The Minnesota Vikings are just like any other team in the NFL. They have strengths and they have weaknesses. They’re starting WR, LB and S positions are envied around the league, but they leave a lot to be desired at CB, OL, DL (2020) and ST. Nobody questions the Vikings greatest strength, though, which is running back Dalvin Cook, who just won NFC Offensive Player of the Month (November) on Friday.
Out of 11 games possible, Cook has played in about 9.5 of them, though he was injured for parts of last week vs Carolina. Still, he ranks top-3 across the NFL in most rush categories, including 1st in total yards and rushing touchdowns. He holds the league’s top spot in total offense statistics like total yards, total touchdowns and broken tackles.
His stats, and where he stands vs the rest of the NFL (according to pro football reference), are below:
|Statistic||Dalvin Cook||NFL Rank|
— TheVikingsWire (@TheVikingsWire) December 4, 2020
It’s no secret. Dalvin Cook is the most important piece to the Minnesota Vikings’ puzzle.They have built their entire offense around him and they plan on riding him back into the playoff picture.
But the only way that actually happens, is if Kirk Cousins can protect him. While Kirk won’t throw any blocks for Dalvin Cook, like the OL and CJ Ham will, Cousins’ play is even more important than the play of his blockers.
For the first two games of 2020, Gary Kubiak forgot who Dalvin Cook was, handing him the ball just 26 total times over those two games. Cook tallied 113 yards and 3 touchdowns on those 26 carries and the Vikings lost both games (by a total of 26 points).
Since week 2, Dalvin Cook has received 20+ handoffs in every game other than the two he was hurt during (17 @ SEA | 18 vs CAR). They are 5-3 in that span, including two losses to Seattle and Tennessee that every fan, player and coach wants back.
So far in 2020, the more often the Vikings give Dalvin Cook the ball, the more likely they are to win. But… there’s a point of diminishing return, and with Dalvin Cook, it comes in the form of injury.
It can’t continue this way
Cook has missed over 1.5 games in 2020, due to injury, and watching him clutch his leg and wince in pain last week was just the latest reminder of how quickly this season can come tumbling down if Dalvin stops cooking.
I haven’t even mentioned his injury history yet…
Every running back of every era has a season AND a career shelf-life. The human body can only consume so many high speed hits during long spans of time. Some more than others, but it’s just a matter of time for all of them.
If the Vikings have to win by running the ball through Dalvin Cook 27-32 times per game, then they will lose eventually. They will either lose Dalvin Cook to injury OR they will lose the game, by not using him enough.
So what’s the cure?
Kirk Cousins is the cure.
There were a couple of games this season, where we can look back and wonder how the Vikings found their way to a loss. Tennessee (wk 3) and Seattle (wk 5) are the two that come to mind. Those losses weren’t Kirk Cousins’ fault, but he wasn’t able to save them either.
Week 12 vs the Carolina Panthers was different, however. Dalvin Cook was hurt early in the 2nd half and, while the entire Vikings fan base held their collective breath, Kirk Cousins calmly put the team on his back and single-handedly threw them to a victory in the 4th quarter.
Cook finished with just 61 rushing yards on 18 carries, his 2nd-lowest on the season in both categories, but it didn’t matter. Not with the team up on Kirk’s shoulders. Cousins hit 7 different receivers (34/45) for a total of 307 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, most of which came after the halfway point of the 3rd quarter.
Oh, and there was this game-winning touchdown drive.
Haters will say this Kirk Cousins’ fourth-quarter comeback drive is fake pic.twitter.com/upj3culu1Y— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) November 30, 2020
Kirk Cousins has been elite recently.
Because we have Dalvin Cook, Kirk Cousins doesn’t have to wear an “S” on his chest in most games… as long as he’s healthy. But the better he is, the safer Cook’s life is AND the bigger his running lanes will be.
I’m not begging, or even asking #8 to do anything he can’t handle or hasn’t already been doing. The Michigan State grad’s gotten better all season long and he is quietly shutting everybody the frig-up. He’s leading the NFL in pretty much every 4th quarter passing statistic and he’s an advanced-analytic darling.
He almost beat out his own teammate (the guy he needs to protect) for Player of the Month…
Kirk Cousins in the 4th quarter today:— Krauser (@Krauserrific) November 29, 2020
12/15 for 136 yards, 2 TDs, passer rating 144.0
…for the season:
62/85 for 792 yards, 11 TDs, 1 INT, passer rating 136.4 (1st in NFL)
If Kirk Cousins continues this elite run for the rest of this season, which is a BIG “if”, the Minnesota Vikings might actually pull this thing off. Here I go… getting all positive again.
Jaguars by 20 (probably).
Eric Strack Minnesota Sports Fan