EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings running Dalvin Cook shot through the opening in the offensive line created by center Pat Eflein, left guard Danny Isidora with right guard Mike Remmers getting to the second level to spring Cook loose.
Cook exploded for the longest run of his short career, 70 yards, in Sunday’s 24-9 win against the Lions. In one sudden moment, Cook’s injury situation became secondary to his big-play potential.
The second-year back was recorded as the fastest ball carrier in the NFL this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, reaching 22.07 miles per hour.
“Faster than Tyreek?’” Cook questioned after, referencing noted Kansas City speedster Tyreek Hill. “I’m not a slow guy, but running faster than Tyreek? That is fast, man. He is probably jogging.”
Cook was laughing but said he knew he could do so when asked in a follow-up question.
“I know I had it in me, but it’s a matter of getting out there,” Cook said after the game. “I am just happy to be back out there with my teammates and competing. It’s a great feeling to be back suited up.”
Cook could be an important piece for Minnesota as it looks to the second half of its season. The Vikings (5-3-1) enter their bye week having won four of their past five games. An extra week of rest can help Cook, who had missed four of five games with a hamstring injury.
“I do think him being able to go through there and come in today feeling great, I think that is all good for going forward,” coach Mike Zimmer said Monday.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ arrival in Minnesota has transformed the offense, with the Vikings eighth in the league in passing. Cook could alter the look of a run game that has finally gotten going with backup Latavius Murray after a slow start to the season.
Minnesota has run for 91.7 yards per game this season, 29th in the NFL.
Cook returned from the knee injury that cut his rookie season short after four games. Then he suffered the hamstring injury after just two games this year. Cook felt well enough on Sunday that the team scrapped its plans to limit his snaps.
“It felt great,” Cook said of his long run. “I kind of tested it out. You get kind of nervous in those situations, but it is how you find out you’re good to go. I was good to go then.”
His teammates were happy to see a healthy, and fast, Cook.
“I’ve joked he is the white tiger,” Cousins said. “When you go to the zoo and you want to see a white tiger, and they say he is not coming out today. You are disappointed and you’re like, ‘That’s why I bought the ticket, to see the white tiger.’ That’s Dalvin.
“When you get him, he’s special.”
He demonstrated special ability on one 70-yard run. He finished the game with 10 runs for 89 yards and four receptions for 20 yards.
“Actually, there was one other run that I thought he was going to pop that he just got tripped on,” Zimmer said on Monday. “He has got a chance to hit home runs. I think it was really good for him to get out there and get some game time action. When you haven’t played in six weeks and you haven’t practiced all that much, I think he will continue to get better. See some of the cuts a little bit better as he gets going.”
Sunday started an important stretch with three NFC North games in four weeks. Another upcoming factor for Minnesota will be playing away from home, outside as the weather gets colder.
Three of the next four games are outside. After the bye, the Vikings play at Chicago, a game that was flexed on Monday from an afternoon start to the Sunday night game.
“We just have to continue to be effective running the football,” Zimmer said. “I do think with some of these games as it starts to get colder, it is going to be more of a factor. I think we are getting better at a lot of the areas in the running game. We have to continue searching for more ways to pound the ball.
“We have to look for ways when we get down inside the 15-yard line in order to run the ball. It’s just harder to throw the ball in there. So, in order for us to get better in the red zone touchdowns, we have to run the ball better in there”
Brian can be found on Twitter at @MNBrianHall. See all of the Vikings’ coverage at footballmaven.io/Vikings