3 Takeaways from Vikings' Week 9 Win
For the second straight week, the Minnesota Vikings' game turned into a showcase of Dalvin Cook's incredible skill set. And right now, that's proving to be key to the team's potential season turnaround.
The Vikings secured their first winning streak of 2020 with a 34-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Cook scored a pair of touchdowns and compiled 252 total yards as Minnesota improved to 3-5 with its second consecutive win over an NFC North rival.
This was a game in which Cook and the Vikings dominated from the start, as the running back scored five minutes, 21 seconds in, and they led the rest of the way.
Here are three takeaways from Minnesota's victory.
Dalvin Cook Can't Be Stopped Right Now
Most people already knew Cook was a top-tier NFL running back, but it's impossible not to be wowed by his current hot streak in his fourth season in the league.
After missing Minnesota's loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6 (which was followed by its bye in Week 7), the 25-year-old returned from a groin injury to score touchdowns on each of the Vikings' first four drives in their 28-22 win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 8. He had three rushing scores, one receiving score and 226 total yards in that victory.
Cook showed no signs of slowing down in Week 9. He gashed Detroit's defense from the start, scoring a five-yard touchdown run on Minnesota's opening drive. His most impressive play of the day came early in the fourth quarter, when he scored on a 70-yard touchdown run, his longest rush of the season thus far.
"Obviously he wants to get 200 yards every week but he's going to do all the dirty work ... he's going to do everything," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said, per ESPN's Courtney Cronin. "That's why he's a captain. That's why he comes to work every single day. He's a terrific leader, he's energetic and guys in the locker room really love him."
The Florida State product is also the NFL's rushing leader. He leads the league with 858 yards on the ground this season and has 13 total touchdowns, which already matches his career-high total from 2019.
Cook was impressive last year, but he's been even better this season. And as long as he keeps playing like this, the Vikings' offense will continue to be difficult to stop.
Other Offensive Players Are Stepping Up, Too
The Vikings tallied a season-high 487 total yards of offense, and while Cook played a large role in that, he wasn't the only one to make big plays against the Lions. And some of them weren't from Minnesota's typical stars, either.
In one day, tight end Irv Smith Jr. doubled his career touchdown total. He entered the game with two and then got into the end zone twice against Detroit, scoring on a nine-yard reception late in the first quarter and a one-yard grab midway through the third, which were his only two catches of the day.
The 22-year-old has a ton of potential and is now emerging as a clear red-zone threat for Minnesota.
Ameer Abdullah also scored a key touchdown for the Vikings. After Detroit had scored to cut Minnesota's lead to three points late in the first half, he hauled in a 22-yard scoring grab 15 seconds before the break that pushed the Vikings' lead back to 10.
Typically, the 27-year-old plays on special teams, but he got into the end zone Sunday to mark only his second touchdown for the Vikings and his first since notching a receiving score in Week 9 of the 2019 season.
Minnesota's big offensive day was guided by Kirk Cousins, who has done his part in the team's back-to-back victories. Not only did he throw three touchdowns in a game for the third time this season, but he also didn't throw any interceptions for the second straight week.
The Vikings' playmakers are impressing, and the quarterback is doing a good job of getting the ball to them right now.
The Vikings Are Getting Back into the Playoff Picture
At 3-5, the Vikings still have work to do in the second half of the regular season to earn one of the seven playoff berths in the NFC. However, they're playing much better than they were to start the year, when they lost five of their first six games.
After beating Green Bay and Detroit the past two weeks, Minnesota will have the chance to get another divisional win in Week 10 when it goes on the road to face the Chicago Bears in a Monday night matchup. The Vikings are 2-1 against NFC North opponents this season, and that record could prove to be important in potential tiebreakers down the line.
If Minnesota beats Chicago next week, it has a good chance to keep its winning streak going. After that, it has three straight home games against the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, a trio of teams with a combined record of 6-20.
There will be some difficult matchups still to come in the regular season, but Minnesota has a strong chance to keep building momentum ahead of those later games.
The Vikings are two games out of a playoff berth, as the Los Angeles Rams sit in the third NFC wild-card spot at 5-3. But Minnesota is getting closer and appears to be trending in a positive direction at the right time.