MINNEAPOLIS – In a Vikings game against the Lions, the "white tiger" was the main attraction.
Dalvin Cook, who had been sidelined for the previous four games with a hamstring injury, put on film perhaps the game's splashiest offensive play.
Late in the second quarter and on the first play of the Vikings drive, Kirk Cousins handed off to Cook, who rumbled for 70 yards before getting snagged by Lions safety Glover Quin and falling 5 yards short of the end zone. The explosive run set up a touchdown by Adam Thielen two plays later.
"I would have scored," Cook said. "I have to get that third leg down. [Quin] had a great angle, and good effort by him."
Cousins said after the game that he often jokingly refers to Cook as a white tiger.
"When you go to the zoo and you want to see a white tiger and they say he is not coming out today, you're disappointed, and you're like, 'That is why I bought the ticket, to see the white tiger,' " Cousins said. "That's Dalvin. When you get him, he's special."
Since joining the Vikings this spring, Cousins has had a limited sample size of Cook, who said that it "felt great" to pop a long run after nursing the injury for some time.
"You get kind of nervous in those situations, but that's when you know you're good to go. And I was good to go then," Cook said.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told media members in his postgame podium session that it was good to have Cook back. Zimmer said he is looking forward to seeing even more from the second-year back moving forward.
"He actually said that he was thinking about his hamstring and only kept it in fourth gear," Zimmer said of Cook on the long run. "Hopefully there's another gear there somewhere."
According to Next Gen Stats, Cook reached a top speed of 22.07 miles per hour on the run, the fastest speed reached by a ball carrier this season.
That's a pretty impressive fourth gear.
"I know I've got it in me. It's just a matter of getting me out there," Cook said. "I'm just happy to be back on the field with my teammates and competing. It's a great feeling just to be back suited up."
When Cook saw the hole open up, his mindset was "hit it and go" – and that's just what he did.
A great initial block by center Pat Elflein and subsequent blocks by tackle Mike Remmers and receiver Laquon Treadwell at the second level helped spring Cook free.
"It just goes to show, when you have 11 men on one accord, good things can happen. And that's what happened on that play," Cook said. "Treadwell got on his block, Pat got on his block backside, tight ends were on their blocks, and I just hit it right down the middle and it opened up.
"Once you get holes like that, you can't hesitate," Cook later added. "You've got to hit those holes because they don't come around too often in the NFL."
Remmers called the play "extremely exciting" and pointed out that Cook is the type of player who can get loose and break a big run at any time.
"You just have to be ready for it. He's a great player, and it's fun to block for him," Remmers said.
Treadwell and the other receivers take pride in being able to block well when the ball isn't in their hands. He said that it's a mantra on repeat by Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo and receivers coach Darrell Hazell.
"Coach Hazell preaches and Coach Flip preaches, that the second-level block is what's going to be the touchdown block," Treadwell said. "I was just doing my job. That was the first time we saw a big run this year where it hit for 70 yards, and I was just like, 'Wow, it's good to see him back.'
"It actually surprised me because when he hit it, he hit it so fast," Treadwell recounted with a laugh. "I'm here [for the block], and when I looked, he was out the gate."
Cook finished the game with 89 rushing yards on 10 carries. Latavius Murray also had 10 attempts and recorded 31 yards and a touchdown.
Murray said that an emphasis had been made in practice all week on being physical and sticking with the run.
"We wanted to trust it," Murray said. "We kind of knew it was going to be a grind, a grind and then the big one that Dalvin hit would come," Murray said. "Overall we stayed true to that, and it worked out for us."
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Just before Cook's big play, Murray had given his teammate a hard time, asking Cook "if he still had it" or not.
Right after the ribbing, Cook took it to the house.
"I was messing with him … _just _before that play," Murray said. "So it was cool to see him cut it loose. Especially for the first time being back."
Murray's touchdown was the lone rushing score of the day, and it initially was ruled a fumble and recovery by Kyle Rudolph in the end zone. After further review, however, it was determined that Murray had gotten the ball across the goal line before losing it.
Murray said he knew before it was announced that the touchdown was his.
"I did, to be honest," Murray said. "I know that's one of my strengths, being down in that part of the field, and those kinds of things are, you could say, a gamble or a risk – sticking the ball out there – but when you have a nose for the end zone and you kind of have an awareness, and I feel that I do, then usually it works out for me."
The last time Cook played the Lions was Week 4 of the 2017 campaign, when the running back suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
After Sunday's team win over Detroit, Cook was feeling good and in high spirits heading into the bye week.
"I want to say thank you to my teammates, the fans and everybody just standing behind me and pushing me through [the injury rehab]. It's tough. You want to be out there with your teammates, and I wasn't able to be out there, so it's tough," Cook said. "Just getting back out there was fun. Mentally, it's going to break you down, but you have to be tough enough to get through the process. I'm just happy to be back out there and making plays for this team."