EAGAN, Minn. — Over the past few years, NFL players have developed a postgame ritual of trading jerseys with a member from the opposing team.
Sometimes the players went to college together or grew up in the same city, and sometimes guys try to snag the jersey of a legendary player who has had an illustrious career.
When the clock hits zero Sunday afternoon, Dalvin Cook is going to make a beeline for Dolphins running back Frank Gore.
“I’m going to get mine,” Cook exclaimed. “I have to get that Frank jersey. I have to have it.”
Cook and Gore both have ties to Miami, where they both grew up, and went to high schools 15 miles apart.
The Vikings running back said Friday that he’s gotten to know Gore well over the years.
“I definitely followed Frank [as a kid],” Cook said. “Frank was a guy that I looked up to. Now Frank has got kids, and his kids look up to me. It’s just a Miami thing with Frank.”
Gore was a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by San Francisco, and has parlayed his talent and work ethic into an incredible career.
The 35-year-old — and Future Hall of Famer — ranks fourth all-time with 14,734 career rushing yards.
“Frank Gore is a tremendous back,” said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. “He’s very physical, great runner, great vision.
“He’s been a great back in this league for a long time,” Zimmer added. “It’s a credit and a testimony to him that he’s been able to do it this long.”
Cook said that there is no question that Gore is one of the most underrated players of his generation.
“The only way you would know that is if someone said it … a person isn’t going to think he’s fourth all-time because he flies under the radar so much,” Cook said. “But if you’re a real running back and fan of the game, you know that Frank is the big brother of the running backs.”
Gore has rushed for at least 950 yards in 11 of his 13 completed seasons, and is on pace for 944 yards in 2018.
He’s only put up one double-digit touchdown season in his career, but has simply shown up to work each day and gotten his job done.
In a quintessential Gore game against the Vikings in Week 15 of the 2016 season, the running back had 26 carries for 101 yards and no touchdowns in a win at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Gore has 708 rushing yards on 151 carries with no touchdowns this season, as he’s averaging almost 4.7 yards per carry, an average on par with his 2012 Pro Bowl season in San Francisco.
The Vikings defense knows it will be a long day’s work against Gore. So, too, does Cook.
“Humble. Loves the game, loves the work,” Cook said of Gore. “Just a real grinder.”
A pair of miracles
Stefon Diggs knows a thing or two about miraculous plays.
In case you forgot, here’s a refresher.
So what was the Vikings wide receiver’s reaction to the ‘Miami Miracle,’ a 69-yard touchdown the Dolphins pulled off on the final play of their Week 14 win over New England?
“I would say it’s better than mine,” Diggs said. “Mine just happened at a critical time, playoffs, but on the last play of the game, how it came up, it was a hell of a play, man. I watched it.”
Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase countered that Diggs’ heroic catch as part of “The Minneapolis Miracle” was more important simply because it came in the postseason.
“Oo, that’s tough,” Gase said when asked to compare the two plays. “But, the thing that probably amps theirs up even more was the fact that it was a playoff game.
“Just being in those, with my experience of being in the playoffs, those games are so intense, and the emotional swings are so great, I can’t even imagine how they felt after that,” Gase added.
Zimmer noted that he felt the emotions for both teams after seeing the play.
“I think that obviously they did a great job of being able to move the ball down the field that way,” Zimmer said of the Dolphins. “There’s a little of both. They did a great job, I feel bad for New England because they got beat on a play that probably shouldn’t have happened.
“But it did, and the more that you’re in the NFL you see these kind of things all of the time, the Hail Mary by [Packers quarterback Aaron] Rodgers and all the different things that go on,” Zimmer added. “That’s why I’m never comfortable until that last zero hits the clock.”
Miami now sits at 7-6 and is trying to use their own miracle to propel them to a playoff berth.
“Well, we really don’t have a choice. We’re in survival mode as far as, every game is big for us,” Gase said. “We have to do everything we can to try to win this one. We don’t have time to get caught up in last week – that’s over and done, and we have to move on to the next one.”
Be on alert
Watch out for the deep ball on Sunday when the Dolphins offense is on the field.
Miami ranks 22nd in the NFL with 21.4 points per game, but the Dolphins are known for highlight-reel touchdowns.
Miami has racked up 16 offensive touchdowns outside of the red zone in 2018, which is the most in the league. (The Vikings have 10 touchdowns of 21-plus yards and are one of 12 teams in the double digits).
“They’re explosive,” said Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. “I think they’re the No. 1 scoring offense outside the red zone.
“A lot of deep shots, a lot of big plays,” Barr added. “They had a couple big plays last week against New England. We have our work cut out for us.”
Of those 16 lengthy Dolphins touchdowns, 14 have come through the air. Ryan Tannehill has thrown nine of them, and backup Brock Osweiler has three such scores. Wide receivers Albert Wilson [who is on Injured Reserve] and Danny Amendola have also each thrown touchdown passes from outside of the red zone this season.