MINNEAPOLIS — There were plenty of questions about how John DeFilippo elected to run things in his 13 games as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. Atop that list might have been the way that DeFilippo used, or didn’t use, running back Dalvin Cook.
It didn’t help matters that after missing much of last season because of a torn ACL in his left knee, Cook was sidelined for five games because of a hamstring injury suffered in Week 2 in Green Bay.
But Cook had been healthy for several weeks and still DeFilippo often seemed less than interested in allowing him to play a primary role in the offense. This was part of the reason DeFilippo was shown the door last Tuesday and, not surprisingly, Cook’s role changed in the Vikings’ 41-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Cook finished with 136 yards rushing on 19 carries and two touchdowns and also caught a pass for 27 yards on two targets. There is room for quarterback Kirk Cousins to use Cook more in the passing game but this was definitely what should be asked of him as far as running the ball.
The 136 yards established a career high for Cook — his previous 100-yard game came in Week 1 of 2017 when the then-rookie had 127 yards on 22 carries in a win over the Saints — and his 19 carries topped his season high by three.
“I love that,” Cook said when asked about getting the ball more. “We got the ‘W’ so we love that. Like I said, the ball gets in my hands, I’m going to try to make a play every time. No matter if I get 10, five, no matter how many carries I get, my job is to make a play and today I went out there and made a few plays.”
Added Vikings coach Mike Zimmer: “Cook is a pretty talented player and when he’s got the ball in his hands typically good things happen.”
That’s why Zimmer had repeatedly talked about running the ball more in recent weeks and why he promoted Stefanski from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator last week. What was odd was why DeFilippo seemed resistant to utilizing Cook more frequently. The excuse-makers will say it’s because the Vikings offensive line isn’t very good but that goes both ways.
Asking Kirk Cousins to be something he’s not — say a top-10 NFL quarterback — puts too much on him and is a recipe for disaster. (Minkah Fitzpatrick’s 50-yard touchdown return of a Cousins interception on Sunday gives the QB 10 interceptions and seven lost fumbles this season.)
Giving Cook a bigger role in the offense makes perfect sense. It certainly would have been the wise move in the Vikings’ loss two weeks ago at New England when Cook averaged 9.3 yards per rush but only was handed the ball nine times. He also caught a season-high eight passes for 22 yards in that game.
Cook was seen shaking hands with his offensive linemen after Sunday’s game in which the line played well. “No them, no me,” Cook said when asked about his message. “They opened holes that were too good. You all probably could have hit them holes. You’ve got to give credit to those guys. That’s why I told them after (Cook’s) first touchdown that one of them has got to spike it.”
Cook’s first scoring run went for 13 yards to the outside in the opening quarter and his second was a 21-yard run in the fourth that featured an incredible spin move.
Good lord this Dalvin Cook spin move 😳😳😳 pic.twitter.com/OistbcBOXG
— CJ Fogler (@cjzer0) December 16, 2018
“He did a great job,” Cousins said. “He showed the elite-ability that he has to make people miss. His touchdown run, his early one, we had the exact same play called last week (against Seattle) to the exact same side. The cornerback was unblocked exactly like he was today and the corner made the tackle last week. On the sidelines I said to him, ‘Next time that corner doesn’t make that tackle, you make him miss and if you make him miss it’s a big play.’
“Today, I handed off and I had a front row seat. I saw that corner there and I said, ‘make him miss,’ and he did. He ran for a touchdown. You can’t block all of them but that’s why you try to get the most talented running backs you can. Because if they can make the unblocked player miss they can be very dynamic.”
Cook wasn’t the only contributor in the running game on Sunday but he was the most important. Latavius Murray added 68 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown as the Vikings had a season-best 220 yards rushing and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. It was only the fourth game this season in which the Vikings rushed for more than 100 yards as a team.
If Cook was wondering why it took so long to get him this involved, he wasn’t willing to say it on Sunday, even though many were thinking it.
“We’re not going to go backwards, we’re going to go forwards,” Cook said when asked about his usage under DeFilippo. “We had a good game plan today, we executed, we won and we’re going to go forward from here. Everything that happened in the past is gone. We can’t control that, we can’t do nothing about that. We can control what we can control right now. So that’s all I can tell you.”