Running back Dalvin Cook had one of the most inefficient days of his six-year NFL career during the Vikings' 34-23 loss to the Lions. He was consistently hit early behind a patchwork offensive line offering little daylight against an improved Detroit defense.

The end result was one of the most lopsided offensive performances in recent memory. Cook finished with 23 rushing yards on 15 carries — including a long of 5 yards — while quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 425 yards and receiver Justin Jefferson set the franchise's single-game regular-season mark of 223 receiving yards.

Cousins and Jefferson might need to shoulder less of the burden on Saturday against a Colts defense that has surrendered 220 rushing yards to the Cowboys and 172 rushing yards to the Steelers in back-to-back losses.

"I feel like [the Lions] played with more energy than us at times," Cook said Tuesday, "and did some good things in the run game to not [let us] get going. We just got to regroup and be us this week."

Left tackle Christian Darrisaw and center Garrett Bradbury are expected to return from injuries and reinforce an offensive line that forced Cook to generate more yards after contact — 29 — than yardage he gained past the line of scrimmage. Only the Jaguars' Travis Etienne (17 carries for 32 yards) also needed to create more yards past contact than what he gained on Sunday, per Pro Football Focus.

"Missing 40 per cent of original starters on O-line, there are some communication and details of how we're getting to the second level," head coach Kevin O'Connell said. "Trying to be out in front of some of those linebacker run-throughs, coming off combo blocks in a timely manner, some fundamental and technique things."

Normal starters weren't immune to the lapses. Right guard Ed Ingram was beat by Lions defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs when Cook fumbled away a trick play — a called pass from Cook to tight end Johnny Mundt at the goal line. Cook said it's on him to take care of the ball but didn't recall the last time he threw in a game.

"I throw the football with my little cousins," Cook said laughing. "That ain't my job. They ask me to do it, I'm going to do it. If it comes down to it, I'm going to get the job done. This game is about taking yourself out to the backyard and playing football. But I'm a runner. That's my thing."

Hicks, Phillips among four sidelined

Linebacker Jordan Hicks (ankle), nose tackle Harrison Phillips (back), cornerback Cameron Dantzler (illness) and tackle Blake Brandel (knee) were held out of Tuesday's walkthrough, a limited session held about 48 hours after the Vikings' loss in Detroit. Before practice, O'Connell said he hopes Hicks will return to the field Wednesday after playing through the injury against the Lions.

Bradbury (back), safety Harrison Smith (neck) and defensive lineman James Lynch (shoulder) were limited. Darrisaw is off the injury report for the first time since suffering two concussions in November against the Bills and Cowboys, setting him up to return Saturday.

Defuse the explosives

Cornerback Chandon Sullivan has played in a similar defensive scheme that was successful in Green Bay under former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine — now the Vikings' assistant head coach — in 2019 and 2020, as well as under current Packers coordinator Joe Barry in 2021. During all three seasons, the Packers ranked top 10 in yardage or points allowed.

So what needs to change in Minnesota?

"Just stop explosives," Sullivan said of the deep throws they've allowed. "That's the name of the game. Make a team earn it. If they drive down the field, get a field goal, touchdown, whatever, they have to earn it. We can't give them anything. Hats off to Detroit, they executed, but a lot of that was on us. That's uncharacteristic and we'll get it fixed."


  • Running back Alexander Mattison said Tuesday he intends to appeal the $6,503 fine he got from the NFL for his twerking touchdown celebration in the Dec. 4 win against the Jets.