MINNEAPOLIS – When Dalvin Cook felt the ball hit his hands, he was determined the reach the end zone.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins dropped back near the 35 and flipped the ball to Cook, who made the catch in stride at the 33 and was off to the races. The running back surged ahead and through a cluster of Packers before trotting into the purple paint for the score.
Cook’s touchdown was the Vikings first of the night and tied the game at 7.
He credited Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo with a good play call and recounted the run for media members postgame.
“Pat [Elflein] got out there and got a great block on [linebacker Blake Martinez], and on the perimeter, [Stefon] Diggs and those guys, they block their tail off each and every play,” Cook said. “Once I saw Pat get out there and do what he needed to do, I just said, ‘I’m not getting caught at the 1-yard line anymore; I’ve got to get in the end zone.
“It was a will thing at that point,” Cook added.
For the second-year back, the touchdown in a way felt like the last personal hurdle after coming back from a torn ACL suffered last season and then missing time this year with a hamstring injury.
“You want to get in that end zone. You see guys celebrating, and you want to be involved in it,” Cook said. “Just getting in the end zone, it felt great. No better feeling.”
It was Cook’s turn to do the celebrating, and he made it count.
Laquon Treadwell, Rashod Hill and Tom Compton hoisted up Adam Thielen, who became a human bar for Cook to limbo under. He shimmied beneath Thielen and was followed by Diggs and rookie tackle Brian O’Neill.
“That wasn’t planned, right there,” Cook laughed of O’Neill running in to join the fun. “But I’m happy for [Brian] because they do so much dirty work, so getting his own and seeing those guys celebrate, that’s big. That’s a relief; they worked hard the whole drive.
“Whoever got there first was going to do it. I’m just happy I got in first,” Cook added. “I had to yell at Thielen and remind him that we were doing it. It was great; it actually turned out great.”
Thielen was a good sport with the celebration.
“It was supposed to be the lightest guy on the field, so Diggs was supposed to be up there,” Thielen laughed. “But Dalvin really wanted to do it, so I jumped up.”
The score was Cook’s first of this season and first receiving touchdown of his career. Asked about that significance, he flashed a smile.
“A touchdown, period,” Cook said. “It’s been a long time, man.”
Cook finished the night with three catches for 47 yards. On the ground, he carried the ball 10 times for 29 yards.
Latavius Murray led the Vikings in rushing with 33 yards on 11 attempts, and Cousins scrambled six times for 17 yards. Overall, Minnesota finished with 91 yards rushing on 29 carries.
Murray talked earlier in the week about the importance of making runs count in order to keep them in the play calls. Even when the Vikings got behind early in the ball game, they did stay more committed to the run game than in the previous game.
“What we have to do as an offense to be successful [is] continue to move the ball and play physical; I think that wears on a defense,” Murray said. “We have to be successful when [DeFilippo] calls the runs, and if we do that, we get some more runs called. I think that’s what it’s about.”
Added Murray: “It really is a mentality, and I think when we establish that, we’re a very dangerous team.”
The Vikings running backs room has shown before it’s a close-knit group, and it was reflected again Sunday. Murray didn’t score himself but was thrilled to see Cook get in the end zone.
“I was excited for him. That’s what he does – a big-time player. We know as running backs, when we can create a spark and go out there and make plays, this offense feeds off of that,” Murray said. “I think we’re all locked in on that, trying to make plays, and he’s a play-maker.”
Murray glanced over at Cook, a few lockers down, to make sure his teammate was listening.
“I was more impressed with the limbo,” Murray quipped. “Hopefully his back is all right and not stiff or locked up, because it looked like it was a little tough to get under that.”
Cousins is in his first season with the Vikings and has limited reps with Cook but said he’s anticipating more plays with the 2017 second-round pick. He also called the touchdown a “long time coming” for Cook.
“I’m looking forward to continue to give him opportunities like that,” Cousins said. “It’s so fun to see guys like that having success.”
It’s easy to get drawn in by the splash plays, but Cook is an asset to the Vikings in more ways than one.
Diggs reminded that Cook is an “every-down back” and plays an important role in pass blocking, as well.
“He does everything. He catches screens, he pass-protects and he runs extremely hard,” Diggs said. “He’s a play-maker. We play off each other. We feed off of the energy that he brings.
“He breaks tackles. He’s strong,” Diggs said. “I wouldn’t want to tackle him, you know what I’m saying? I’m just happy for him.”
Cook’s postgame attire carried some irony. He donned a striped shirt that read “Anonymous” across the front, but the 23-year-old is anything but.
After getting off to a hot start before having his rookie campaign cut short, he looks to be finding his groove again and reminding defenses that he’s back. But as much as Cook enjoyed contributing to the Vikings defeat of their division rivals, he was quick to emphasize the team win.
“We locked in on the details, we took care of the football, Kirk only got sacked twice,” Cook said. “We played team football today. It was great to see us go out and compete like that.
“We knew we had to come out here and rebound in front of our fans – that’s number one,” Cook added. “We’re home. We have to protect our house. It’s our house, and I think we came out here and did a good job of that.”