Now the Vikings will likely have to try to keep it going without their durable quarterback.
Cousins threw a pair of touchdown passes before leaving in the fourth quarter of the Vikings' 24-10 victory over the slumping Green Bay Packers 24-10 on Sunday.
Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said after the game that the Vikings are “fearing an Achilles (tendon) injury" but said Cousins was still undergoing evaluation.
“The severity of that, I do not know at this point, but I do know that's what our fear is at the moment,” O'Connell said.
Cousins has never missed a game because of injury in his 12-year career. He did sit out a game at Green Bay during the 2021 season because of a positive COVID-19 test.
He walked gingerly to the sideline after getting sacked on consecutive plays midway early in the fourth quarter, though it appeared the injury happened before anyone made contact with him.
“Just some of my dialogue with Kirk, it seems like maybe his cleat might have gotten stuck in the ground or whatever it was,” O'Connell said. “It's not probably right for me to speculate. I just know that (it was) incredibly, incredibly unfortunate in that moment.”
Cousins' injury leaves the Vikings with limited quarterback options.
This marked the first Packers-Vikings matchup since 2006 in which both teams entered the game with losing records, though Minnesota got back to .500 on Sunday with its third consecutive victory.
The Vikings' recent surge offered reason to believe the defending NFC North champions could contend for a playoff spot, but Cousins' injury puts those hopes in jeopardy.
“There’s nothing really I can say about it,” tight end T.J. Hockenson said. “I just love Kirk to death. I love his family. I love him. I love everything about him. And to see a guy like that go down is always tough.”
Hockenson and Jordan Addison had touchdown receptions less than two minutes apart early in the third quarter. Cam Akers put Minnesota ahead for good in the opening period by giving the Vikings their first touchdown run of the season.
Cousins went 23 of 31 for 274 yards. He has thrown five touchdown passes with one interception during Minnesota's winning streak.
“Went out today again as he has for most of the 2023 season and played the quarterback position as well as anybody in our league and just continued to build and build and build,” O'Connell said.
The Packers (2-5) lost their fourth straight and continued their penchant for slow starts. The Packers have been outscored 73-9 in the first half of their past five games and haven’t scored a touchdown before halftime in any of them.
“Well, that was obviously tough to watch,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “ Just way too many mistakes.”
Minnesota dominated the first two quarters, but only led 10-3 at the break largely because of missed opportunities. But the Vikings wasted no time breaking the game open early in the third quarter.
Cousins’ 2-yard touchdown pass to Hockenson capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive to begin the second half. On the Packers’ ensuing possession, Jordan Love threw deep to Jayden Reed, but Josh Metellus made a spectacular catch with his back to the quarterback and then delivered a 43-yard interception return to give the Vikings the ball at the Green Bay 20.
On the next play, Cousins found Addison in the end zone to extend Minnesota’s lead to 24-3.
Green Bay finally reached the end zone on Love’s 1-yard pass to Romeo Doubs on fourth-and-goal late in the third quarter to cut the lead to 24-10, but the Packers couldn't get any closer.
The Packers lost the ball on downs on each of their last three drives, including two that reached the red zone.
Love was 24 of 41 for 229 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
“It’s frustrating, man,” Love said. “I’m frustrated. Everybody in that locker room’s frustrated. Plain and simple, we’re not winning. We’re losing games, and it’s all games that we should be winning, I think, that we’re right there.”
Minnesota could have put this game out of reach much earlier.
With five minutes left in the second quarter, the Vikings had a 182-26 advantage in total offense and a 13-0 edge in first downs. The Packers already had committed eight of their 11 penalties by that point.
Green Bay didn’t get a first down until its fifth series when Love threw an 11-yard completion to Christian Watson with just over four minutes left in the first half.
The play drew a heart and sarcastic round of applause from a Lambeau Field crowd frustrated by Green Bay’s first-half failures.
Vikings: At Atlanta next Sunday.
Packers: Host the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.
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