After absorbing perhaps his hardest hit of the season, all Dalvin Cook did Sunday was play better.
With 49 seconds left in the first half of a 31-28 loss to Dallas at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings running back was blasted by Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson after catching a short pass and lost a fumble.
Cook was down on the field for a minute and was looked at by trainers before getting up and walking slowly to the sideline on Minnesota’s final offensive play of the first half. Cook had just 37 yards rushing on 12 carries at halftime, but he came on strong in the second half to finish with 115 yards on 27 attempts.
“The one across the middle was a good hit, but it’s football,” Cook said.
Following the lost fumble after Cook’s seven-yard reception from Kirk Cousins, the Cowboys took over at the Minnesota 48 and drove to convert a 19-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein in the waning seconds for a 16-7 halftime lead.
The Vikings bounced back to take leads of 21-16 and 28-24 in the fourth quarter before the Cowboys took lead for good at 31-28 on a two-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Dalton Schultz with 1:37 left in the game.
The loss put a damper for Cook on another big statistical day. With his fifth 100-yard game of the season, he passed the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year. He’s now at 1,069 yards, second in the NFL behind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, who has 1,079.
Cook became just the fifth back in Vikings history to have multiple 1,000-yard seasons and the just the fourth to do it in consecutive years. Chuck Foreman did it from 1975-77, Terry Allen in 1992 and 1994, Robert Smith from 1997-2000, and Adrian Peterson from 2007-13 and in 2015.
“We have to win, that’s most important,” Cook said of his individual accomplishments. “That’s just the competitor I am. This was tough. We have to play better. We have to start faster, and this week we have to have a sense of urgency.”
The Vikings (4-6) had their three-game winning streak end and a serious blow dealt to their playoff hopes. They return to action next Sunday against Carolina at U.S. Bank Stadium.
While Cook was pleased with the Vikings charging back to take the lead in the second half, he stressed that they can’t afford to fall behind early.
“We just had turnovers,” he said of Minnesota’s two lost first-half fumbles. “We never got on schedule in the first half. The first half was just like, it was all a blur. Just like we couldn’t get on schedule to get going to where we wanted to go. And I think once we came out in the second half, guys were seeing if we do the things we need to do to win this game, we can win it.”
But the Vikings didn’t win. And they remain two games out of the playoff hunt with just six games left in the season.
“We just want to get better,” Cook said. “You see a young group that wants to get better, and that’s our mindset. Just accept this week, watch the film (Monday) and get better. We want to make the playoffs. That’s our ultimate goal, to get to the playoffs. But we have to get better as a whole, and that’s our mindset.”