Cook, Vikings can’t capitalize on Jefferson’s record day

Published 7:58 pm Sunday, December 11, 2022

DETROIT — In the end, no amount of fireworks from Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson — and they set the air ablaze Sunday — could overcome perhaps the worst game of Vikings running back Dalvin Cook’s six-year career.

Cook was held to 23 yards on 15 carries in Minnesota’s 34-23 loss to the Detroit Lions, keeping the Vikings from clinching a division title despite Jefferson’s franchise-record 223 yards receiving.

Cook’s 1.5 yards per carry were the fewest in a game with at least 10 attempts in his career.

“When I look at it, there was some positive performances from some individual players and some things that gave us a chance to be in the football game,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said. “But just across the board, not enough in the run game offensively and a pretty critical turnover in the low red (zone) trying to take a shot at a play right there.”

Cook, who entered averaging 77.3 yards per game, was unable to get unleashed against a Lions defense which is ranked last in the league. He was stopped on a fourth and 1 at the Minnesota 46 early in the game, then fumbled away the ball on a first-and-goal from the Detroit 3 late in the second quarter.

“Dalvin was actually going to attempt to throw that football to Johnny Mundt, and he was open in the back,” O’Connell said on the fumble.”We had the play set up and just didn’t execute, and the ball went the other way. It was a critical, critical error.”

Cousins threw for a season-high 425 yards, many of them to Jefferson, who had 11 catches and broke Sammy White’s franchise record for receiving yards set in 1976.

“I thought (Cousins) was attempting to will our team to victory, with his execution level to Justin and Justin’s adjustments he made since the last time he played against these guys,” O’Connell said. “I thought (Jefferson) played incredibly fast and explosive and Kirk was right there with him every step of the way.”

Cousins admitted the lack of a running game was huge, but he did all he could do to help on offense.

“We really struggled to have a sustaining running game today,” he said. “Not enough production there. I appreciate the ability to spread the ball around to get (K.J. Osborn) and Adam (Thielen) involved, and T.J. (Hockenson).”

Cousins said he was not surprised by the attacking defense that Detroit threw at him.

“They play hard and they play tough,” Cousins said. “They were sharp against us Week 3, but certainly were today as well. They’re a good football team.”

The Vikings were missing starting center Garrett Bradbury and tackle Christian Darrisaw. Cousins and O’Connell were not ready to use their absence as an excuse for the loss and praised their replacements.

“Well, I do think that (tackle) Blake (Brandel) and (center) Austin (Schlottmann) did a phenomenal job today,” Cousins said. “We asked a lot of them. When you factor in the noise and the silent cadence, there’s just a lot of offense and they did a phenomenal job of handling those moving parts. Proud of the way that they played and protected and held up.”

The Vikings will have four more chances to win the NFC North. They need just one win or tie to lock it up.

“We didn’t want them to win the division in our place,” Detroit coach Dan Campbell said.