Cook's 171 total yards, TD lead Vikings past Redskins 19-9

Running back Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings runs against the defense of Montez Sweat #90 and Quinton Dunbar #23 of the Washington Redskins in the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 24, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ((Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images))

With Case Keenum and Adrian Peterson in Minneapolis to face their former team, and Kirk Cousins in his home stadium facing his former team, there wasn’t a lack of storylines as the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins met at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Peterson showed he can still run the football at 34, but it was Dalvin Cook who put on a show and Cousins who displayed offensive efficiency as the Vikings improved to 6-2 at the season’s midpoint with a business-like 19-9 win over the Redskins. The Vikings, who will take a much-needed rest this weekend before getting back to work next Monday, have five of their six wins over NFC teams and continue to pound the football in the run game to get wins.

The Vikings’ defense also limited the Redskins to 216 total yards, 14 first downs, knocked Keenum out of the game after the first half and limited Washington’s scoring to three field goals from Dustin Hopkins.

In a way, Minnesota’s last possession, even though it didn’t result in points, epitomized the night. With a 10-point lead and 8:42 left, the Vikings ran the combination of Cook and Alexander Mattison 11 straight times for 77 yards and chewed up more than eight minutes of game clock. The Vikings turned the ball over on downs, but there were only 32 seconds left and the damage had been done.

To Zimmer’s surprise, he looked up at the scoreboard during the drive and saw the Vikings had 428 yards of total offense to Washington’s 200. For the fourth straight week, the Vikings piled up more than 400 yards of total offense. They also ran 67 offensive plays to Washington’s 41.

It wasn't always pretty, but it got the job done on a short week.

“I like the toughness of this football team. They fight, I think it showed in a lot of different ways. I told them at the end there, we got 10 minutes left, we got a 10-point lead, let’s go put this thing away. I think that’s the sign of a good football team,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

With Adam Thielen out nursing a hamstring injury, the Vikings gave Cook an even bigger workload than normal. He finished the night with 171 total yards, including 98 yards rushing on 23 carries. He added five catches for 73 yards, including a 31-yard gain on a screen pass.

Cook scored from four yards out late in the first half to give the Vikings a 13-6 lead at the break after the two teams each exchanged a pair of field goals, unable to convert early drives in the red zone into touchdowns. Cook became the fourth Viking ever Thursday night to record 1,000 yards from scrimmage in eight games or fewer.

“Making plays any way possible. Thielen is one of our valuable playmakers, so just trying to make plays any way possible to put us in a position to score points and win a football game,” Cook said.

Cousins entered the night with 976 yards and 10 touchdowns in his last three games, since a 16-6 loss at Chicago left him publicly apologizing to Thielen on a radio show. That, and Minnesota’s other star receiver, Stefon Diggs, being fined by the team for not showing up to practice and missing team meetings.

Cousins didn’t find the end zone Thursday night, but he took what his former team gave him. He finished the night 23-of-26 passing for 285 yards, didn’t turn the ball over and had a 112.3 rating. He averaged 11 yards per completion, many coming after the catch. His three incompletions came on two throwaways under pressure and a drop by Cook.

After the game, Cousins downplayed any motivation when it came to beating his former team, who opted not sign him to a new deal and let him become a free agent. He would eventually sign a three-year, $84 million fully-guaranteed deal with the Vikings. He’s currently halfway through that contract.

“We won the game and that’s all that matters and that’s all my focus is on. They were a tremendous place to go to work for six years and I just had the best of memories of my time there,” Cousins said. “I’m just happy that we won, I’m just thrilled that we won the game, that’s what it’s all about.”

Zimmer talked with Cousins about just that during the week. It can be tough playing your former team, showing them what they might be missing. They got the win, and that’s all they care about.

“We talked during the week, and you know you always have a little extra motivation when you’re playing your old team. You’re always trying to prove that they were wrong for letting you go or whatever the reason was. I thought he handled it really well,” Zimmer said. “He’s playing outstanding right now. He’s been on a nice roll for the last four ballgames, and we’re hoping it continues to stay that way.”

Cousins’ top receiver with Thielen out, not surprisingly, was Diggs. He finished with seven catches for 143 yards, setting a Vikings’ record with 452 yards in a three-game stretch. It beat a previous mark set by Randy Moss. Cousins, like last week, completed passes to seven different receivers Thursday night.

The night took a negative turn for the Redskins when Keenum couldn’t return after suffering a concussion on a sack. He finished the first half 12-of-16 for 130 yards in his first appearance at U.S. Bank Stadium since the “Minneapolis Miracle.”

Peterson showed he can still play at 34 years old, finishing with 103 total yards and averaging 5.4 yards per carry. But the Vikings’ defense got sacks from Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr and Ifeadi Odenigbo, got a fumble recovery from Shamar Stephen and an interception from Anthony Harris.

“Somebody was able to come up with a play when we needed it. Whether it was a third down, guys coming in with a strip sack, plays like that, takeaways, that really helped us out,” Harris said.

For all the talk of uncertainty with specialists in the offseason and through training camp, all Dan Bailey has done is put the ball through the uprights. He made four field goals Thursday from 50, 29, 27 and 40 yards and is now 11-of-13 on the season.

The Vikings are 6-2 with half their season in the rear-view mirror, and they’ve gotten there a variety of ways. They’ll likely face a Kansas City Chiefs team next weekend without quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is recovering from a knee injury. They’re remaining division games against the Packers, Bears and Lions will all be at U.S. Bank Stadium.

They certainly feel like they’re in the driver’s seat for the back half of the season.

“We’re 6-2 and I think we’ve got everything in front of us. We’ve got to go out and prove it the second half of the season, but we’ve put ourselves in a position now where the second half of the season is going to be there for the taking. That’s a really good thing,” Cousins said.