Kirk Cousins named NFC Offensive Player of the Month, Thielen returns to practice

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - OCTOBER 24: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings looks to deliver a pass against the defense of Jon Bostic #53 of the Washington Redskins during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 24, 2019 in Minneapolis (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Since issuing a public apology to Adam Thielen, all Kirk Cousins has done is put up some of the best numbers in the NFL in getting the Minnesota Vikings four straight wins.

The $84 million man was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for October on Thursday. It’s his third career award, and the first Viking to get it since Case Keenum in 2017. Cousins finished October 91-of-116 passing for 1,262 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. The 78.4 completion percentage led the NFL, and the 10 touchdowns tied for the league lead.

His 137.1 passer rating marked the second-highest rating in any month in NFL history, behind only Peyton Manning’s 138.0 rating in September of 2013. Most importantly, he’s led the Vikings to four straight wins and a 6-2 record at the midpoint of the season.

“He’s played as good as anyone at that position and he’s played as good anyone in this league over the last four weeks. Very well-deserved, we’re happy for him, and we gotta continue to go out on the road and get a big win this week,” Vikings’ tight end Kyle Rudolph said.

Rudolph has been one of the beneficiaries of Cousins’ improved play. Over the last four weeks, he’s made 12 catches for 115 yards and his only touchdown of the season so far at Detroit.

With Thielen out last Thursday due a hamstring injury after a touchdown catch in the win over the Lions, Cousins went 23-of-26 passing for 285 yards in a 19-9 win over the Redskins. The three incompletions were two throwaways, and a Dalvin Cook drop on a screen pass.

Cousins has been on a roll since a 16-6 loss at Chicago, which was followed by Stefon Diggs not showing up for practice, being fined by the team and not dismissing possible trade rumors. That was four weeks ago, but it feels much longer than that. It’s what winning can do.

“Just proud of him and the way that he’s handled everything and the way that he focuses and his attitude and the way that he goes about his business. Those are the things that we see every day, we see that fire under him every single day,” Thielen said. “Couldn’t happen to a better person, somebody who can handle the tough times and the good times. We’re very fortunate to have him as the leader of this offense and this team.”

In the four games since the Chicago loss, Diggs has had three 100-yard games and torched the Philadelphia Eagles for three touchdowns, two on plays of more than 50 yards. Diggs has gone for at least 100 yards in four of Minnesota’s last five games.

Other Viking quarterbacks to win the award include Keenum in 2017, Brett Favre in 2009, Daunte Culpepper twice (2003, 2004), Randall Cunningham in 1998 and Warren Moon in 1995.

Cousins became the first quarterback in NFL history to have at least 300 yards passing in three straight games with a passer rating of 130.0 or higher. He did just that in wins over the Giants, Eagles and Lions. Cousins also led the Vikings to 1,875 total yards in four October games, the second-highest in any four-game span in franchise history.

“I think it’s a great individual honor but I think even Kirk would tell you it reflects on your teammates. I think somebody’s got to catch those balls and somebody’s got to protect for him, I know he would tell you that,” Vikings’ offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. “Proud of him and I think his play, he earned that.”

Adam Thielen back to practice Wednesday, Thursday

The Vikings appear to set for Thielen to make his return Sunday after missing the Redskins’ win on Thursday Night Football with a hamstring injury. Thielen got hurt on his only catch of the game at Detroit, a 25-yard touchdown in the first quarter from Cousins.

It was the first game of his career that he’s missed since he became a starter. He said it was fun to watch his teammates beat Washington, but tough to be a bystander on the sidelines.

“I think it’s a way that God’s tested me because I’m not very good with patience but at the same time, we have great coaches here, we have a great training staff that I’m just trusting them with the process,” Thielen said. “Doing everything I can to get back to full and get out there and help my teammates.”

Thielen was the Vikings’ only limited participant in practice on Wednesday as the team began preparations for the Chiefs. He went through stretching and individual drills, but didn’t take every rep in the offense, which he said isn’t unusual.

He did stretching and individual receiving drills in the portion of practice open to media on Thursday. He didn’t appear to have any limitations running, but it remains a day-by-day process for him.

“I’ll be able to kind of judge where I’m at after practice today and Friday and Saturday, and really Sunday before the game. In this league it’s all about being close to 100 percent on game day, and luckily I’ve got three or four more days to get to that point,” Thielen said.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on Wednesday was optimistic that Thielen will play Sunday.