SPOTLIGHT ON DALVIN COOK

Dialed-down workload is OK

Number grade (out of 10): 6.0

Cook didn’t need a purple cape to save the Vikings offense during Sunday’s 28-27 comeback win. He had a relatively quiet afternoon, finishing with 22 touches for 82 yards from scrimmage. Cook rebounded from a third-quarter ankle injury, one on which he needed two Vikings trainers to help him off the field. Cook pushed to return to the game, according to coach Mike Zimmer, but the Vikings didn’t lean on him afterward. He had just five carries for 21 rushing yards on the 36 plays after he limped off the field.

Positive: strong when it counts

Cook’s elusiveness was put in check by a stout Panthers defensive front. He was responsible for just two of the Vikings’ 10 biggest plays, but Cook’s 14-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter signaled to everyone that he would be all right after the injury scare. The 14-yard run also brought Cousins and the Vikings offense into Panthers territory on the eight-point drive that cut the deficit to 24-21 with about six minutes remaining.

Negative: ball security blip

Cook’s 22 touches are his fewest since he left the Oct. 5 loss at Seattle in the third quarter (with 22 touches) because of a groin injury. His durability remains the biggest question, but it also wasn’t ideal to see him cough up the football for a second straight week. Cook had lost only one fumble in eight games before losing two in the past two games. The play could’ve been whistled dead as Cook was held up in a pile, but Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn ripped the ball loose and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.

Extra Point: if not by ground ...

The Vikings’ last two wins — at Chicago and vs. Carolina — have come while rushing for just four and seven first downs. Paced by Cook, the offense typically clears at least 10 rushing first downs in its wins, but the Vikings have found other ways to move the chains against the Bears and Panthers. It’s also a sign that the Vikings offensive line was outclassed, as Carolina totaled nine hits on Cousins and added three tackles for losses.

Quotable

“If you would’ve told me we would’ve held Dalvin Cook to [61] yards rushing and lost the game, I wouldn’t have believed it. Credit to them for finding a way to win the game at the end.” — Panthers head coach Matt Rhule