The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS–Kirk Cousins gave the Minnesota Vikings exactly what they needed for a victorious debut by their new quarterback.
The throws Cousins made in tight coverage at important times were on target.
And unlike Jimmy Garoppolo, he kept the ball out of the other team’s hands.
Cousins passed for two touchdowns, and the Vikings forced four turnovers, to fuel a 24-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers yesterday afternoon that stuck Garoppolo with his first loss in eight games as an NFL starting quarterback.
Cousins connected with Stefon Diggs in the second quarter and Kyle Rudolph in the third quarter for scores, and the defence finished the job with three sacks and three second-half interceptions of Garoppolo.
Mike Hughes turned one pick into a 28-yard touchdown return–the first by a rookie in a Vikings’ season-opener.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity that I’ve been given, and I just want to make good on it with every chance I get,” said Cousins, who had no turnovers.
Harrison Smith sealed the game with an interception with 1:35 left.
He also recovered a fumble by Alfred Morris at the two-yard line after Linval Joseph stripped the ball just in front of the goal line late in the first half and then sacked Garoppolo on a third-down safety blitz late in the fourth quarter .
“It was pretty smooth sailing there for a while,” said Vikings’ coach Mike Zimmer.
“And it was good to find the fight and the heart that we had there at the end.”
Garoppolo finished 15-for-33 for 261 yards and a touchdown pass to rookie Dante Pettis late in the third quarter.
With an injury-depleted offensive line in front of him and the absence of top wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, Garoppolo was unable to capitalize on the opportunity for a comeback after the 49ers’ defence forced three-straight three-and-out possessions by the Vikings to start the fourth quarter.
DeForest Buckner had 2.5 sacks for San Francisco.
“We knew it was going to be a tough challenge with the environment, going against a tough team,” Garoppolo conceded.
“They stood up to everything we thought they would,” he noted. “But with all the things that went bad, we still had a shot at the end there.
“Just a tough way to end it.”
Cousins went 20-for-36 for 244 yards, targeting Adam Thielen 12 times. Thielen caught six passes for 102 yards.
“He played the way he always does,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, who made his 49ers’ debut.
“Efficient. Doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
“He’s poised and doesn’t get rattled,” Sherman added.
Vikings’ running back Dalvin Cook caught six passes for 55 yards. He said Cousins was “locked in” from the start.
“I like to see a guy next to me with that look in his eyes,” Cook noted.
49ers’ tight end George Kittle had five catches for 90 yards but the one he didn’t make stood out.
Wide open after beating Anthony Barr up the seam, Kittle had what would have been a 30-yard completion fall off his fingers at midfield.
The third-down interception by Hughes came next to give the Vikings a 17-3 lead.
“Misjudged it,” Kittle said. “Thought it was a little closer to me. Probably ran a bit too far with my arms out.
“Just a bad play.”
Elsewhere in the NFL, Green Bay edged Chicago 23-23, New England beat Houston 27-20, Cincinnati downed Indianapolis 34-23, Jacksonville shaded the N.Y. Giants 20-15, Tampa Bay topped New Orleans 48-40, Baltimore bombed Buffalo 47-3, and Cleveland and Pittsburgh battled to a 21-21 tie (OT).
Kansas City beat the L.A. Chargers 38-28, Washington dumped Arizona 24-6, Denver edged Seattle 27-24, Carolina doubled Dallas 16-8, and Miami downed Tennessee 27-20.