for only 160 yards against the Packers. The Vikings won behind Dalvin Cook’s 163 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
The Bears are determined to thwart that formula. Cook never has run for more than 39 yards in three games against them, and the Bears forced Cousins to throw an average of 38 times in those games. He had an 82.1 passer rating, and the Vikings managed 12 points per game.
Cousins’ teams are 6-24-2 with an average point total of 22 when he throws 38 times or more. It’s similar for Foles, with his teams going 8-13 and averaging 21 points.
The good news for Foles is he’ll get the more favorable draw Monday. While the Bears are seventh in points allowed and fourth in opponent passer rating, the Vikings are 25th and 28th, respectively. They also allow 125 yards rushing per game (20th) and 4.2 yards per carry (12th). If Foles and the offense are ever going to pull together a decent performance, they should be able to do so Monday.
There’s no good segue for this, but Foles and Cousins have more in common than being underwhelming. They competed at Michigan State in 2007, when they were in the same recruiting class.
‘‘Hard worker,’’ Foles said of Cousins. ‘‘Would always do the little extra things — work in the weight room, film. Just a really smart guy. . . . Not surprised at all with the success he’s had.’’
Cousins said he thought he was ‘‘screwed’’ when he heard Foles was coming to Michigan State, but beating him out boosted his confidence.
‘‘It all worked out for me; it all worked out for Nick,’’ Cousins said. ‘‘He’s got what I’m chasing, which is a Super Bowl ring.’’
Foles transferred a year later to Arizona, put up monster numbers and went to the Eagles in the third round of the 2012 draft. He made the Pro Bowl for them in 2013, then returned as a backup in 2017 and won Super Bowl MVP honors as he led them to a title.
Cousins hung around and had a very good career for the Spartans before landing in Washington as a fourth-round pick in 2012. He has made two Pro Bowls and is on track to hit $196 million in career earnings by the end of 2022.
Their careers are colliding again in the NFC North as both try to turn around sputtering seasons before it’s too late.