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Action Reaction: Vikings Build Off Run Success for Efficient Balance

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings outran the Lions on Sunday, revving up their ground game with Dalvin Cook gaining 206 of the team’s 275 rushing yards in a 34-20 victory at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Minnesota secured its first win at home in 2020 and improved to 3-5 on the season while Detroit fell to 3-5 at the midpoint for both teams.

Cook's performance was the eighth 200-yard game in Vikings history, and it meant a significant amount to him with Adrian Peterson, who accounted for six of the previous seven games, on the other sideline.

Pre-game question: Could the Vikings build off the success of the run game in Week 8 and implement the passing game with better conditions for throwing the football?

In-game action:

In short, Minnesota's offense fired on all cylinders, with six players combining for seven plays that gained 22 or more yards.

Minnesota showed the offensive balance of a tightrope walker without any drama of a high-wire act, starting with incredible efficiency and continuously staying ahead of the chains.

The Vikings averaged a whopping 8.9 yards per offensive play, thanks to 8.1 per rush and 10.1 per pass.

First series: Cook runs for 13, pass by Kirk Cousins to Kyle Rudolph for 22, Cook runs for 5, pass from Cousins to Justin Jefferson for 22 more, Cook for a 5-yard touchdown.

Second series: Cook runs for 9 and 11 more, pass from Cousins to Adam Thielen for 30 yards. Cook for another 5, touchdown pass from Cousins to Irv Smith, Jr., for a 9-yard touchdown.

That's two series, 10 plays (six runs, four passes), two touchdowns and not a third down in sight for a commanding lead against a Detroit squad that had scored first in each of its first seven games this season.

As impressive as those two opening drives were, Minnesota was able to respond to a 10-point run by the Lions in the second quarter by marching 87 yards on six plays in just 1:04 to finish its fourth possession of the game with its third touchdown of the day.

Minnesota only faced one second down (second-and-5) during the drive and picked it up with an 8-yard pass to Thielen to move the ball to the Minnesota 26-yard line.

The Vikings calmly followed with a 10-yard completion to Rudolph and alert movement by Cousins in the pocket before a check-down pass to Cook that the running back turned into a 29-yard gain.

Cook followed with a 13-yard run, and then Ameer Abdullah relieved him on the following play and turned a screen pass into a 22-yard score for a 20-10 lead with 15 seconds left in the first half.

While much can be made about Cook's 252 scrimmage yards, his gritty 5-yard tone-setting score and 70-yard scamper to put the game out of reach, he also showcased his value in the passing game as a receiving target and protector on a 1-yard touchdown pass to Smith in the third quarter.

Cook negated a rush by former teammate Everson Griffen, allowing Cousins to connect with the second-year tight end for his fourth career touchdown and second of the game. That gave Minnesota a 27-10 margin with 7:50 left in the third quarter.

The favor was returned by teammates who allowed Cook to reach the second level of Detroit's defense and hot-rod his way to the end zone for a 34-13 lead with 10:42 left in the game.

Cousins finished 13-of-20 passing for 220 yards with three scores and a passer rating of 141.7 that is his best as a Viking (it eeked out a 141.5 at Detroit last season).

Postgame reaction:

"Dalvin is a terrific player because it doesn't matter to him. Obviously he wants to get 200 yards every week, but he's going to do all the dirty work. He caught a [third-and-10 and converted]. He made a couple guys miss on the flip play late. But he's going to do everything. That's why he's a captain. That's why he comes to work every single day. He's a terrific leader, he's energetic, and guys in the locker room really love him."

— Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Cook executing the block for the touchdown pass to Smith

"That's the scheme. He's got the outside guy off the tackle, and so you're going to ask a lot of your running backs in protection. That's a big thing as a quarterback, whether it's Alex (Alexander Mattison) or Ameer, Dalvin, C.J. [Ham], whoever it may be, [Mike] Boone, say, 'Not only have you got to run the football, you've got to catch the football, you've got to know how to run routes and pass protect,' so it's a very diverse position in terms of what we're going to ask you to do in modern-day football."

— Cousins on Cook executing the block for the touchdown pass to Smith

"I think the most impressive run for me, among several, was the flip we pitched out to him late in the game with the corner blitz. He made the corner miss and was able to dart up the field for a big gain. That play was not looking good with that corner blitzing, but when you have a great player than can make a guy miss, it turned into a big gain. That says a lot about Dalvin and his ability, and so much of our offense today really started with our consistency running the football and staying out of third downs at times. I think we had a couple drives where we only had one third down on those two drives to start the game."

— Cousins on Cook's 200-plus rushing yards

"I'm just doing my job. That's what they brought me here for, to do my job and do it to the best of my ability. That play right there is a play we've been dialing up quite a bit. I knew Irv had a chance to score, and it was Griff' coming off the edge. (laughs) So it was a key moment in the game, and I'm just happy Irv got that second touchdown."

— Cook on blocking Griffen on the touchdown pass to Smith

"Yeah, y'all want to bleep it out or what? You know how Griff is now (laughs). It was some words being exchanged."

— Cook on if Griffen said anything during the play