MINNEAPOLIS – Does anyone have more fun playing football than Dalvin Cook?
The running back seemed to never stop smiling Sunday, and for good reason. Cook sliced and diced Detroit's defense all afternoon, racking up an incredible 206 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings 30-24 win.
The feat marked Cook's first career 200-yard outing and placed him in the company of only two other Vikings to reach the benchmark in a single game: Chuck Foreman (200 in 1976) and Adrian Peterson, who had six such games in Purple.
Perhaps fittingly, Peterson – in a Lions uniform – had a front-row seat to Cook's performance at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Cook said it "meant a lot" to play in front of Peterson, who earlier this week referred to the younger back as a "lethal weapon."
"Honestly, a guy that's done it before me, was in the same shoes I'm in just a few years ago," Cook said. "When I got drafted, I really didn't know what I was getting myself into … They drafted me to come play right away, and I had to be ready. I was just a kid then, though. Just to be playing on the field with Adrian, it's a blessing to me to soak that up every time.
"[He's a] living legend," Cook later added. "Everybody that plays the running back position probably will give you the same speech about Adrian – he's just still soaking it up, and we're doing the same thing behind him like a sponge, trying to learn as much as we can."
Cook's biggest play of the day – and second trip to the end zone – occurred in the fourth quarter and immediately answered a field goal by Detroit. No. 33 took the handoff from Kirk Cousins, followed fullback C.J. Ham through the seam and was off to the races for a 70-yard score.
"This guy right here has put together two games for the ages," CBS play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan said in admiration. "Enjoy it."
Cook's historic day came on the heels of 163 rushing yards last week at Green Bay. He became just the third player in NFL history with more than 225 scrimmage yards and at least two touchdowns in consecutive games, joining Deuce McAllister (2003) and Hall of Famer Jim Brown (1963).
Cook also is the sixth player in league history and first since Emmitt Smith (1994) with a rushing touchdown in each of his first seven games of a season.
"Dalvin's a great player," Head Coach Mike Zimmer said postgame. "I think he runs extremely hard, he's physical, he's hard to take down. He's got great acceleration."
Per usual, Cook shared the love with his offensive linemen, who also deserve due credit along with others doing the dirty work in the trenches.
"You've got to commend the guys up front: receivers, tight ends, my whole O-line, fullback, all those guys, man, for making this thing open for me to hit some holes and get some daylight out there," Cook said.
Zimmer also pointed out the success up front:
"I thought Cookie ran the ball exceptionally well. He did run exceptionally well, but our offensive line did a great job. The tight ends, C.J. Ham … that was [good]."
The Vikings have totaled 448 rushing yards over the past two divisional games behind an offensive line that Zimmer said is "settling in."
"When you can run the ball … like we have, it tightens everything up," Zimmer said. "They had a whole bunch of zero blitzes in there today, or extra rushers coming, really, to stop the run. Once that happens, then you have some more opportunities to create some plays down the field. The score didn't tell us to do that at those particular times, but for us to be able to run the football against those kinds of things and get big runs – you know, if you get the one extra guy blocked, you have a chance to get some big opportunities."
Minnesota's success in the run game also took the pressure off Cousins. He finished 13-of-20 passing for 220 yards, three touchdowns and a 141.7 passer rating against a Detroit defense that featured former Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen.
"We've been able to be explosive with those fewer attempts and still be able to move the football," Cousins said. "I also think it keeps us from having to drop back all of the time, which is what defenses want. [They] want to be able to rush the passer, so anytime you can run the football, it really gives your entire offense, and you're able to kind of control the situation, so it's a real positive."
Rookie Justin Jefferson led the team in receiving with 64 yards, followed by Kyle Rudolph with 40. Cousins connected in the end zone twice with second-year tight end Irv Smith, Jr.; the third airborne touchdown went to running back Ameer Abdullah.
Usually utilized more frequently on special teams than on offense, Abdullah made the most of his only target against his former team.
The screen play capped off a six-play, 1:04 drive just before halftime. The Vikings moved the ball well and picked up chunks of yardage, including a 29-yard catch by Cook, without the need for any deep shots.
"[The Lions] were doing a good job taking away some things down the field," Cousins said. "You have to go where your reads take you, and those guys have to make plays down the field. Dalvin did on the linebacker in man coverage, and Ameer obviously did on the screen. We had a couple runs that hit as well, so it was a nice combination of plays to get down there."
Cook was elated to see Abdullah eek the ball inside the pylon for a 22-yard score.
"I hoping so bad that they just let my guy get his touchdown. You know, Ameer has been through so much as a player. But as a person, if you meet him, he's so smart," Cook said. "The way he carries himself, the way he goes about his business, nothing rattles him. He's a sound human being.
"That's a guy right there to be around. To have his experience and him around us is so great for the group," he added. "To see him get that touchdown is so great. I hope more come his way this season."
Cook is happy to share the wealth. But no matter how you look at it, he's taking the league by storm. Even after being sidelined Week 6 due to injury, Cook leads the NFL in rushing with 858 yards through seven games. And don't forget about the 12 rushing touchdowns, which are the most in the league, and 173 receiving yards.
"Just turning it loose. Just trying to do it all for my team to get a win," Cook said. "Obviously, we started this thing behind the 8-ball … We lost some games that we weren't supposed to lose, and we know that. We're just trying to play catch-up, and I'm just trying to give my team a fighting chance."
Now sitting at 3-5 after back-to-back wins and heading into a third straight divisional game, the Vikings have shown they haven't lost their fight.
"Those guys up front, they're going to go home today with a lot of confidence that we can run the football," Cook said. "And we've got that confidence going into Monday Night Football."