The Vikings bounced back from a disappointing Week 9 loss and nabbed a hard-fought win over the Cowboys in prime time on Sunday night.
In NFL.com's "What We Learned" series breaking down the weekend's slate of games, Jeremy Bergman pointed out that in a battle of the running backs, Minnesota's Dalvin Cook came out on top.
Plenty of hype surrounded the featuring a pair of star backs in Cook and Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott, but Cook thrived while Elliott's attempts were largely thwarted. Bergman wrote:
Pitted in a battle of bona fide backs, Dalvin Cook outplayed Elliott in Sunday night's slugfest. Minnesota put a lot on the back's legs, as Cook played a pivotal role in extending drives on the ground and in the air. Cook compiled 183 total yards on 33 touches against Dallas (97 rushing, 86 receiving), becoming just the second player this season to record 80-plus yards rushing and receiving in the same game.
The back's devastating blend of physicality and acceleration made it look like Cook was shot out of a cannon when he hit the second level on the photogenic AT&T Stadium turf. Elliott didn't follow Monday night's standout game with a similar outing (47 yards on 20 carries), but that's partially to blame on Minnesota's top-10 rush defense and Dallas' desire to rely on [Dak] Prescott and the passing game against Mike Hughes and the Vikings secondary.
Cousins' and Rudolph's understated showings in the Vikings win, just their first victory on the road against a team currently with a winning record, helped prove that Minnesota (7-3) deserves to be regarded as among the cream of the NFC's crop, alongside San Francisco, New Orleans and rival Green Bay.
View postgame celebration images from Sunday as the Vikings beat the Cowboys by a 28-24 score.
Vikings 'flipped the script' at AT&T Stadium
Minnesota's offensive success last night can largely be defined by a third-quarter drive in which the Vikings strung together 10 straight run plays.
Vikings Senior Editor Craig Peters spotlighted that series in this week's Action Reaction, and Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News also pointed to the possession as a difference-maker … but from the Cowboys perspective. He wrote:
_Football is an inherently physical sport. No NFL game is paddy cake. But on Sunday evening, there seemed to be a clash of styles, as the Cowboys were in the unfamiliar position of being the less forceful outfit on the field. _
[Alexander] Mattison for 4 yards. Cook for 6 and 14. Mattison for 12 yards, 3 and 16. Pound. Pound. Pound. Three of the final four were to Cook, the NFL's leading rusher who finally rumbled for a 2-yard score on fourth down, setting up [Kyle] Rudolph's two-point conversion.
Gehlken quoted Cowboys linebacker Joe Thomas, who said he and his teammates knew what type of an offense they were facing.
"We knew what it was going to be," Thomas said. "That's the way they're built. They're big up front. … We knew they were going to come out and try to run the ball, do what we do on offense. They accomplished that."
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones also tipped his hat to Minnesota, as Gehlken pointed out:
"I was impressed with how they were able to run the ball," Jones said. "We know you've got to be physical to get that done, and I thought they did a real good job of getting their runners out in space. I was really impressed. Running the ball, being physical, that takes a lot out of the opposing team."
It was a strange sight, watching a team impose itself against the Cowboys in the same manner the Cowboys seek to impose themselves against opponents.
Cook provided Vikings with 'critical balance' against Cowboys
There's no denying that Cousins played well at Dallas, but even more effective than smart quarterback play was the overall balance Minnesota played with offensively.
Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon wrote about the Vikings marrying of the run and pass against the Cowboys, which enabled them to talk away with a 28-24 win and improve to 7-3 on the season.
Gagnon pointed to Cook's explosive ability and added that "nobody can stop" the running back. Gagnon wrote:
The 24-year-old's brutal, punishing and relentless approach wore the Cowboys down and gave the Vikings critical balance against a defense that could never let loose on Cousins. His presence set the tempo, and it limited the chances for [mistakes by Cousins].
Minnesota controlled the ball for 56 percent of the game, and the Cowboys offense had just three possessions in the second half before it had to activate Hail Mary mode in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter.
Gagnon quoted Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett, who said the following:
"They did a good job in the second half running the football. They had a lot of plays in the third quarter of the ball game where they were able to run it and convert third downs and keep drives alive. Our opportunities were few and far between in that part of the game."