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For most football teams, everything starts with the quarterback. While some squads might have a star running back or marquee man on defense, the quarterback generally gets the majority of the praise and blame. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is experiencing that first hand.

After starting the season in the doghouse, Cousins stepped into the spotlight with a streak of massive performances. Last week, however, the Vikings stumbled, prompting some questions if about Cousins’ longterm ability to run the offense.

Kirk Cousins’ rough start to the season

At the start of the season, the Minnesota Vikings offense looked like a solid unit. Cousins had Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen as receiving weapons and Dalvin Cook in the backfield; things didn’t click on the field, though.

The Vikings split their opening two games, and things started to break down. Thielen called out the offense, saying that they needed to throw the ball more; the receiver might have been taking a shot at head coach Mike Zimmer, but Kirk Cousins apologized and pledged to move the ball downfield. Diggs was also outwardly unhappy; he skipped practices, and trade rumors started brewing, but nothing came of them.

While Cousins wasn’t putting the team on his back, he probably didn’t deserve all the blame he received. As a quarterback, however, he bore the brunt of the team’s offensive issues, even if Zimmer’s playcalling wasn’t helping.

The Vikings offense gets on track

After Minnesota lost to the Chicago Bears in Week 4, something seemed to change. The Vikings offense exploded, with Kirk Cousins at the center of it all and essentially proving the doubters wrong, at least for a few games.

The quarterback threw for 306 yards against the New York Giants; he followed that up with 333 yards against the Eagles and 337 against the Lions. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to post over 300 passing yards and a 100 passer rating in three straight games. As Cousins thrived, Diggs and Thielen reaped the rewards; all of a sudden, things were looking better.

While Zimmer didn’t completely abandon the running game, he did appear to give Cousins a little more rope. The quarterback took advantage of that, with his deep balls and the threat of Dalvin Cook forcing the opposition to pick their poison. Things didn’t go so smoothly against the Kansas City Chiefs, however.

A statement game for Kirk Cousins

Last weekend, the Minnesota Vikings offense sputtered against a weak Kansas City Chiefs offense. While Cousins threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns, he only completed 19 of 38 total passes. Diggs only had one reception for four yards, while Cook picked up 71 yards on 21 carries. All of the Vikings’ goodwill had vanished; Kirk Cousins was back to the doghouse.

Tonight, Cousins will step back onto the field in Dallas, looking to make a statement. Given last week’s performance and the quarterback’s personal struggles during primetime games, tonight will play a major part in how we view Cousins. If he struggles, it’s another piece of evidence that he can’t win the big game; if he comes out on fire, October’s positivity could return.

Kirk Cousins has always had the talent to succeed, but he hasn’t been able to put everything together for more than a few games at a time. A win tonight, however, could help solidify his reputation as the guy in Minnesota, rather than an inconsistent quarterback who can only beat bad teams.