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Dalvin Cook's Dual-Threat Ability Helps Vikings Grind Out Win 

MINNEAPOLIS — On one play late in the second quarter, there was Dalvin Cook, taking a screen pass and seemingly gliding around the turf for a 31-yard gain.

And by the end of the fourth quarter, the Vikings running back was putting his head down and churning ahead for tough yards to help his team grind out a win.

Cook did a bit of everything in Minnesota's 19-9 win on Thursday Night Football, showing the country that he is a complete back with 171 total yards and a touchdown on 28 touches against Washington.

"It might have shown other people, but we already knew that," said Vikings right tackle Brian O'Neill. "But yeah, we were using him all kinds of ways tonight.

"But that's smart … he's a great player," O'Neill added.

Said Vikings left guard Pat Elflein: "We appreciate him. He's unreal with the football."

Cook said after Thursday night's win that the offense emphasized the screen game on a short week against a stout Washington defensive line.

The plan worked, as Cook tallied five receptions for 73 yards, including three plays that went for at least 15 yards.

On first-and-20 early in the second quarter, he took a screen and waltzed 18 yards for a manageable second down.

But his most impressive reception was that 31-yard gain on a screen pass where the former second-round pick made at least five Washington defenders miss as he eased his way down to the 8-yard line.

"I was looking for a touchdown. I was trying to score," Cook said. "If I get in open space, I'm trying to score a touchdown. That's just me."

Cook then added with a smile: "I ran out of gas."

The running back explained Minnesota's thinking in utilizing the deceptive pass plays to him.

"You have to be able to catch the football and make plays. You can't just sit back there and hand the football off, defenses will pin their ears back and stack the box and come after you," Cook said. "When they have to defend all the green grass … it makes it hard on them.

"We knew the type of guys we were facing … first-round guys. I think the whole D-line was first or second-round guys. A talented group. We knew what we were facing," Cook added.

"They made some plays. But Coach Zim' came in on Monday and told us we could make some plays in the screen game, and we did."

Cook also did plenty of damage on the ground, as he tallied 98 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

His longest run of the night went for 11 yards, meaning there we no highlight-reel long runs. But Cook showed his grit in picking up tough yards all night long.

That included a 4-yard touchdown run with only seven seconds left in the second quarter to give the Vikings a lead they wouldn't give up.

Asked about his confidence level in going with a run on third down and with such little time on the clock, Zimmer said, "They've got a good defensive front. They play hard. They have some very good players, they've got an extra guy in the box almost every single play. I don't know how much confidence we had in it, but I always have confidence when Dalvin or [Alexander Mattison] has got the ball."

Cook was just glad to help stack another win.

"It wasn't as pretty … it was a short week but we got it done, that's the most important thing," Cook said. "Wearing on those guys and imposing our will … it's old-school football. Run it down their throats and keep them on the field."

Cook just missed out on his sixth 100-yard game of the season, but he leads the NFL with 823 rushing yards.

He also has nine rushing touchdowns, which ties the franchise record for most rushing scores through the first eight games of any season.

Zimmer appreciates what Cook brings to the offense.

"Dalvin's a great player. He can do pretty much anything he needs to do," Zimmer said. "We thought we had an opportunity to get some screens in against them tonight and that showed up quite a few times.

"And Dalvin made some great runs," Zimmer added.

Cook can now rest up until Minnesota's Week 9 road game against Kansas City. With the Vikings at 6-2 and in the thick of the NFC playoff race, you can bet they will turn to one of the league's top running backs in the second half of the 2019 season.

"If my number gets called," Cook said. "I'm going to deliver."