After rough time, all smiles for Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two weeks after frustrations between Stefon Diggs and the Vikings' offense headlined the NFL news cycle, the receiver was in perfect harmony with quarterback Kirk Cousins in Minnesota's 38-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cousins and Diggs connected on three touchdowns, which set a new career-high for the 25-year-old wideout, and they did so by igniting the deep-ball. Cousins routinely picked apart the Eagles' porous pass defense, connecting with Diggs on back-to-back drives in the second quarter which resulted in 62-yard and 51-yard touchdown plays, respectively. On both plays, Diggs burned Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas, whom he was matched up with on the outside.

Cousins was 2-of-4 passing with two passing touchdowns on throws that traveled 30-plus air yards down the field on Sunday. He was 1-of-5 with a touchdown on such throws in the Vikings' first five games of the season. Diggs became the first Vikings player to haul in two TD passes of 50-plus yards in a single game since Randy Moss achieved that feat against Detroit in Week 5 of the 2000 season.

After a quiet start to the season fueled speculation over Diggs' contentment with his role and rumors -- which he did not fully dispel -- over wanting out of Minnesota, the receiver credits staying patient and prepared for being able to capitalize when more targets came his way.

"I just look at it as [you] control what you can control, move forward that way," Diggs said.

"The more comfortable you are out there getting into a rhythm, especially at the quarterback position, completing those passes and getting into a rhythm is huge. As a receiver, you want the same thing as far as catching a couple passes, getting a couple ones out of the way and then you can start feeling more comfortable and feeling the game. I feel like the more opportunities you make, you start feeling the game more."

Diggs' seven catches for 167 yards and three TDs sparked Minnesota's passing attack in ways that hadn't been seen in the Vikings' five previous games. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer credits "pretty darned good" protection from the offensive line (Cousins was sacked just once Sunday) and an aggressive mindset as the catalyst on offense.

"[Diggs] got the ball a few more times," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "They left him singled a few times -- the safety came out of the middle a few times and gave us some opportunities. Kirk made a great throw on it, too."

Cousins completed 22 of 29 passes for 333 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 138.4 passer rating. Late last week, the quarterback was called out for his struggles by former teammate and current Eagles linebacker Zach Brown.

"Cousins, I think every defense is going to want that guy to throw the ball," said Brown, who was teammates with the QB in Washington in 2017. "For me, that's probably the weakest part of their offense, is him. Everything else is good. They've got a good running game, probably one of the best in the league. They have real good receivers."

The Eagles, down to their second and third-string corners, don't leave U.S. Bank Stadium echoing the same sentiments about Cousins, who helped the Vikings earn their second-straight win against a team considered among the favorites in the NFC.

After the game, Brown was asked to comment on Cousins.

"I'm here to talk about the game. Not about that," he said.

Pressed further, he said: "Any other questions besides about Kirk Cousins?" before finally relenting and saying: "He did a good job. He played good. Hat's off to him."

While Zimmer suggested that Brown's comments may have "ticked off" Cousins, the quarterback said he wasn't aware of the criticisms until he was asked for his reaction in an on-field postgame interview.

"I didn't even know what he said," Cousins said. "I really do stay ignorant, not read anything, and that's for my best interest. But Zach was a teammate in Washington. He's one of the better linebackers I've played with or against. Have a lot of respect for him, and if you're trying to write a story about how it was a motivator this week, it wasn't, because I didn't know about it. Again, I say ignorance is bliss. I just put my head down and work and prepare the same every week and not try to ride the roller coaster."

Sunday marked the third time in Cousins career where he threw three touchdown passes in the first half of a game. The quarterback opened the first quarter by connecting with Adam Thielen for a 6-yard touchdown to cap off Minnesota's first drive. In the first five weeks of the season, Cousins threw three touchdowns total in the first half of games.

"He's been the same quarterback," Diggs said. "I guess Kirk answered all your questions. He went out there, he played his balls off and did everything he did. Putting that behind you, because every game is a statement game if that's the case. You're going to have to check the boxes every week, and that's what we're trying to do."