Kirk Cousins dropped back, faked a handoff to Dalvin Cook and then arced a screen pass over a defender and into Cook’s hands.
“The Chef” then did the rest, dodging through blue jerseys and breaking a handful of tackles to move the chains 22 yards.
Cook’s big play moved Minnesota inside the red zone, and the Vikings soon after capped their opening drive with a field goal to take a three-point lead over the Giants.
“We started fast. We stayed on schedule. We did everything that [Head Coach Mike Zimmer] came in on Monday and told us we had to do,” Cook said after Minnesota’s 28-10 win. “I think with us coming out here and having a great intensity and playing faster than them, jumping on them fast, that kind of paid off.”
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski implemented screen passes into Sunday’s game plan more than once, and it proved effective.
Cook’s longest catch of day occurred when he turned a screen on second-and-6 into a 24-yard gain. He caught all six passes that Cousins threw his way for 86 yards, second on the team behind Adam Thielen’s 130 yards through the air.
“It opened up more for [the receivers] because they’ve got to play me honest and can’t just leave me down there,” Cook said of his involvement in the passing game. “I pride myself on making the first guy miss, so they can’t play me with a linebacker. They’ve got to cheat a safety in the box or do something like that.”
Cousins was asked during his postgame press conference what made the screens so effective against New York’s defense, and he said there’s “a lot of moving parts” to that aspect of the game.
“The key is inviting that pass rush to come after you, and our linemen being out in the field and our receivers and tight ends to get those blocks, which are not easy, and get guys down on the ground, get them cut, and then our running backs have to do a nice job,” Cousins explained. “And Kyle [Rudolph] had a screen, as well. It’s 11 people, moving parts.
“Sometimes they’re beautiful, and sometimes they don’t look very good, but you have to keep trying them to slow down the pass rush,” he added.
The Vikings delivered a balanced offensive attack at MetLife Stadium, and Cook proved multidimensional through all four quarters.
If you thought 86 receiving yards were impressive, consider his 21 carries for 132 yards on the ground, including a 41-yard run in the third quarter.
Cook got the handoff, looked for the hole and burst through it. A well-executed block by right guard Josh Kline created ample space, and Cook took it and – quite literally – ran with it, eluding defenders before he was stopped inside the 10.
Cousins said that Cook proved once again why he’s an exceptional player. The quarterback compared his teammate to former Vikings standouts, recalling his rookie season in Washington when he admired Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson from afar.
“I remember watching … and saying, ‘Among world-class athletes, they just stand out.’ Among world-class athletes, there’s a different gear. Dalvin has shown that,” Cousins said. “There’s just something there – an extra gear, unique movement skills – that he’s shown time and again are very special.”
Added Zimmer: “Dalvin’s a great player. Great acceleration – you know, there’s times when they had him and he was able to accelerate to it. He’s a hard, physical runner.”
Cook’s 218 yards from scrimmage marked a career high, and he became the first player in franchise history to record 120-plus rushing yards and 80-plus receiving yards in the same game.
The lone mark against Cook’s day was a fumble near the goal line. After a 19-yard run, Giants safety Jabrill Peppers was able to punch the ball out of Cook’s grasp, and it was recovered by linebacker Tuzar Skipper.
The turnover wasn’t felt as deeply, however, thanks to an aggressive Vikings defense that immediately secured a safety to swing momentum back in Minnesota’s direction.
“He hardly ever fumbles, so that was a little surprising on the 2-yard line,” Zimmer said. “Dalvin’s a great player.”
Cook helped the Vikings notch their first road win of 2019, improving to 3-2 before returning home to host the Eagles next weekend. He said the victory felt especially sweet after a week in which the team weathered some ups and downs.
“I feel great,” Cook said. “It’s been a long week. There’s been a lot trying to separate us. I think that just brought us closer as a group. I’m just proud of the guys and the way they fought back, blocked out all the noise and came out here and played in a hostile environment.”
“Especially on the road and coming to play a team that’s been hot. They’ve got a good quarterback, and coming in and getting a win was great,” Cook added. “It’s great. We’ve got to keep stacking the wins up.”