Cousins, Murray lift Vikings past Darnold, Jets 37-17
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — 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 Sunday. 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,” Cousins said, “and I was glad we were able to do that.”
Cousins threw two touchdown passes, Latavius Murray ran for two scores, and 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 offense, but it was certainly 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 said. “But there are times where it wasn’t good enough. We are so grateful for defense and special teams today because it gave us the opportunity to go out and score points.”
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen became the fifth player in NFL history to get at least 100 yards receiving in seven consecutive games, catching nine passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.
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-8 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 offseason 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,” Jets linebacker Darron Lee said. “We only care about us and this team. Don’t try to make this about him. 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 said, “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 was initially called a touchdown, but it was ruled after a video review that the tight end’s heel went out of bounds at the 1. 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 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 said. “There were two or three turnovers we didn’t take advantage of. ... We’ve got to overcome ourselves on some of those things.”
THIELEN FEELIN’ IT
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.
“It says it all,” Cousins said. “He’s a great player. Ultimately, he’s a great person and it starts there the way he approaches everything he does. I’m lucky to play with him. The Vikings are lucky to have him.”
Minnesota finished 2 of 15 on third downs, while New York was 2 of 13.
The Vikings first conversion didn’t come until midway through the third quarter on Thielen’s 13-yard catch after being 0 for 8 up to that point.
The Jets’ first third-down conversion came late in the third on Darnold’s 6-yard run on third-and-5.
Vikings: LG Tom Compton left in the first quarter with a knee injury and didn’t return. ... LB Anthony Barr left in the fourth with a hamstring injury.
Jets: RB Bilal Powell injured his neck during a 2-yard run in the second quarter. S Doug Middleton, starting in place of the injured Marcus Maye, also left in the second with a shoulder injury. Neither player returned, and coach Todd Bowles said both would have tests to determine the severity of their injuries.
Vikings: home vs. New Orleans next Sunday.
Jets: at Chicago next Sunday.