Earlier this offseason, I wrote that the Minnesota Vikings will go as far as Adam Thielen will take them. While Thielen is an integral part of the offense, he’s part of a one-two tandem with Justin Jefferson. And with a coach who seems to be rooted in 1995, the focus of the Vikings offense is in the backfield.
After two quiet games to open the season, Dalvin Cook has come alive and has driven the offense.
The first two games showed us the impact Cook has on the offense. The Vikings looked lost to Green Bay and Indianapolis because they didn’t establish the run. Cook was given 26 carries in the first two games, and the Vikings offense limped to 22.5 points per game.
Cook’s lack of involvement decimated the entire offense. Kirk Cousins is a quarterback who needs elite play around him to succeed, and the pressure was on him to carry the team. The results weren’t pretty: Thielen and Jefferson were rendered invisible.
In Week 3, everything seemed to change for the Vikings. Kubiak made it a priority to get his star running back involved and Cook rewarded him with a career-high 181 yards. As Cook ran wild, the back end of the Tennessee defense opened up and Jefferson was able to take advantage. 175 yards and an epic “Griddy” celebration later, the Vikings were a competitive team.
That laid the foundation for a game plan against the Houston Texans. After Cook went off against the Titans, Kubiak expressed dismay that he didn’t get Cook more touches. Cook was fed relentlessly against Houston, totaling a career-high 27 carries in the 31-23 win. Cook wound up with 130 yards and two touchdowns, but those numbers don’t reveal the real impact of his performance.
With Cook grinding through the Houston defense, Cousins looked like an adequate quarterback on Sunday. There were awkward moments where the offensive line allowed pressure, but he was able to get the ball to his playmakers through the air.
Thielen continued to show his worth to the Vikings by collecting eight catches, 114 yards and a touchdown. Even as Thielen was unleashing the worst version of “The Griddy” known to man, Jefferson has continued to draw comparisons to Randy Moss. Since being unleashed in Week 3, Jefferson has collected 10 catches for 279 yards and a touchdown while drawing defenders away from Thielen.
But this doesn’t happen if Cook isn’t unleashed against the Titans.
As we saw on Sunday, the Vikings will have to lean on their offense in order to win games, and Cook is the centerpiece who gets everything in motion. The collective effort why Minnesota gave Cook $63 million when analytics Twitter would rather get their running back from the local community college. Even in an era ruled by passing offenses, Cook is the lead anchor of the Vikings offense.