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Kirk Cousins ends 'MNF' winless streak, vaults Vikings back into playoff conversation with victory

He's only had to hear about it ahead of nearly 10 primetime contests in his life, but Kirk Cousins can finally smile after a Monday night win.

Cousins completed 25 of 36 passes for 292 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in Minnesota's Week 10 win over Chicago, a victory earned in front of a national audience and one that shifted the conversation regarding his Vikings. It also ended his winless streak on Monday Night Football, improving his record to 1-9 in such contests.

"Yeah, great to get a win, you know, so we'll try to keep building on it now, and be so important to keep stringing these together if we can," Cousins said. "That's really what the rest of the season will be all about."

It was a triumph not only because it was Minnesota's third straight win, but also because it came against one of the league's best defenses. Chicago was effective against the NFL's leading rusher in Dalvin Cook, holding him to 3.2 yards per carry, yet Minnesota still found a way to move the ball effectively enough to score two touchdowns and come away with a win, with a large part of the credit due to Cousins. His best throw resulted in a first-quarter touchdown to Adam Thielen, giving the Bears an early lead, and his most important completion produced the margin necessary for victory on another connection with Thielen for a fourth-quarter touchdown from six yards out.

The win was the latest in a strong three weeks for Cousins, who owns a passer rating of 123 since Week 8. In that span, Cousins has completed 70 percent of his passes and posted a 6-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

It helps to have Cook back in the fold, as his presence has unlocked Minnesota's offense and helped the Vikings again become a competitive team with a realistic chance to make a run and secure a playoff spot. Since its Week 7 bye, Minnesota is 3-0, owns a plus-26 point differential and a plus-four turnover differential. The Vikings have also improved defensively, allowing just 18.3 points per game since the bye and averaging two takeaways per game.

"You know, for me it's all about playing well and doing my part," Cousins said. "I've played long enough to know there is not a lot you can control as a quarterback. The ball is in your hands, but so many things are out of your control.

"So you just do the best you can, play the best you can, and that's where my focus always is."

Suddenly, things are looking up in Minnesota -- including Cousins' recent results in key games.

"I thought he played really fast, which is important for him," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "He was extremely accurate. He got the ball in the right places all night.

"I just felt like he did a really good job of handling what the defense was giving us."

The Cousins-led offense is showing legitimate progress in a season that saw a difficult start. Plenty of personnel changes on the defensive side have resulted in some growing pains for Zimmer's defense, but the unit stood tall and took advantage of opportunities against Chicago's struggling offense. And when the Vikings possessed the ball, they weren't afraid to utilize their encouraging corps of weapons, helping rookie Justin Jefferson post his fourth 100-yard receiving game in his rookie campaign for 762 total yards, the most among all rookies. Jefferson is also on pace to break the Vikings' rookie record for receiving yards set by Randy Moss in 1998.

"It means a lot," Jefferson said of his comparison to the Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I definitely did not imagine me being in this situation, being compared to a Hall of Famer. It's been crazy. I've just got to keep focusing and keep playing my game."

The Vikings' game is a winning one these days, and they appear situated to potentially go on a run that could lead to another postseason appearance. Minnesota's final slate includes four games against teams with losing records (Dallas, Carolina, Jacksonville and Detroit), and a rematch with the Bears, who aren't showing any signs of improvement at 5-5.

As our own Jeffri Chadiha wrote in the hours after Minnesota's Monday night win, the Vikings are again proving to be a legitimate playoff contender. We'll learn in the weeks ahead if they can turn it into a postseason berth.

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