MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been more aggressive throwing downfield in the past two games, and head coach Mike Zimmer wants it to remain that way.

Cousins said after Sunday’s 34-31 win over Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium that he made “a half-dozen throws there that were too aggressive.” There were two throws initially ruled interceptions by Packers safety Darnell Savage, but one was nullified by a roughing-the-passer call and one late in the game was ruled an incompletion following a replay. And there was a deep ball to Adam Thielen that the receiver broke up to prevent an interception.

“I want (Cousins) to keep doing it like he’s doing it,’’ Zimmer said Monday. “He can’t second-guess himself. If he throws an interception, that’s life. But you keep going for the jugular. It’s going to open up a lot of other areas in the running game. It’s going to open up other players.”

Cousins completed 24 of 35 passes for 341 yards with three touchdowns Sunday, his average yards per attempt being a season-high 11.5. The week before, he completed 25 of 37 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

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Zimmer also is thinking aggressively about the final seven games of the season. The Vikings are 5-5 entering Sunday’s game at San Francisco.

“I mean, 6-5 isn’t our goal,’’ he said. “We don’t want to be 6-5, we want to be 12-5 if we can. It’s important that if we get another win, then we can hopefully stack a few together.’’

Ryan’s game ball

Vikings equipment manager Dennis Ryan wasn’t on hand to receive it, but he got a game ball Sunday.

Ryan, who has been on the job since 1977, missed his first game since 1979 due to COVID-19. That ended a streak of 705 games worked.

“Everybody in this building loves Dennis,’’ Zimmer said of honoring Ryan. “He’s a tireless worker. … He said, ‘Darn, (his first missed game) has to be against the Packers.’ … I just thought (a game ball) was appropriate. He goes out of his way for everybody in the building.’’

Zimmer said Ryan should be back at the TCO Performance Center on Thursday or Friday, and he’s expected to be on hand for the game against the 49ers.

“He’s said he’s feeling fine,’’ Zimmer said.

Former Vikings defensive back John Turner was thrilled to hear about Ryan getting the game ball.

“He has always been such a fixture with the Vikings,’’ said Turner, who played for Minnesota from 1978-83 and 1985-87. “Dennis is just a great man. … His streak is broken, but I’m going to take his health over that streak any day.”

Help at defensive end

With the Vikings thin at defensive end, they moved Sheldon Richardson from defensive tackle to help out Sunday.

The Vikings traded reserve defensive end Stephen Weatherly to Denver on Oct. 23, lost star Danielle Hunter for the season on Oct. 31 and had reserve Kenny Willekes miss the past two games due to his time on a COVID-19 reserve list. That meant they needed help behind starters Everson Griffen and D.J. Wonnum.

Against the Packers, Wonnum played 53 of 59 defensive snaps, and Griffen was in for 43. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Richardson overall played 34 snaps, about half at defensive end, while reserves Eddie Yarbrough and Patrick Jones II had three snaps apiece. Richardson had the game’s highest Pro Football Focus grade for any Minnesota defender.

“It was out of need,” Zimmer said. “We’re kind of thin (at defensive end). … But Sheldon did a good job of learning what he had to do in a week. … He’s a bigger body guy. … I thought he did some good things, and we’ll probably have to keep using him there.”

Willekes, expected to be available against the 49ers, was a top reserve at defensive end. But Richardson’s strong play could alter matters.

“He’s a big guy that can move really well,’’ Wonnum said.

Sheldon Richardson
Sheldon Richardson