With all that’s gone wrong for the Vikings in both of their games so far this season (in general or when you look at their performance against NFL odds), it’s easy for one to feel overwhelmed when trying to assess the key reasons for the team being winless as well as creating the to-do list that will result in the team’s first win.
But is it possible the answer to both questions is rather simple? Could it simply be that the Vikings need to give the ball to their best player more often?
That player is Dalvin Cook. And even though he’s the starting RB, he hasn’t touched the ball much so far. Cook’s stat line is 26 carries for 113 yards and three touchdowns. For the season. That’s a two-game total.
Realistically, a RB of Cook’s caliber can attain such a stat line in one game. Cook has rushed for that yardage total or better five times in his career and three times he’s logged at least 26 carries in a game.
In 2020, though, it’s taken Cook two full games to tally that stat line. Sadly, Cook tallied six of those carries, 23 of those yards and two of those touchdowns when the games were already in hand.
He had two carries for five yards and a score when the Vikings were trailing 29-10 to Green Bay and then on Sunday he had 18 yards and another TD on four carries when his team was trailing 28-3.
Why are the Vikings not calling Cook’s number more often? It’s possible the coaching staff is calling more running plays than we know and QB Kirk Cousins is checking into passes too frequently. It’s possible offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is trying to use the pass to open up the run since everyone knows the Vikings want to set the pace with their star back.
Ultimately, we don’t know why Cook isn’t getting more carries. We just know he should be.
What makes this all even more confounding is that Cook has experienced success in the early stages of both games. On the opening drive against Green Bay, Cook had 15 yards and a touchdown on four carries. On the opening drive in Indianapolis, Cook had 25 yards on five carries. Yet by halftime of both games, Cook had a total of six carries!
This is insane.
Football is complex game. And each of the Vikings coaches have forgotten more about football than we’ll ever know. But that doesn’t mean they’re immune from making mistakes. So far, the distribution of offensive touches has been a mistake.
This complex game boils down to one simple idea: Make life hard for the other team.
Cook is the hardest Vikings player to tackle. Yet the Vikings have forced their opponents to tackle Cook – their best player – only 29 times in two games.
The number should be nearly double that.
Green Bay’s best offensive weapon is Davante Adams, and the Viking were forced to tackle him 14 times. He’s not even a running back. The Colts best player on Sunday was Jonathan Taylor, and they made the Vikings tackle him 28 times.
Maybe it’s too simple. Maybe it’s spot on. Hard to say. What’s not hard to say is the non-simple way hasn’t worked a lick for two straight games. So maybe in this case simpler is better.