Bears have challenge in Kirk Cousins, who ‘doesn’t miss’

At some point in the last few years, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins somehow became a punchline. Maybe it was his 2-10 record on “Monday Night Football,” although both wins came against the Bears. Or his controversial anti-vaccination stance. Or the goofy “You Like That?” boast after a Washington game.

Mostly, though, Cousins has been judged against his contract. Amazingly, he’s playing on a guaranteed deal for the seventh-straight season. He’s made $201.7 million and counting, per Spotrac —more than Barry Bonds earned in his career. Despite making three Pro Bowls, Cousins became shorthand for a good-but-not-great quarterback on an expensive deal.

He’d be the greatest Bears quarterback of all time if he wore navy and orange.

Since signing with the Vikings in 2018, he’s averaged 260 passing yards and a 102.2 passer rating per game. During the same period, Bears quarterbacks averaged 204 and 84.5 The Bears would have happily taken Cousins’ performance in any of those seasons — and probably rode it into the playoffs.

Cousins is under-appreciated, said Bears quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko, who served in the same role for the Vikings last year.

“I think he’s one of the true accurate passers in this league, especially under duress,” he said. “The other thing I don’t think he gets appreciated for is how truly tough he is. He’s a tough guy. And he doesn’t miss.”

Cousins has struggled by his own standards this season — he has an 84.1 passer rating, which looks a lot more like a Chicago quarterback — but the Bears can ill afford to ignore him Sunday.

“He does a great job of getting them in the right play,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “He does a great job of, you’ll see [he’s] super-accurate on the outside. He does a great job of moving in the pocket, getting rid of the football when needed. …

“He’s taken some hits about accuracy, being streaky, but I think he’s done a good job this year of getting the ball to different people when needed, on time.”

Cousins is the point guard of an offense with two superstar players: receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Dalvin Cook. Asked how he runs things, Williams needed one word.

“Well,” he said.

It was the perfect Cousins compliment —he’s not flashy, but he gets the job done.

“The funny thing about Kirk Cousins is, his swag is to not have any swag,” said Bears receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who spent last season with the Vikings. “That’s who he is.”

He’s the second-best quarterback the Bears have faced this season, behind the great Aaron Rodgers. The Bears might not face another quarterback as good as Cousins until they see Rodgers again Dec. 4, depending on the health of the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa.

The 34-year-old Cousins presents a more difficult challenge than every other passer the Bears have seen this season not named Rodgers. Trey Lance, 22, was making his third career start for the 49ers in the season opener. Texans quarterback Davis Mills, 23, had won two of his 14 career starts when he faced the Bears in Week 3. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, 25, still started one-third as many games as Cousins.

The Bears can take comfort in the fact that Matt Eberflus’ defense has tortured Cousins before. In the second game of the 2020 season, Cousins went 11-for-26 for 113 yards, three interceptions and a career-worst 15.9 passer rating in a 28-11 loss to Eberflus’ Colts.

He was sacked three times and hit seven times.

“I don’t know any quarterbacks that like to be hit,” said Williams, who was the Colts’ defensive backs coach then. “So when you hit them, sometimes they’ll do some things out of character.”

That’s the best the Bears can hope for Sunday.

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