In his first game back since suffering an adductor strain in Seattle three weeks ago, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook made history in Minnesota's 28-22 upset win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Cook became the first player to score a touchdown on each of his team's first four possessions of a game since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Minnesota's first four drives resulted in the following: a 21-yard rushing touchdown, back-to-back 1-yard rushing touchdowns and a 50-yard receiving touchdown, all of which were made possible by the fourth-year running back and some timely blocks from his teammates, who Cook rewarded by letting them spike the ball after three of his four scores.
"You always appreciate what people do for you," Cook said. "I know how much I work and I know how much those guys work. You have to commend those guys, too, because I'm grinding for my brother next to me. There's no award for them, it's me scoring the touchdown and they don't get to score the touchdown. I want them to feel the same feeling that I feel when I'm scoring the touchdown. Those guys are the reason I'm in front of you, giving you guys a winning speech."
Cook's monster day in Green Bay puts him in elite company. He is the third player in franchise history to record four TDs in a game, a feat first achieved by Chuck Foreman in 1975 and then by Ahmad Rashad four years later. He joined Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Adrian Peterson as the only players in NFL history with multiple games with at least 150 rushing yards against the Packers in their careers.
Cook is also the first player ever to surpass 200 yards from scrimmage and score four TDs against the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Of Minnesota's 324 net yards of offense, Cook accounted for 163 yards on 30 carries and caught two passes for 63 yards, including his career-long 50-yard catch on a screen pass that resulted in his fourth and final touchdown.
"Dalvin did a great job today," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "Anytime you score four touchdowns you deserve some credit. Just a great player, dynamic player, we're always trying to find ways to get him the football. I think of a third-and-long early in the game when I check it down to him, and he gets us the first down in the strike zone, high red zone area; I believe we ended up getting a touchdown that possession. Even those little plays, they keep us on the field, make a big difference, so it's not just running the ball, it's getting involved with the ball in his hands, whether it's catching the ball or running it."
Cook's day impacted the load Cousins had to carry. The Vikings QB attempted only 14 passes Sunday and averaged 1.79 air yards, the second fewest by any player with 10-plus attempts over the past 15 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Cousins' longest pass of the game was 8 air yards.
The Vikings' offense looked renewed coming off its bye week after a blowout loss to the Atlanta Falcons, in which Minnesota rushed for 32 yards total in Cook's absence.
The difference Cook made was tangible from the very beginning. The Vikings entered Sunday having converted just 38% of their third downs and went 4-of-7 on third down Sunday, with Cook responsible for two of the successes.
The Vikings also bucked their fourth-down woes in Green Bay. After Alexander Mattison failed to convert on fourth-and-inches in Seattle, which would have sealed a victory on the road, and Mike Boone was stopped on fourth down against Atlanta at the goal line, Minnesota found success behind Cook, who converted on fourth-and-1 from Green Bay's 23-yard line ahead of the two-minute warning in the first half to extend a drive that resulted in his second touchdown. It allowed the Vikings to take a 14-14 tie with Green Bay into halftime.
Cook was limited Wednesday and Thursday in practice, but given the way he was feeling on Friday, the running back said postgame that he knew he would be full go in Green Bay.
Talk of keeping the running back on a pitch count was dispelled by members of the coaching staff, who noted the importance of having Cook available to help the offense get back on track.
"How Dalvin goes, we normally go, so obviously we've got to get him going and get him back to work," offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said last week.
Sunday marked the first win of Cook's career at Lambeau Field. The Vikings are now 2-5 after starting out the season with three straight losses.