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Things I Noticed: These changes can help Kirk Cousins, but the 0-2 Vikings better make them quick

Terez Paylor
·Senior NFL writer
·8-min read

A week ago in this space, I critiqued Indianapolis quarterback Philip Rivers’ two Week 1 interceptions, which looked too much like his array of interceptions for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019.

Rivers consequently bounced back in Week 2, as Colts coach Frank Reich — whose overall competence is indisputable — wisely dialed back Rivers’ pass attempts from 46 to 25 and allowed the best young offensive line in football to pound away at the Minnesota Vikings with 40 carries in a dominant 28-11 win.

So in this week’s edition of Things I Noticed, I turn my attention to Rivers’ quarterbacking counterpart in that game, another veteran whose 2020 ceiling that fans remain uncertain about — Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins.

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

And to be sure, Cousins’ performance on Sunday — 11-for-26, 113 yards and three interceptions — was ugly. Worse yet, he wasn’t even pressured on any of those picks, and the Vikings’ offensive line generally did a good job keeping him upright (aside from the ghastly safety).

So what gives?

I checked the tape to find the answer, which I laid out in the video above that was expertly stitched together by my main man Ron Schiltz and includes commentary from Cousins and Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer about what happened.

The good news is that like the Colts, who did what I suggested they do and recalibrated their offense toward the run, there’s an easy answer for the Vikings’ woes. I’d encourage you to watch the end of video to find out.

There's a way to help Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense become more effective. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
There's a way to help Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense become more effective. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Jamal Adams vs. Cam Newton proves brilliance of both men

No shortage of things to point out in this instant classic, which the Seahawks won 35-30.

While I’m tempted to highlight Cam Newton’s burgeoning connection with N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd, or even DK Metcalf and Stephon Gilmore going all Deion Sanders and Andre Rison in 1994, Jamal Adams’ evening perfectly encapsulated this game, a true showdown of good-on-good.

As perhaps the premier traditional box safety in pro football, Adams is disruptive as a blitzer and enforcer. We saw this on numerous occasions Sunday, when he filled the stat sheet with 10 tackles, two quarterback hurries, a sack and a roughly 123 enthusiastic post-play yells:

While Adams and Seattle ultimately won the game, Newton’s ability to pass on the Seahawks — and specifically Adams — is an extremely positive sign going forward:

It’s no coincidence Newton, who completed 30 of 44 passes for 397 yards with a touchdown and an interception, attacked Adams with Julian Edelman, who caught eight passes for 179 yards.

“It’s Jules,” Newton said.

With defenses committed to stopping the Patriots’ Cam-centric run game, don’t be surprised if we see more of it this season.

Looking ahead: Two big keys in Chiefs-Ravens

There’s an awesome showdown looming in Week 3 between Kansas City and Baltimore, which the whole nation will get to see on Monday night. The Chiefs beat the Ravens 33-28 last season, but the Ravens will come out punching in an effort to defend their home turf and establish themselves as the favorites in the AFC.

One big thing they have going for them in this game (that they didn’t last year) is the presence of ballhawking cornerback Marcus Peters, who they swiped from the Los Angeles Rams for a measly fifth-round draft pick last October. Peters promptly continued his ballhawking ways, intercepting three passes and fitting into the Ravens’ culture enough for the team to reward him with a three-year, $42 million extension just two months later.

The decision is already paying off. Peters, 27, nabbed his first interception of the year in the Ravens’ 33-16 win over the Texans on Sunday, the type that really only Peters can make:

“I thought it was far enough away from where I could get it to [Brandin] Cooks and let him run, but [Peters] leaped out and made a hell of a play,” Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson said.

In Watson’s defense, indeed, Peters made an outrageous play. Peters appeared to have man coverage on the man in motion and, sensing that man was no longer a threat, read Watson’s eyes, diagnosed the deep over route the Texans love so much and went for the ball. It was vintage Peters, and the type of play he always seems to make — especially against his old teams, whether it’s the Rams or Chiefs.

One more thing to keep an eye on in this showdown is the Chiefs’ ability to pick up the Ravens’ multiple-pressure front. Baltimore defensive coordinator Don Martindale likes to send blitzers from everywhere, and the Ravens are adept at getting home using simulated pressures, where you drop a lineman into coverage and replace him in the pass rush with a linebacker or safety, along with d-line stunts and good old overload blitzes. Here’s an example from last year’s game:

Patrick Mahomes has been sacked only twice this year, but even though his Fran Tarkenton-like mobility has served him well, he has been hit 10 times. The Chiefs’ offensive line will need to step it up this weekend. If K.C. doesn’t, and Mahomes gets harassed, that will allow the Ravens’ ballhawking corners to take the type of educated guesses that lead to game-changing plays.

A Defensive Player of the Year do-over

We’re only two weeks into the season and already I’m regretting a few of my preseason picks. One is my choice for Defensive Player of the Year, San Francisco’s Nick Bosa, who unfortunately has already been lost for the season with a torn ACL.

By any measure, the choice was sound. He is an awesome and impactful player, and pro football is better for him being the game-wrecking force he is.

But through two weeks, I can tell you this: there may not be a single defensive player headed for a bigger statistical season than Pittsburgh edge rusher T.J. Watt.

In the Steelers' two wins to open the season, T.J. Watt has been, as they say, a problem for opposing offenses. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
In the Steelers' two wins to open the season, T.J. Watt has been, as they say, a problem for offenses. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

At 25, Watt is now entering his prime. He’s also in his fourth season, and thus eligible for a massive contract extension. He’s playing like it too, because the havoc this man has wreaked on the field for the 2-0 Steelers the first two games has been outrageous.

Watt is tied for the league lead with 2.5 sacks, and is second in quarterback hurries with six (behind the surprising Takk McKinley). And for his efforts in the Steelers’ 26-21 win over Denver, when Watt terrorized right tackle Elijah Wilkinson, he won AFC Defensive Player of the Week by using a premium assortment of pass-rush moves, including an absolutely awesome duck-under, speed rush and rip move:

Granted, it was Denver, but it has been a long time since I’ve seen a defense punish the quarterback like this. The Broncos surrendered seven sacks and an outrageous 19 — 19! — quarterback hits on the day, giving Pittsburgh 26 on the season. At this rate, the Steelers are on pace to finish with 208, roughly double what they had in 2019 (118).

The Steelers won’t finish with that many, but they are currently ranked No. 2 in DVOA and might finish with the league’s No. 1 defense. If they do that, voters may seek to reward the best player on the league’s best defense. Watt seems like a safe bet to eclipse the 14.5 sacks and 36 QB hits he logged last season.

The Gale Sayers Memorial Juke Montage

We can’t get out of here without paying homage to Gale Sayers, arguably the greatest running back of all time, who died Wednesday at the age of 77. Sayers’ before-his-time speed and elusiveness earned him the nickname “Kansas Comet,” and the NFL tweeted out a badass montage narrated by the great John Facenda in tribute.

“Once in a generation or a lifetime, a great runner arrives in pro football,” Facenda says in the montage. “He is one of the select few who can fill stadiums Sunday after Sunday, and whose number is burned into the memory of every fan.”

Chills. And 100 percent accurate. So from time to time — and starting next week — I’ll chart the best jukes from a given week and compile them for a video to put into this space, and we’ll dub it “The Gale Sayers Memorial Juke Montage.”

Rest in peace, Kansas Comet.

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