GREEN BAY, Wis. — Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak recently said, “How Dalvin (Cook) goes, we normally go.” He sure was right about that.
The running back tied a team record by scoring four touchdowns Sunday, Nov. 1, as Minnesota upset Green Bay 28-22 at Lambeau Field.
Cook rushed 30 times for 163 yards and three touchdowns, and caught two passes for 63 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter that put Minnesota up 28-14. He might be a shoo-in for NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
“He really is the best back in the league,’’ said Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks.
The only other Minnesota players to score four touchdowns in a game were running back Chuck Foreman at Buffalo in 1975, and wide receiver Ahmad Rashad against San Francisco in 1979.
Cook returned after missing one game with a groin strain. He brought life back into the Vikings (2-5), who came in as a 6 1/2-point underdog to the Packers (5-2).
“It felt great,’’ said Cook, who was a rookie out with a knee injury in 2017 when the Vikings last won at Lambeau Field. “This was my first win at Lambeau and that’s most important. Getting my team back on track. … The stats are a plus and they come with a great performance, but winning is first for me.’’
Cook donned sunglasses on a Zoom call after the game. He was asked if he’d gone Hollywood after his big showing.
“No,’’ said Cook, who had rushing touchdowns of 21 yards in the first quarter, one yard in the second quarter and one yard in the third. “I wore these in here today. I don’t want to show you how tired I am after the game.’’
It wasn’t exactly a day for sunglasses. The temperature was 34 degrees at kickoff with winds gusting at 23 mph.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins called the wind “kind of the story of the day.’’ Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said it was “one of the worst’’ winds he’s encountered in 14 seasons.
Nevertheless, both teams started out by moving the ball better than expected. Neither team punted in the first three quarters.
The Vikings ended up being better offensively. They scored touchdowns on each of their first four possessions while the Packers scored TDs on their first two possessions before slowing down. It didn’t help that, while Cook was running wild, Green Bay’s star running back, Aaron Jones, was out with a calf injury.
The Packers got within 28-22 with 2:42 left in the game on a 7-yard TD pass from Rodgers to Davante Adams, the third time the two connected in the game, and a two-point conversion run. The Packers got the ball back at their 28 with 47 seconds left and had no timeouts, but their drive stalled at the Vikings 41 after rookie defensive end D.J. Wonnum hit Rodgers for a sack and he lost a fumble on the game’s final play
“I rode them pretty hard in practice this week,’’ said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “You know we’ve got so many young guys, and so many young guys that we’re trying to get ready for primetime. … It just takes more time then we’d like.’’
In addition to Wonnum, plenty of young players made enough plays for the Vikings to hold on, especially on defense. By the end of the game, the Vikings were down three more cornerbacks, and they only had rookies Jeff Gladney and Harrison Hand available.
The Vikings came in without Holton Hill (foot) and Mike Hughes (neck), who was placed on injured reserve Friday. On the final play of the first quarter, Vikings rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzer was lost for the game with a neck injury after he banged his head into safety Anthony Harris’ thigh while helping make a tackle on running back A.J. Dillon.
Dantzler was down for several minutes before being taken off on a spinal board and a stretcher and with a collar around his neck. However, the Vikings announced later he had “full movement of his body” and was taken to a local hospital “out of caution.” Zimmer said after the game Dantzler was “doing better” and he flew home with the team.
The Vikings then lost cornerback Mark Fields II in the third quarter and cornerback Kris Boyd in the fourth. That resulted in Harris being a nickel back late in the game and rookie Josh Metellus playing safety.
The Vikings had a bye last weekend after looking listless in a 40-23 loss to Atlanta on Oct. 18, a game Cook missed due to his groin injury. Cousins threw three interceptions that day, and vowed afterward to be better.
He was. Helping by Cook’s showing and getting the lead for good at 21-14 on a Cook one-yard run early in the third quarter, he only needed to throw 14 times, completing 11 for 160 yards with no interceptions.
“It was pretty windy and we never put them in a situation where they had to drop back and throw,’’ said Packers coach Matt LaFleur.
Meanwhile, Rodgers threw 41 times, completing 27 for 291 yards.
Cousins’ most important completion came on one of his shortest passes. He hit Cook on a screen on third-and-9 at the 50 with 6:05 left in the third quarter and he did the rest of the work.
“If we don’t get the first down we’re punting there,’’ Cousins said. “Not only do we get the first down, but he takes it all the way to the house. That’s just ability. … Huge play in the game.’’
Overall, it was huge for the Vikings to get a much-needed win. And Zimmer finally was able to relax when the clock ran out after Wonnum’s hit.
“Right now, I think I got to get some of that, what’s that hair for men stuff called to get the grey hairs back out? … I’m worn out,’’ he said.”