Dalvin Dazzles Even When He Doesn’t
The Minnesota Vikings are undergoing a rebirth that looked unlikely after a depressing loss to
the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6. A season turnaround is in full effect. The pathway to the
postseason is still treacherous as the margin of error is slim. Only one game (maybe two) can
be lost, and the Vikings still have road games at Tampa Bay and at New Orleans upcoming.
The newfound success can be attributed to nearly every aspect of the game – aside from the
special teams unit. The defense is maturing on the fly, which was theorized as a possibility
because of Mike Zimmer’s documented history of defensive contrivance. Again, though, after
Matt Ryan and the Falcons thumped the young bunch, most eyes leered at 2021. Now, the
defense looks halfway astute. An absolutely piecemealed bundle of cornerbacks is rising to the
occasion. Zimmer is sending blitz packages. And then Harrison Smith and Eric Kendricks – to
nobody’s surprise – are authoring Pro Bowl resumes for 2020.
But the dusty jewel amid this midseason insurgency is the offense. Anemic and inept after Week
6, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has hit his groove. The Vikings lead the NFL in offensive
yards per play (6.5), which some will see as unfathomable. Minnesota nets more yards per play
than Kansas City Chiefs. To the naked eye, this is a flabbergasting revelation.
“Run to set up the pass” is the method of madness to Zimmer Ball. It’s working.
By the way, the Vikings are owners of an MVP candidate in Dalvin Cook. The 25-year-old leads
the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns. He is developing the homerun-hitter style that Adrian
Peterson instilled in the franchise for a decade. It often seems Cook is “sitting on the big one”
even when defensive lines are bottling him up.
The Week 10 game at Soldier Field was not Cook’s magnum opus, but he was essential while
kept in check by the Bears defense.
30 Carries at CHI
Here’s all one needs to know about Dalvin Cook and the 2020 season: Cook endured a
lackluster night while tabulating 112 yards from scrimmage. In standalone contests, 112 yards
would be classified as top-notch. Against the Bears, however, it felt mundane.
That’s because Cook rushed the ball 30 times – mostly into the middle of a deadly defensive
front seven. Next to the Buccaneers in December, Cook will see no better defensive group
upfront than these pesky Midway Monsters.
Ordinarily, when Cook is handed the ball 30 times by Kirk Cousins, box score peepers will see
something north of 120 rushing yards and a couple of scores. But not on Monday Night Football.
Cook was a blue-collar carrier of the football. The gameplan relied on a potential Cook homerun
– one that nearly occurred but was negated by a trashy holding call.
All in all, if an RB1 has 112 yards from scrimmage and it feels like a crappy showing, well, that’s
called an MVP candidate.
Stick-to-it-ness of Gameplan
It’s frustrating to watch playcall after playcall of any halfback smashing into a defensive line for
menial yardage. The Vikings are culprits of this at times. Generally speaking in these situations,
the rush is abandoned and a Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, or Kirk Cousins is then asked to
throw 45+ times. It usually results in a loss.
Week 10 was a markedly different scenario. It was obvious to all onlookers early on that Cook
would be contained by his nemesis Akeem Hicks and his pals. The game was headed to a
place in which Kirk Cousins would be necessary to win the thing.
Two things then happened: Kirk did win the thing with timely throws and sound decision-making.
Even more importantly, Minnesota did not abandon the rush. The aforementioned Hicks was
poetically injured, and the middle of the line opened up for Cook to cook.
The combination of Cousins’ effectiveness and Cook keeping the Bears honest spearheaded a
victory in Chicago – something that had not occurred for the Vikings in 1,134 days.
Knocking on the Door of a 5-5 Season
Guess what? The Vikings are in the thick of the playoff hunt. While it did not help matters that
Kyler Murray conducted a “Hail Murray” or that Rams solved Russell Wilson, the Vikings
triumph in Chicago totally revitalized all postseason ambitions.
At 1-5, Minnesota could emulate an armadillo and collapse into a shell for safekeeping or they
could rattle off three consecutive division wins. Zimmer chose the latter.
No matter what incarnates in the remainder of the 2020 season, Dalvin Cook’s explosion to
superstardom has resuscitated a franchise that was supposedly on the verge of blowing up the