As running back Dalvin Cook tears through NFL defenses, coach Mike Zimmer insists the Vikings offense is not just a one-man show. The offensive line is playing “a lot better” in back-to-back wins after the bye week, Zimmer said. He credited to good schemes from coordinator Gary Kubiak and the gelling of a lineup that now has three starts together.
The 275 rushing yards against the Lions on Sunday was a dramatic improvement from this O-line’s first start together with rookie Ezra Cleveland, the Week 6 loss to Atlanta when the Vikings ran for 32 yards without Cook.
“Riley Reiff is playing really well right now, Garrett Bradbury, I think Dakota [Dozier] has been playing well,” Zimmer said Monday. “I think [Ezra] Cleveland has done a nice job since he’s been in there and [Brian] O’Neill just keeps improving.
“They’re doing really well — Dalvin helps them, too, just as much as they help Dalvin. It’s a combination of things.”
Cook was credited with a whopping 81% of his 206 rushing yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus, making Lions defenders look silly throughout his career day. Detroit gave the Vikings some help, too, during Cook’s 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The Lions only had 10 defenders on the field. Left guard Dakota Dozier noticed immediately, as the Vikings’ play call sent Cook into the open lane.
“We had the play called and I remember looking to my left and being like, ‘Somebody should be here,’” Dozier said. “When we snapped it, I was like, ‘This could be a big one.’ I wasn’t necessarily thinking 70 [yards], but it was definitely fun to get it done.”
Mixed feelings on Soldier Field
Linebacker Eric Kendricks has been part of the Vikings’ only two wins at Soldier Field — 2015 and 2017 — since the 2007 season, and Minnesota’s persistent struggles in Chicago puzzle him ahead of Monday night’s visit. The Vikings are 2-10 in the past 12 trips to Chicago.
“Still trying to figure that out,” Kendricks said. “I actually do like playing there. I get that old-school vibe and old-school feel when I’m on that field, so it makes me feel blessed to be able to play the game.”
Special teams woes
Special teams as a whole — not just blocking for punts — will be a focus for the Vikings this week after a handful of issues against the Lions, including two penalties, two blocked kicks and allowing a 21-yard punt return. The blocked Britton Colquitt punts loomed largest.
“We had some poor technique on, really, both of them,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t play very well on special teams [Sunday]. We’ve got to play better. I have to do a better job of making sure these guys are staying on point there. I can do a lot better with that.”
Calls for continued action
Some coaches, players and staffers dedicated their time to voter registration as part of the Vikings’ social justice committee. Kendricks said the committee would continue to look for ways to become more involved after the Wilf family donated $5 million this summer toward local causes.
“Just becoming more involved, I think that’s what we all learned through this whole process,” Kendricks said. “We had a lot of people obviously vote, but on a local level, as well, as far as social justice work in the city and things like that, we all need to keep our eyes and ears open and not forget about these things and understand we got to make this world a better place.”
• The Vikings signed cornerback Cordrea Tankersley to practice squad. Tankersley, 26, was a 2017 third-round pick by the Dolphins out of Clemson.
• Former Vikings quarterback Kyle Sloter signed to the Bears’ practice squad, reuniting with his former coordinator John DeFilippo, who is now Chicago’s quarterbacks coach.