DETROIT – Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Dalvin Cook is a special player.
At one point in the first quarter, the Ford Field crowd erupted in cheers because it seemed that the running back had been stopped after a short gain. Their celebration proved premature, however, when Cook escaped and gained 15 yards.
Two quarters later and on second-and-7, Cook seemed to bounce off defenders at the line before finding a hole and picking up 12 yards deep in Detroit territory.
And just inside the two-minute warning, he again appeared to be out of options but somehow managed to get into the end zone and put the game on ice.
“Dalvin is incredible,” rookie receiver Bisi Johnson said after the game. “That last touchdown he had, I had a great point of view. I’m seeing it and [I thought], ‘No, he’s done … what?’ Then he scores and I’m like, ‘Wow.’ ”
Added guard Pat Elflein: “He can break so many tackles every time he touches the ball. Just to see where he’s at now, coming off the injuries he’s had early in his career, I couldn’t be happier for him.”
And as for Cook, he took it all in stride.
“ ‘Snacks’ (Lions DT Damon Harrison) pretty much got up the field, and he’s a big guy. He got off the line,” Cook said. “I knew this was the drive to close the game, and it’s all will and want-to.”
Cook and the rest of the Vikings running backs certainly showed the “want-to” against the Lions.
He surpassed 100 yards on the ground for the fifth time this season, racking up 142 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 42-30 defeat of the Lions.
The performance was witnessed first-hand by one of Cook’s heroes, Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. The former Lions running back attended Sunday’s game as a Madden ratings adjuster, and Cook met the legend during pregame.
“On my iPad, that’s the only cut-up I watch. Barry Sanders,” Cook said. “I don’t watch them because of the schemes they ran or nothing like that. I watch him because of how he maneuvered in tight spaces and how he moved defenders and opened up holes for himself. One of my idols.”
When a reporter commented that a few of Cook’s runs looked Sanders-esque, he smiled.
“I ain’t Barry, but I watched enough tape, and when you see enough things, I’m a guy with a photographic memory,” he said. “I practiced extra hard, tried to work on some things and be me. Things just come natural.”
Cook credited the offensive line for helping him move the ball.
“They’ve been doing a great job of creating holes and just seeing it to understand my instincts and eyes,” he said. “I think that’s what I got better at, not hesitating near the hole and being confident in my preparation and getting things done.
“Credit those guys up front,” Cook added. “I think if we keep grinding it out, this could be something special.”
The Vikings emphasized all week that the division matchup would be a physical one, particularly in the trenches, and it certainly proved to be a bruiser of a game.
Elflein called it a “meat grinder” of a contest that he appreciated.
“It was down to the last [few] plays, as you could see; it was aggressive, it was physical. It was all of the above,” Elflein said. “But we knew that going into it because of their track record and who they have on their roster and all of that.”
Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who got involved in the pass game and as a blocker in the ground game, said the offensive linemen “love it” when so much physicality is involved.
“They’re weird,” he laughed. “But they had a ton of fun out there. Everybody’s asking me as my role as a blocker lately, and for those guys to act like I’m part of their room, I love all five of them, and I have so much fun playing with them.
“There’s a reason why these two backs have the holes that they have and Kirk [Cousins] has the time that he has, and it’s because of those five guys at front – and they’re playing at a really high level right now.”
View postgame celebration images from Sunday as the Vikings beat the Lions by a 42-30 score.
Cook wasn’t the only Viking who shouldered responsibility in Minnesota’s run game.
Alexander Mattison gave the starting back a couple of breathers and contributed 18 yards on seven carries. Fullback C.J. Ham gained nine yards on a third-and-1, his lone run of the game, but also caught a touchdown pass through the air.
“I didn’t say I knew it was mine, but obviously coming across the line of scrimmage, I saw the guy that would guard me, he got stuck to the side, so I knew I had a good chance of getting in,” Ham said of the score. “It was a lot of fun. It’s been a couple years. It’s my first receiving touchdown, but it’s been a couple years since scoring a touchdown, and it was special.”
But he was equally proud of blocking for Cook in yet another stellar performance.
“There were a couple times today where I could have done my block a little better, but instead, he makes my guy miss or breaks the tackle and goes for 15,” Ham said. “When you have a guy like that who can make plays out of nothing, it’s pretty special.”
The Vikings don’t have much time to soak in this win that improves them to 5-2 on the season, but they also won’t take it for granted.
“It definitely was big. We hadn’t won a division game on the road, so it was big,” Cook said. “It was a great win. We’ve got to keep stacking them up.
“We’ve got a Thursday game that marks the halfway point, but this definitely was a big one,” he added.