The Vikings' Defense is the Only Thing Slowing Dalvin Cook Down

Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook -USA TODAY Sports

Do you remember back at the start of the global pandemic when everyone was quarantined so those with the means to do so went out and got themselves one of those fancy Peloton Bikes? They were super motivated to make constructive use of their time at home by getting in the best damn shape of their lives. They were going to sweat and pedal and ride that glorious exercise apparatus to personal gains.

And then in maybe five years, they’d plan to get a new one – you know, once the new models came out and they had gotten their money’s worth out of their initial investment. They’d be totally ripped by then and people would be pointing and staring and wondering how they got so jacked.

It was going to be totally worth the considerable expense.

Do you ever wonder how those folks are doing with their spiffy Pelotons now? Human nature being what it is, it’s a good bet that motivation wore off somewhere along the line and that magnificent machinery is collecting dust. It may even have clothes or towels hanging on it. It’s just not being used as much as it was initially intended.

Now consider what would happen if you were one of the people who plunked down a bunch of money for a Peloton and then a week into quarantine shattered your femur in a battle royal at the local Walmart for the final roll of toilet paper.

Those people can’t use their Peloton at all. They had great intentions, but if you break your leg there’s just not much you can do.

Dalvin Cook feels a lot like the Minnesota Vikings’ Peloton.

Thankfully, he didn’t break his leg or anything (knocking on wood). But the Vikings’ defense is broken right now. It’s not just bent; it’s broken.

In light of the manhandling the Packers delivered upon Mike Zimmer’s defense on Sunday, the five-year, $63-million extension the Vikings doled out to their running back a day before the season kicked off feels utterly wasted.

Oh, it looked great on that first drive when Cook took his first two carries for 14 total yards and got two more at the goal line a few plays later, taking the second one across for his first touchdown of the game.

That drive was reminiscent of that first workout on the shiny new Peloton… you know, before that ill-fated trip to Walmart.

Riding abruptly ended. Smiles and sweat gave way to disappointment and frustration and the expensive machine was left unused.

Cook only carried the ball eight more times and caught just one pass after that first drive. Sure, he scored again, so his fantasy football owners were satisfied. But this was supposed to be so much more. The 13 total touches were just one more than his lowest total in any game last season (he had 12 in two games). Cook had 20 or more touches in nine of his first 10 games last season, topping 100 rushing yards five times and exceeding 100 yards from scrimmage eight times.

That’s the blueprint.

That beautiful master plan doesn’t work at all when the Vikings defense can’t keep the opponent off the field… or off the scoreboard. However, they mustered nothing remotely resembling a pass rush against their rivals. Aaron Rodgers had enough time to have a sandwich, change his State Farm agent, polish his imaginary championship belt and alienate another family member virtually every time he dropped back to pass. If you give any NFL quarterback that kind of time, you’re in trouble. If you give Rodgers that kind of time, it’s over.

And if you give Rodgers that kind of time against what might be the most inexperienced cornerback crew in the NFL, third downs are walks in the park and 43 points go on the board pretty easily. It was the perfect storm. Unfortunately, Rodgers, Davante Adams and the Packers’ offense was an EF5 tornado and the Vikings’ defense was the proverbial trailer home.

For the few moments here and there in which the Vikings were actually allowed to possess the ball on offense, they had to try to play catch up, meaning Kirk Cousins had to pass so often that Cook became an afterthought anywhere other than the goal line.

If this is the Vikings’ new normal — and Cook is, inadvertently, the only player the Vikings’ defense effectively neutralizes — the return on investment in him is going to be paltry in 2020.

However, just as time heals all wounds, including shattered femurs suffered at Walmart, there’s a scenario in which the Vikings can fix what ails their defense. Danielle Hunter could return to legitimize one side of the Vikings’ pass rush in Week 4… at least, that’s the hope. Neck injuries are no big deal, right? Yannick Ngakoue will get up to speed with his conditioning, mastery of the playbook or whatever else was holding him back against the Packers, providing another bona fide pass-rush threat.

And it can’t get much worse than it was on Sunday for the shell-shocked Vikings cornerbacks. Their burn marks inflicted by Packers receivers should heal in time.

If that all happens soon enough, the defense will have an opportunity to rebound from what might have been its worst overall regular-season showing of the Zimmer Era. Then and only then will the Vikings reap the kind of healthy returns they dreamed of from the gaudy investment in their Pro Bowl running back.

Until then, Cook will collect really big paychecks… and too many layers of dust.

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Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook -USA TODAY Sports

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