Vikings' late-game struggles again keep Kirk Cousins from first fourth-quarter comeback win

KANSAS CITY -- This was unfamiliar territory for Kirk Cousins.

Before the fourth quarter of the Minnesota Vikings' eventual 26-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Vikings trailed by four. Given the way the game was playing out, with Cousins reaching a career-high in overthrown passes and frustrations mounting on offense, it felt like history would repeat itself during the Vikings’ once-in-a-blue-moon trip to Arrowhead Stadium. Entering Week 9, Cousins was 0-9-1 as the Vikings quarterback when trailing at any point in the fourth quarter.

After fighting to wrestle back the momentum the Vikings had gained at the start of the second half, Cousins found himself on the right side of the equation after hitting Kyle Rudolph for a late touchdown for a 23-20 lead.

Harrison Smith’s late-game sack of Chiefs QB Matt Moore gave Minnesota hope until Kansas City’s Harrison Butker nailed a 54-yard field goal to tie the game.

With a chance to rewrite history and earn his first come-from-behind-win in the fourth quarter, Cousins and the Vikings offense faltered. Upon getting the ball back with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings went three-and-out behind an incomplete pass, a seven-yard loss on a screen and another incomplete pass with Minnesota backed up deep in its own territory.

Despite the late efforts of Minnesota’s defense, the Vikings couldn’t hold off the inevitable when Butker trotted out to kick the game-winner, a 44-yard field goal as time expired to snap the Vikings four-game win streak.

Offensive regression? The Vikings offense looked out of sync, uncharacteristic of the performances this unit had turned in from Weeks 5-8. The bootlegs, play-action passes and moving pockets just weren’t there in Week 9, and the Vikings couldn’t keep pace with the Chiefs in ripping off big plays. Despite finishing 19 of 38 passing for 220 yards and three touchdowns, Cousins wasn't able to fully shake his up-and-down play after going 9 of 21 passing in the first half. Those 12 incompletions are four times as many as he had in the entire game in Week 8 against the Redskins (8) and more than he’s had in any of his past six games. This game looked like it was going to be a tale of two halves from the start of the third quarter, after the offense scored after getting the ball when Mike Hughes forced a fumble on Kansas City’s kickoff return to start the third quarter and Holton Hill recovered the ball. But offensive line penalties were the difference-maker in the third quarter, leading to a 16-point swing for Kansas City. The Chiefs were one of the worst run defenses entering Week 9, allowing 145 yards per game, but they made it their mission to take Dalvin Cook out of the game and force the Vikings to use their explosive playmaker to ignite the screen game. Minnesota finished with 96 rushing yards, averaging 3.6 yards per rush, and tried to go back to the run too late in the game after making a concerted effort to do so in the second half.

Thielen injured : The Vikings were without Adam Thielen for the better part of three-and-a-half quarters after the wide receiver aggravated the hamstring injury he sustained in Detroit two weeks ago. Thielen exited the game after the fourth play of Minnesota’s first scoring drive in the first quarter and did not return despite never being officially ruled out. The Pro Bowl receiver was limited in practice throughout the week after being sidelined for Minnesota’s win over Washington in Week 8.