GLENDALE, Ariz. – Running back Dalvin Cook eventually made an early exit in the Vikings' 34-33 loss to the Cardinals due to a sprained right ankle suffered when Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt tackled him low in the fourth quarter.
Cook, who finished with 148 yards from scrimmage, popped up and walked gingerly toward the sideline before dropping to the turf. Vikings trainers helped him to the sideline, where his right ankle was taped up. Cook returned, taking two more handoffs, but his movements were labored, and he was eventually replaced by Alexander Mattison on the final drive.
"He just got a little ankle sprain," coach Mike Zimmer said.
A healthy Cook is invaluable to the offense. His acceleration and elusiveness were two reasons why quarterback Kirk Cousins didn't even face a third down on three touchdown drives during the first half. Overall, half of Cook's 22 runs gained at least 7 yards.
He was tough to bring down, and also difficult to knock out of the game. Cook insisted on returning with the injured ankle. Teammates lauded his toughness, acknowledging the heavy workload he handles. He was injured on his 22nd touch coming in the offense's 47th play.
"There are moments where you don't know if you have him for the rest of the game and then he's back in," Cousins said. "Just did a great job coming back and being tough and playing hard, running hard. We ask a lot of him. He's a warrior."
Vigil stands out again
Linebacker Nick Vigil's standout play continued Sunday as he started again for injured linebacker Anthony Barr. Vigil, who had eight tackles, opened the second half by jumping a quick throw from Kyler Murray intended for receiver Rondale Moore. He returned the interception 38 yards for his first career touchdown, giving the Vikings a 30-24 lead.
"He was staring it down," Vigil said, "so I was able to break on it."
Vigil also nearly added a fumble recovery when corner Bashaud Breeland jarred the ball loose from Moore's hands at the goal line. But officials ruled Vigil was out of bounds before he had possession of the ball.
"I gotta start working on my toe-taps," Vigil said.
Cornerback Cameron Dantzler, the 2020 third-round pick, was quickly thrusted into the lineup again after being a healthy scratch in the season opener. Dantzler replaced Breeland, who exited the game with back tightness, according to Zimmer, and had a key end-zone deflection while covering Cardinals receiver A.J. Green in the fourth quarter.
"Dantzler practiced a lot better this week," Zimmer said. "Maybe him being inactive last week made him understand that he has to do better."
'I just sprinted'
A week after K.J. Osborn caught his first NFL pass from receiver Justin Jefferson, the second-year receiver used Jefferson to get his first NFL touchdown. On the second play of the game, Osborn aligned behind Jefferson, giving him a free release that allowed him to build up speed to catch the 64-yard touchdown. Osborn finished with a team-high 91 receiving yards on five grabs.
"I try to sneak in alignment so I can come out right on Justin's heels, and I just sprinted," Osborn said. "I saw that they left me open, and Kirk put a great ball up."
- Tight end Ben Ellefson, the North Dakota State product, made his Vikings' debut after he was a healthy scratch in Week 1. Ellefson wasn't targeted, but he had a key block on Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones during Cousins' touchdown throw to Jefferson. He was also flagged for a false start.
- Former Gophers tight end Maxx Williams had a career-high 94 receiving yards for the Cardinals, catching all seven targets. His 25-yard catch down the seam in the third quarter set up Green's 9-yard touchdown.
- The Vikings offensive line allowed just four hits (one sack) on Cousins, a week after they surrendered eight hits (three sacks) in Cincinnati. Cousins put the lone sack on him: "I mean, I ran forward. [I] would have loved to have gotten rid of the ball."