The Vikings got in their groove on the ground for much of Sunday's game against the Titans.
Instead of falling behind by double-digits like in the first two weeks, never trailed by more than six against Tennessee. Late faltering on both sides of the ball led to a 31-30 loss.
While there are plenty of possibilities to break down the breakdowns that resulted in Minnesota opening a season 0-3 for just the sixth time in 60 seasons, here's another look at a pair of 39-yard runs by Dalvin Cook on his way to a career-high 181 rushing yards.
The 8.2 yards averaged by Cook per carry were a career best in a game with at least 11 carries. He rushed 22 times after totaling just 26 attempts in Weeks 1 and 2.
Cook has been nominated for the FedEx Ground Player of Week 3 for his big day. Fans can vote for Cook here.
Q1, 2:51 remaining — First-and-10 at the Tennessee 39
Minnesota was able to create all of the crease that Cook needed with some nice blocking on a 39-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
The Vikings have moved the chains on three consecutive second downs with an 11-yard rush by Cook and catches of 11 and 9 yards by Justin Jefferson.
Minnesota then implements 13 personnel with Cook at running back and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Conklin on the right side of the line of scrimmage and Irv Smith, Jr., as the move tight end.
The Vikings pull Dakota Dozier, and the left guard is able to nullify Kenny Vaccaro as the safety comes crashing down. Smith then puts an impressive block on linebacker Rashaan Evans — the tight end's former teammate at Alabama — that allows Cook to mash the gas and take an angle to the end zone.
"Dalvin, all you have to do is give him a little crack, and he's going to make something shake with it," Smith said. "It's awesome just having a guy back there, and on that play, it was really cool because I did a lot of that in college, kind of counter stuff, and it was nice being able to come back and do that in this game and make a big play for our team."
Q3, 11:42 remaining — Third-and-1 at the Minnesota 33
Note: the play referenced below begins at the 12-second mark of this video.
Rather than trying to ramrod for a first down against a strong Titans defensive front, the Vikings use creativity.
Minnesota incorporates 21 personnel with Cook and fullback C.J. Ham in the backfield and Rudolph at tight end. The Vikings have the ball on the right hash mark and motion Ham before the snap to the right side of the line.
Kirk Cousins takes the snap and immediately tosses left to Cook, who has a 1-on-1 against outside linebacker Harold Landry III and space in every direction.
Landry does a better job than many might of getting to the corner and behind the line of scrimmage, but Cook puts a move on him near the 30-yard line that sends the linebacker to the turf. The running back picks up a block from Adam Thielen on cornerback Malcolm Butler.
Butler is on the Vikings sideline with his back to the field. He thinks the play is over (which could be a byproduct of not hearing fans react to Cook's dynamic getaway). The cornerback comes back into the field of play and tries to punch the ball from Cook but misses at the Tennessee 49.
Cook picks up another 21 yards with some incredible footwork down the sideline.