If anyone around here can read lips, I’d love for them to tell me what Adrian Peterson was saying on the sidelines as Vikings RB Dalvin Cook exited the game for the final time while his team led 34-20 late in the fourth against the Lions. The CBS cameras cut to AP as he watched the big-screen replay of a 13-yard rush from his successor in Minnesota, one where Cook just devastated a blitzing Desmond Trufant with a killer juke in the backfield and then exploded for a first down. Peterson—who reportedly still has a chip on his shoulder about the way he was unceremoniously dumped by Minnesota, at least according to his dad—seemed impressed, to say the least.
Cook rushing for over 200 yards and catching 46 more in a follow-up performance to his game-breaking four-TD day against Green Bay last week is noteworthy in itself. But it took on some added symbolism when it came across from an all-time great playing against his old team. The 2012 MVP had little tangible impact in the Lions’ loss—43 yards on 11 touches—but as a foil and comparison point for Cook he was more relevant to the story of this game than anyone else on his struggling team.
The one big play that could perhaps most accurately be described as “Peterson-esque” came in the fourth and essentially put the game away with 10 minutes to go. It was an extremely basic handoff from Kirk Cousins out of the I formation, but Cook just blasted through the O-line’s opening faster than anyone could catch him. Exactly one Detroit Lion slipped off Cook like he was covered in grease, but the rest of the team—even though they were clearly prepared for the run—could only halfheartedly give chase after the back refused to be surrounded.
Cook imposed himself on the game from start to finish, seemingly picking up first downs at will and serving as a crucial component of every big drive the Vikings put together. His work in a two-minute drill at the end of the first half helpfully extended the Minnesota lead from three to 10 going into the break, and on multiple occasions throughout the day he had pro defenders eating turf in humiliating fashion. This faceplant by Jamie Collins, in particular, would feel demoralizing if one had the misfortune of being a Lions fan.
Now in his fourth season—and his second as the Vikings’ undisputed number-one back—the 25-year-old out of Florida State is well on pace to surpass his career highs, and even better, he’s enjoying the league lead in both rushing yards and TDs, while trailing only the much lesser-used Miles Sanders in yards per attempt among running backs. He has yet to turn in a dud, scoring at least one touchdown in all seven of his appearances. Even though the Vikings are a mere 3-5 thanks to a middling defense and a mediocre QB, Cook in the past two weeks has managed to carry them on his back to wins against division rivals.
And while he missed getting to share a locker room with AP, Cook has made clear the appreciation he has for the shoes he was drafted to fill.
“We can sit here and I can tell you so much about him, how I feel about him,” Cook said after the game. “I’m just—if he hear this or he don’t—I’m just glad that I got a chance to watch him growing up as a young kid. To see that, it was something special for me.”
Now Peterson can be glad that he got to watch Dalvin Cook as an adult.