EAGAN, Minn. — Even though this is his sixth year in the NFL, there have been quite a few "firsts" for Vikings running back Dalvin Cook this season.
There was his first trip to London last month, with Minnesota narrowly defeating the New Orleans Saints 28-25.
Then there was Cook's first NFL game in his hometown of Miami a couple of weeks later. In front of his family and friends, Cook ran for 77 yards on 13 carries, highlighted by a 53-yard fourth-quarter touchdown.
Cook will experience yet another "first" when the Vikings (7-1) visit the Buffalo Bills (6-2) at noon (CT) Sunday: playing against his younger brother James.
Buffalo's 23-year-old running back was the 63rd overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
"It's definitely going to be fun," Dalvin said on Wednesday. "It's just funny how things work out. We made it to the stages of our career that we aimed for when were younger. So, we've just got to take advantage of it."
In eight games with the Bills, James has rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown on 28 attempts. He's also hauled in seven catches for 96 yards.
Meanwhile, Dalvin has recorded 608 yards on 131 carries and five touchdowns in eight games for the Vikings. He's also caught 19 receptions for 119 yards and a score.
That aerial touchdown occurred Sunday during Minnesota's 20-17 victory at Washington. The Vikings trailed 17-10 and faced a second-and-10 from the Washington 12-yard line when quarterback Kirk Cousins floated the ball up to Dalvin, who made a one-handed catch to tie the game with 7:46 remaining.
It was just the fourth receiving touchdown of Cook's career and first since the 2020 season.
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said Dalvin has a "natural ability" to catch the football as a running back.
"Dalvin is a special football player and a special teammate. You're always proud of guys, you're always happy for guys when they're not only great football players, but great people. I was so pumped for him … to showcase his abilities," Thielen said. "He can obviously be one of the best running backs in the league, but the way he can catch the football, he's very natural. We're going to need that moving forward because that's another key piece to spreading that ball around and making it really tough on defenses. He did catch that [with] one-hand, so that was pretty impressive."
Dalvin also delivered another big play on Sunday, serving as the lead blocker during a designed run for wide receiver Justin Jefferson on third-and-1 from the Washington 31-yard line.
As Jefferson ran a sweep, Dalvin served as a lead blocker, keeping Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis from getting to Jefferson, who gained 10 yards on the play.
Dalvin said he just does "whatever it takes" if his number is called outside of the run game.
"Each year you get opportunities to go out and showcase your abilities, and [Head Coach Kevin O'Connell's] been giving me opportunities to go out there and show my case," Dalvin said. "And it's just evolving each and every year. Just putting in the work every offseason to get better."
O'Connell said Dalvin's ability to make clutch plays — whether it's running, receiving or blocking — just adds more to the offensive firepower.
"I think [the 12-yard touchdown catch] just speaks volumes of where he's at in our offense. We're trying to find ways to get him touches in a variety of ways," O'Connell said. "Dalvin's explosiveness, his ability to make that catch in that moment, I think you feel the big-time nature of who he is as a player and playmaker, and we've just got to continue to find ways to do that while also getting all of our guys involved. We're trying to get everybody involved, and Kirk's done a great job of kind of playing point guard distributing the football."
Dalvin added getting more opportunities in the pass game, especially in the red zone, goes back to the belief that O'Connell has in him.
"Like I said, just that belief, believing in me to make that play. Dialing that route up for me, putting me in a position to help the team win the game," Dalvin said. "Just returning that favor, [O'Connell] believing in me and just returning that love back, making that play for the team and putting us back in the game."
Dalvin and the Vikings will face a stiff test on Sunday, with the Bills ranking sixth in rushing yards allowed per game (104.9).
Dalvin said if the run game is struggling, he takes it upon himself to make plays either in the backfield or elsewhere.
"When the run game [isn't] what it's supposed to be, [I've got to] just keep at it and just find a way to make a play. That's always [been] my mindset. Find a way to make a play," Dalvin said. "The run game is going to be tough sledding some days. That's just how it is in this league. [Washington had] good players on defense, and [it was] just how it worked out. Just to find a way to make a play and move on."
When it comes to offering his brother advice in navigating his rookie season, Dalvin said he'll always be there.
"I be there as much as I can for him. He knows my phone is always on ring for him, he can call me anytime, I'll answer. Any little thing he wants to know, I'm always there for him," Dalvin said. "I know how that rookie year gets, that rookie wall and stuff like that, just going through the moments. Just being there for him and talking him through it, but I think he's having a great time. He's in a great place. I just think he's still got plays to make down the line; he's going to get an opportunity to do that. [I'm] just happy for him to be in the NFL with me."
But Dalvin quickly noted there will be some trash talk, too.
"Every day. Every day. Every day," Dalvin said. "I'll talk to him. Just call him and mess with him and see where his head is at."
Dalvin added it'll be a unique moment for his family come Sunday.
"Yeah, it's different. I never had the opportunity to be in this predicament. But one of the best to be in," Dalvin said. "It's a fun time for my family. But it's something that I will remember forever. Just taking it all in — a lot of emotions Sunday."