Cousins said he didn’t like his initial read and felt like he was about to take a sack so he wanted get the ball out, citing times earlier in the game and season when Hockenson finished a pass caught shy of the first-down markers by getting the line to gain.
“When I went to progress, I just felt like I was about to get sacked and felt like, ‘I’ve got to put the ball in play. I can’t go down with a sack,’ so I just thought I’d kick it out to T.J.,” Cousins said. “I had thrown short of the sticks a few occasions in the game, and even going back a few weeks, I just felt like throwing short of the sticks wouldn’t be the end of the world. It was obviously tight coverage, so [he] didn’t have a chance to pull away, but I was probably going to go down and take a sack if I didn’t put it out there.”
O’Connell said he was watching the routes down the field and didn’t get a good look at whether the pocket collapsed.
“The intent as a play caller, you’re not going to call a primary concept where somebody is short of the sticks to gain, especially on fourth down,” O’Connell said. “If it’s third down, and you can catch, convert and make it a fourth-and-2-or-3, that’s OK.
“Looking back on it, [a conversation with Cousins] may have just been a little bit more, ‘Hey, this is where you want the ball to go,’ but I want Kirk to play. I want him to be free out there and make good decisions,” O’Connell added. “He did all night long, moved our team, stood in there and was getting the ball out of his hands. It just so happens that that down, we just didn’t get enough on the play, regardless. In the end, I look at that as much of anything on me and that play call, even though we had eligible with a chance down the field. There’s always a play that could be better for the guys out there.”