Kirk Cousins’ Prime-Time Record: Does he struggle more on Thursdays?

What is Kirk Cousins' prime-time record, both in terms of his win-loss record as well as his performance passing the ball?

As the Minnesota Vikings play on prime time against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14 of the 2021 season, what is Kirk Cousins’ record in these national spotlight games? Let’s examine how teams led by Cousins have fared in prime time and how he’s performed individually during those games.

Kirk Cousins’ prime-time win-loss record is not a pretty sight

Heading into this Thursday Night Football game against the Steelers, teams with Cousins starting at QB have an 8-17 record. That is certainly not a pretty record, and it’s put into stark contrast when comparing it to the Steelers’ starting QB tonight, Ben Roethlisberger, who is 45-22 in prime-time games.

Since the merger, there have been 62 QBs to have made more than 500 pass attempts in prime time. Among them, Cousins’ .320 win percentage ranks as the fourth-worst. The only QBs with worse prime-time records are Jeff George (2-17; .227), Andy Dalton (6-18; .250), and Jim Everett (8-18; .308).

Among the 48 QBs currently considered “active” and to have thrown at least 100 pass attempts in prime time, Cousins ranks eighth. Among current NFL starters, only Daniel Jones has a worse record (0-8).

On Thursday Night Football, Cousins’ win percentage is actually marginally better than his overall prime-time record (2-4; .333). For comparison, he is 4-4 (.500) on Sunday Night Football and a woeful 1-9 (.100) on Monday Night Football. Even this season, where Cousins has performed well, he is 0-1 with an 88.3 passer rating in his one prime-time game.

Cousins’ stat line in prime-time games is somewhat more flattering than his win-loss record

Judging a QB based solely on wins and losses is an extremely unfair thing to do, and Cousins’ prime-time record exemplifies that. Among those QBs to have thrown more than 500 pass attempts in prime time since the merger, Cousins has the seventh-best passer rating in those games. The only players to have a better passer rating are Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Steve Young, and Peyton Manning.

In his 25 career prime-time starts, Cousins has a 67.8% completion rate, which is second-best behind only Brees. The rest of his numbers read as 7,061 passing yards, 45 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. In terms of yards per pass attempt, Cousins ranks 10th at 7.66, just narrowly behind Roethlisberger at 7.69.

Thursday Night Football has been more of a struggle

If we narrow it down to look at just Thursday Night Football prime-time games, Cousins’ record as a passer is less flattering. His passer rating drops to 87.9, ranking 20th among QBs to have thrown 100 pass attempts on Thursday Night Football since the merger.

Cousins still completes passes at a high rate (67.7%) but has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 1:1. In his six Thursday prime-time starts, Cousins has thrown 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Only five qualifying QBs have thrown more interceptions on a Thursday: Brees, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton.

To provide context, Roethlisberger is 9-5 in Thursday prime-time games. He completed 66.7% of his passes, with 25 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions. He has thrown nearly double the number of passes on Thursday Night Football to Cousins (448 vs. 226) but has thrown 3 fewer interceptions and 16 more touchdowns.

However, the view changes somewhat if we look at Cousins’ TNF record since arriving in Minnesota (2018). Cousins has played two Thursday prime-time games with the Vikings. In those two games, he has completed 77.6% of his 76 pass attempts for 707 yards with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, with a passer rating of 118.6.

Even then, Roethlisberger still has him beat in that time frame. In his one TNF start since 2018, Roethlisberger threw 5 touchdowns on 25 pass attempts with a perfect passer rating (158.3).

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