MINNEAPOLIS – It took Dalvin Cook 10 plays to show he hadn’t lost his edge.
With under five minutes to play in the second quarter of the Minnesota Vikings’ 24-9 win over the Detroit Lions, Cook took a handoff from quarterback Kirk Cousins and carefully read what was unfolding in front of him. Pat Elflein pulled A'Shawn Robinsonto his left, creating a massive opening between the second-year center and right guard Mike Remmers.
It was more than enough space for Cook, who had been sidelined with a hamstring injury for more than a month, to do what he hadn’t been able to yet this season: explode.
Cook broke off a 70-yard run, which more than doubled the previous longest rush of his career (33 yards). According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Cook topped out at 22.07 mph, the fastest of any ball carrier this season.
“He and I were messing around, I asked him if he still had 4.4. speed or not,” Vikings running back Latavius Murray recalled. “He said he did and so that’s why when he’s coming off the field, we were clowning. I’m like, OK, yeah you do.”
Cook was brought down at the 5-yard line and set up Adam Thielen for a touchdown two plays later. Though he didn’t reach the end zone, Cook could hardly contain his excitement, running past the pylon and celebrating.
“I just turned it on,” Cook said. “And that's when at that point you’ve got to trust yourself. You’ve got to know you put the work in for the hamstring to be right and I'm just glad man. I'm just back out here on the field."
There was little doubt among those on the sidelines that the running back would finally break free once he got back to being himself. Even on the longest run of his NFL career, Cook apparently felt like he had more in the tank.
“He actually said that he was thinking about his hamstring and only kept it in fourth gear,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Hopefully there’s another gear there somewhere.”
The Vikings reached their second-highest rushing total of the season (128 yards) in Cook’s first game back since the first half against the Rams in Week 4. Every play mattered to the running back, who exceeded his expected pitch count of 15 to 20 snaps by taking 10 carries 89 yards and catching four short passes for 20 yards.
The plan for Cook going into the game was to be involved more in the running game than the passing game, but he allowed the Vikings to ignite their screen game in ways they had not been able to without him.
"When he’s been in he’s been special," Cousins said. "What can he do for us when healthy? I would think he can do what he showed today and what he’s shown in other opportunities he’s gotten. But we have to get him out there, we have to keep him healthy and we have to give him opportunities.”
The frustrations of being held back by his hamstring were a learning process for Cook, who Vikings athletic trainers had shut down completely from football activity leading into Week 8.
Cook said the time to let his body rest was largely beneficial in him being able to let his lingering injury subside. With Minnesota’s bye week on the horizon, the chance to further rest his body so he can get back to being a featured presence on offense is something he’s looking forward to.
“I know this offense requires a lot: catch the ball in the back field, explosive plays, that's what we were [expecting],” Cook said. “We were [expecting] big plays and if you're not 100 percent you're not going to be able to do that on the field for your teammates. So, kind of had to take that step back—get my body right, get everything together so I could come out here and make plays. When I'm a hundred percent, that's when I'm at my best. That's it."