Number grade (out of 10): 8.5
Running back Dalvin Cook continues to be the spark igniting the Vikings offense. On the team’s second offensive series, in coordinator Gary Kubiak’s response to an opening possession that ended in a third-down sack, Cook took five touches within six plays, which gained two first downs and a touchdown for the 7-0 lead. Once quarterback Kirk Cousins completed a 29-yard pass to receiver Justin Jefferson in the first quarter, Kubiak didn’t mess around in the red zone, calling six straight runs with only one not going to Cook. He’s now the NFL’s rushing leader at 424 yards on 75 carries, a workload trailing only Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon.
The Good Tackle shredder
Cook bulked up this offseason in an effort to become more durable, and perhaps it’s made him even harder to bring down for defenses. Cook’s 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, when he bounced off three Texans defenders and stiff-armed a fourth defender, was a marvel that shows why he also leads the NFL with six rushing touchdowns. Five have come inside the 10-yard line. Cook is paying dividends on the five-year, $63 million extension he signed just before the season started.
The Bad Collective sigh
There isn’t much to nitpick about Cook’s game, but Vikings fans must’ve held their collective breath for a second straight week when he was slow to get up, this time with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter in Houston. After the 15-yard run, in which he slipped two Texans defenders and ran into his own blocker, Cook cringed as he walked off the field with Vikings trainers. The injury cloud has loomed over Cook from college to the NFL, and he has appeared in 33 of 51 regular-season games as a pro.
One analysis Living on the edge
Cook consistently gashed the Texans defense when Kubiak leaned on the outside zone running game, which was a central part of the game plan during the week, according to Cook. He had a couple of runs break for more than 5 yards up the middle, but many of Cook’s 130 rushing yards came while running behind tackles Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill on the outside. Vikings players felt like they could outrun a pretty physical Texans front to the edges.
“It’s probably the biggest linebacker corps I’ve seen. We knew if we got those guys running sideways and used our speed to get on the edge and then get on the corners with receivers making good blocks, then we could get some yardage out there. We knew what we was getting into.” – Cook on why the Vikings had success running around the Texans defense