It was rather surprising that Dalvin Cook returned to action on Thursday night.
It was rather amazing how Cook carved up the Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
Donning a shoulder harness to help him deal with the torn labrum and dislocated shoulder he suffered two games prior, Cook found gaping holes and open lanes en route to 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings’ 36-28 win over the Steelers.
“Turn it loose,” said Cook of his mindset entering the game, which he was questionable for after injuring his shoulder in Week 12 against the 49ers and being forced to miss a Week 13 loss to the Lions. “Just, shoutout to the trainers, coaches, everybody that had something … strength and conditioning coaches, with me getting back so quickly, devastating just me going down that week, so I’m just happy to be back, happy we got the win. My coaches know once I tell them I’m good, I’m good. There ain’t no holding me back, just turn me loose. I just appreciate them for believing in me and just trusting in who I am.”
The Vikings wasted little time in turning Cook loose.
Cook burst through the right side untouched and coasted into the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown in the second quarter that gave Minnesota a stunning and resounding 16-0 lead after the extra point. At that moment, Cook was off to a scintillating start to the tune of 117 yards on just seven carries for an eye-popping average of 16.7 yards per carry.
Pittsburgh came into Thursday as the 27th-ranked defense against the run and Minnesota exploited the weakness with Cook looking to be in phenomenal form even though he was obviously not at full strength.
“Good, good,” Cook said when asked how he was feeling during the game, “I’m gonna stay on top of it, keep doing what I do, sticking to the system, the process, and get this thing back to 100%, just keep moving forward, keep on trying to win these games, we got to keep winning, December’s important for us right now.”
At intermission, Cook had a franchise-record for most rushing yards in a first half with 153 and he did it on just 14 carries. His production, along with that of the Vikings in general, waned in the second half as the Steelers rallied and turned a blowout into a nail-biter.
Nonetheless, the Vikings prevailed with Cook as the catalyst. With the victory, Minnesota kept its playoff hopes alive as it stands at 6-7 and moved up to the No. 8 seed in the NFC.
The two-time Pro Bowler said after the game that he knew around Sunday he could return following individual workouts at home. Thereafter, he went to see the Vikings’ staff and the ball got rolling toward a Thursday return.
“They test me out. The only thing I had to do was show them my strength was back and everything was back and I was good,” Cook said. “They was still kinda skeptical about it, but they trust and believe I won’t put myself in harm’s way to go out there and not be productive for the team. Like I said, I commend the coaches for believing in me.”
Eleven days after tearing his labrum, Cook was back and at his best.
“I had to show up for my team, and that’s what it is,” Cook said.
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