MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings and their fans all had to take a deep breath after one single play in the third quarter of Monday night’s 37-30 loss at Seattle.
With the game tied 17-17, Dalvin Cook took a handoff. He was hit in the chest by Jadavion Clowney, fumbled and the Seahawks recovered. To add injury to insult, Cook stayed down on the field, writhing in pain. To make matters even worse, wide receiver Stefon Diggs also got hurt on the play.
Vikings’ fans could exhale a little when Diggs eventually got up and left the field under his own power. He finished the loss with four catches for 25 yards, and a jet sweep for 27 yards that set up Minnesota’s first touchdown. He also had a key drop on a pass that Seattle intercepted, which turned into a Seahawks’ touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The greater concern after the loss was Cook’s health. He went straight to the locker room, skipping the sideline injury tent altogether, before eventually returning to the sideline. He spent the rest of the game sitting on a bench, and at one point was spotted by cameras saying, “It’s not that bad.”
After the game, Cook was more concerned about his fumble than his health.
“It doesn’t matter if I get injured or not, I can’t turn the ball over. I hold myself 1,000 percent responsible for not turning the ball over, I pride myself on not turning the ball over, so I can’t put my team in that position when I turn the ball over,” Cook said.
Cook has been one of the best running backs in the NFL this season. Through 12 games, he’s fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,046 yards. He’s also becoming a more consistent threat in the screen game as defenses continue to put pressure on Kirk Cousins.
When speaking to reporters on a conference call Tuesday, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer didn’t sound concerned about Cook’s health long-term.
When asked how he looked, Zimmer said, “Fine.”
Cook said after the game the injury was a re-aggravation of a chest injury suffered against the Denver Broncos two weeks ago. He said he’s fine and expects to play Sunday against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium.
He said injuries come with playing in the NFL, and he would know. He missed most of his rookie season with a torn ACL, and missed time last season with a hamstring injury.
“It’s a physical sport, that’s what comes with it so I just have to fight through it. I’ll be good though,” Cook said.
Cook also acknowledged it was probably the right call to keep him out at Seattle. The Vikings likely need to win their remaining four games, three left at home and all against NFC North Division opponents, to have any shot at winning the division. They would also need an additional loss from the Green Bay Packers.
They need Cook as healthy as he can be for the home stretch.
“We’ve got four crucial games ahead of us, and I’ve got to be ready for those games so I was all in for them holding me out. Looking forward to what we’ve got ahead of us,” Cook said.
One player who has stepped up with Adam Thielen out, and with Cook’s injury Monday, is tight end Kyle Rudolph. He finished with four catches for 50 yards, including a 1-handed grab on a fourth quarter touchdown that got the Vikings within 34-30.
Rudolph spoke after the loss about the importance of the final four games, and getting into the playoffs. He noted getting back into the postseason might even put them back on a plane to face the Seahawks.
“I just hope everybody in this locker room holds their heads high, knowing that we could be back here again in a month,” Rudolph said.
Getting Thielen and Cook back healthy will be a big step in getting the Vikings back to the NFC Playoffs.