Running back Dalvin Cook unlocked the Vikings’ previously-dormant screen game during Sunday night’s 24-17 win against the Packers.
Behind center Pat Elflein, Cook dodged a handful of Packers defenders on the way to his 26-yard touchdown catch that was his first score of this season. Cook credited offensive coordinator John DeFilippo with the first-down play call, which can re-emerge as a key part of the offense.
“Great call by Flip,” Cook said. “Pat got out there and got a great block on [Packers linebacker Blake] Martinez.”
Better screen plays has been a focus of Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer since the approach fell flat in the first 10 games of the season.
“It helps slow down the rush,” Zimmer said. “We have to continue to be good at the screen game.”
Screens help the offensive line, and also put one of the Vikings’ best athletes — Cook — in the open field to create and break tackles. Cook’s 47 receiving yards on three catches were his most since the Week 2 tie in Green Bay.
The touchdown led to a limbo celebration, in which receiver Adam Thielen was lifted above his teammates’ helmets as the pole walked under by Cook.
“It was supposed to be the lightest guy on the field,” Thielen said. “[Stefon] Diggs was supposed to be up there, but Dalvin really wanted to do it.”
Kicker Dan Bailey missed field goal attempts from 48 yards and 56 yards in the first half, meaning Vikings kickers missed the first five field goal attempts against the Packers this season. Rookie Daniel Carlson was cut by the Vikings in September after he missed all three field goal attempts in the 29-29 tie.
Zimmer said he has “a lot of confidence” in Bailey. However, he elected against a short field goal from the Packers’ 7-yard line while leading by 10 points with about five minutes left in regulation.
“I figured if we got a touchdown there, the game was probably over,” Zimmer said. “I did not want the ball to be in [Aaron Rodgers’] hands at the end of the game.”
At halftime, Zimmer was presumably more upset. He told NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya that he would go for it on fourth down rather than trust Bailey with the game on the line.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes pulled up and grabbed his right hamstring late in the fourth quarter. He hobbled off the field and did not return. Rhodes limped out of the locker room without bending his right leg much at all.
Zimmer said after the game he did not have an update on Rhodes.
Linebacker Anthony Barr’s return from a three-game absence enabled the Vikings defense to deploy some “new looks,” according to Zimmer. The Vikings defense crowded the Packers center on a handful of third downs with Barr, linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Harrison Smith all crowding the A gaps. Typically, just Barr and Kendricks have aligned that closely to the opposing center.
The Vikings didn’t fire all the bullets in the defensive holster, Zimmer said.
“We were prepared to blitz him a lot more,” Zimmer said. “It was just going good.”
• Thielen set a Vikings record with his ninth 100-yard receiving game of the season. He surpassed Randy Moss, who was honored at halftime with his Hall of Fame ring. Moss had eight 100-yard games in the 2000 and 2003 seasons.
• Diggs caught a 30-yard touchdown pass, giving him a score in each of his past five games against the Packers. Diggs has six touchdowns against the Packers in his career, tied with his six scores vs. the Bears for most against any opponent.