The Associated Press
Dennis Waszak Jr.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.–Mike Zimmer gathered his team around him in a victorious locker-room and let them in on what they just accomplished.
The Minnesota Vikings, he told them, had never defeated the Jets on the road–until yesterday. Kirk Cousins and the rest of his teammates broke out in big cheers to celebrate a 37-17 win.
“Winning on the road is important in this league and I was glad we were able to do that,” Cousins said.
Cousins threw two touchdown passes, and Latavius Murray ran for two scores, as the Vikings (4-2-1) pulled away in the second half for their third-straight victory.
It wasn’t the best performance of the season by the Vikings’ high-powered offence but it certainly was good enough against a Jets’ team that had four turnovers, including interceptions by Harrison Smith, Holton Hill, and Trae Waynes.
“Any time you score 37 points on the road, you’re doing something right,” Cousins reasoned.
“But there are times where it wasn’t good enough,” he stressed.
“We are so grateful for defence and special teams today because it gave us the opportunity to go out and score points.”
Vikings’ wide receiver Adam Thielen became just the fifth player in NFL history to get at least 100 yards receiving in seven-straight games, catching nine passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Thielen reached his milestone with a 21-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
He joined Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (eight, 2012), Denver’s Demaryius Thomas (seven, 2014), Dallas’ Michael Irvin (seven, 1995), and Houston’s Charley Hennigan (seven, 1961) to accomplish the feat.
He and Hennigan are the only players to do so in his team’s first seven games to open the season.
Murray, coming off career-high 155 yards rushing against Arizona, finished with 69 yards on 15 carries to help lift the Vikings to their first road win against the Jets after losing the first five meetings away from home.
In his first game against the Jets (3-4) since spurning their massive offer in free agency, Cousins was far from spectacular but made some big plays late.
With the game still hanging in the balance and the Vikings facing fourth-and-eight from the 34, Cousins connected with Aldrick Robinson for a TD to seal it.
Cousins, 25-of-40 for 241 yards, opted to turn down New York’s three-year, $90-million deal in the off-season and instead chose to go to Minnesota, which actually signed him to a deal worth $6 million less.
The Jets insisted this loss didn’t sting any more than usual because it was against Cousins.
“We don’t care,” said linebacker Darron Lee. “We only care about us and this team.
“Don’t try to make this about him,” he stressed. “We don’t care. No one ever spoke about that all week.
“No one cared.”
After Cousins made his decision, the Jets turned their attention to the draft, where they selected Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick.
In their first meeting, Cousins came out on top while Darnold struggled on a cold, windy day.
The rookie was 17-of-42 for 206 yards with a TD pass to Chris Herndon and a TD run, but was intercepted three times as New York’s two-game winning streak ended.
“I’ve just got to find completions,” Darnold said. “That’s really it.
And we’ve got to do a better job executing.”
The Vikings took a 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter when Murray followed a 23-yard run with a 38-yard touchdown scamper–his second score of the game.
“It wasn’t pretty early on,” Murray conceded. “But we know how important it is to run the ball and we stuck with it.”
New York wasn’t done, though.
Darnold’s 17-yard throw to Herndon initially was called a touchdown, but it was ruled after a video review that the tight end’s heel went out of bounds at the Vikings’ one-yard line.
Darnold went in on a quarterback sneak on the next play for the first rushing score of his career, making it 27-17.
After the Vikings went three-and-out, Darnold went deep to Robby Anderson, whose legs got tangled with Xavier Rhodes and both needed to be checked by trainers.
Anderson was OK but Rhodes was helped off the field without putting weight on his left leg.
Zimmer later said Rhodes has a sprained ankle.
Hill came on in place of Rhodes and immediately picked off Darnold’s pass intended for Andre Roberts.
Seven plays later, Cousins put the game away with his TD toss to Robinson.
“We had so many opportunities to put that game away earlier,” Zimmer noted. “There were two or three turnovers we didn’t take advantage of. . . .
“We’ve got to overcome ourselves on some of those things,” he stressed.
Elsewhere in the NFL, New England topped Chicago 38-31, Detroit beat Miami 32-21, Tampa Bay edged Cleveland 26-23 (OT), New Orleans nipped Baltimore 24-23, the L.A. Chargers shaded Tennessee 20-19, Houston dumped Jacksonville 20-7, and Indianapolis bombed Buffalo 37-5.
Carolina beat Philadelphia 21-17, the L.A. Rams dumped San Francisco 39-10, Washington edged Dallas 20-17, and Kansas City routed Cincinnati 45-10.