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Zimmer: I'm not getting into Cousins on MNF after loss

The Minnesota Vikings will not win the NFC North in 2019, but they will be in the playoffs.

They'll be hoping to have Dalvin Cook back in time for their elimination game, because they sure missed him Monday night with the division title on the line.

Minnesota managed just 10 points in their loss to the Packers, a total reached early in the second quarter. Kirk Cousins threw for a total of 122 yards and one touchdown (and one interception), and the Vikings failed to break even 150 total yards of offense. Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah rushed for a combined total of just 55 yards on 15 carries.

The Vikings' offense didn't present a massive threat Monday, and relying on their defense wasn't enough. Cook's (and Alexander Mattison's) absence was felt throughout, especially late in the game when defensive lineman Za'Darius Smith was freed to pin his ears back and get after Cousins. He did just that, recording 2.5 of his 3.5 sacks on the night in the final two quarters and causing such havoc up front, Vikings offensive linemen struggled repeatedly to keep Green Bay's four-man rush at bay down the stretch. As Smith worked against guard Josh Kline and tackle Brian O'Neill on one side, Riley Reiff had to resort to holding Kyler Fackrell on the other to keep Cousins upright. The penalty wiped out what would've been a deep touchdown pass to Bisi Johnson to cut Green Bay's lead to a single possession.'

The Vikings never even sniffed that possibility again.

Cousins fell to 0-9 on Monday night, further strengthening the case made against him by those who'd rather see someone else quarterbacking in Minnesota. A 4 for 15 mark on third down didn't help, either.

"I'm not going to get into this Kirk Cousins on Monday night thing and all this stuff," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said after the game, via The Associated Press. "Offensively, we didn't play as well as we could play. I'll say that, OK. Defensively, we could play the run better. So, there's a lot of things that we need to clean up."

A big reason for Minnesota's struggles Monday night: The lack of Cook took away a legitimate running threat for the Packers to respect. That undercut the entire Vikings offense.

"They couldn't play-action pass," Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark said, via The Associated Press. "That's their bread and butter. They get easy completions for Kirk Cousins. We got a chance to get him to drop back on third down so we could do our job."

When they needed it most, Minnesota's defense folded, allowing Aaron Jones to race 56 yards down the left sideline for the game's decisive score.

These Vikings are still headed to the postseason, though, and Cousins is in the midst of a career year. He'd just be much better off taking the field alongside No. 33 in purple than without him. We learned that much Monday night.

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