Vikings want to ride Dalvin Cook 'the rest of the year'

Mike Zimmer needed to fire his offensive coordinator, but the Vikings' coach finally got his way: Minnesota ran the ball.

In Sunday's 41-17 romp over the Miami Dolphins, the Vikings rushed for 220 yards. Dalvin Cook scampered for a career-high 136 rushing yards and notched two scores on 19 carries. It was Cook's first 100-plus yard rushing day since the first game of his rookie season.

The Vikings finally displayed the type of offense most expected to enter the season: A dynamic Cook supplemented by a play-action passing attack that spins defenses brains.

"That's the guy that we see every day in practice and the guy that we've been waiting to get those opportunities and to let him carry this offense," Adam Thielen said of Cook, via The Athletic. "We know that's what kind of player he is. We know what he means to this offense. We're going to need that moving forward, and we're going to ride him the rest of the year."

The victory over the Dolphins puts Minnesota one step closer to the postseason, but with Philadelphia and Washington both winning, the Vikings still have work to do with division games versus the Lions and Bears on tap in the final two weeks.

The change in coordinators helped unleash the run game this week.

Vikings offense Weeks 1-14: 33.0 rush percent; 85.4 rushing YPG (ranked 30th in NFL); 4.1 yards per carry, 6 rushing TDs.
Vikings offense Week 15: 63.5 rush percent; 220 rushing yards; 5.5 yards per carry, 3 rushing TDs.

"I love that," Cook said of his workload. "We got the win, so we love that. When the ball gets in my hands, I am going to try to make a play every time. No matter if I get 10, five. No matter how many carries I get. My job is to make plays. Today, I went out there and made a few plays."

Make plays he did, like this little ditty:

The question the Vikings must answer moving forward: Was Sunday an aberration against a Dolphins run defense that entered the ranked 29th in the NFL or will the changes under new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski stick?

While Cook might not have the same success against a recently stingy Lions run defense and a great Bears D, the philosophical change is about the process, not the result.

For instance, the Vikings lined quarterback Kirk Cousins under center more this week than they had under the old OC. According to Next Gen Stats, Minnesota aligned in a shotgun formation on 65.6 percent of their offensive plays under John DeFilippo. Sunday, they aligned in shotgun on 31.7 percent of their plays in Week 15 (season-low).

As coach Mike Zimmer pointed out after the victory, play action is much tougher to defend when the signal-caller is under center. On Sunday, Cousins went 6-for-6 for 103 yards and a TD on play-action when under center, per ESPN's Courtney Cronin

The change at offensive coordinator coupled with Cook's breakout has the Vikings believing they can galvanize into the Super Bowl-caliber squad most envisioned.

"I think it gives the offensive players some confidence. Most of them were excited this week," Zimmer said, "about the possibility of playing football the way we did today."