MINNEAPOLIS - There was plenty of blame to go around after the Minnesota Vikings opened the 2021 season with a 27-24 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime.
Two players who found themselves looking in the mirror in the 48 hours after the game: Dalvin Cook, and Garrett Bradbury. Cook fumbled in overtime, and Bradbury led an offensive line that struggled with penalties and pressure in the loss to the Bengals.
Cook was asked about his fumble on Wednesday, as the Vikings start Week 2 preparations for the Arizona Cardinals. With the offense driving for a potential game-winning field goal, Cook dropped the ball and Cincinnati recovered. It led to the Bengals’ game-winning kick. Cook has 13 fumbles in 44 career games, nine of them coming the last two seasons combined.
"I’m a pro, man. I’ve been playing football since I was 4 years old. I’ve fumbled before, I just gotta be better. You get the ball so many times in a football game, it’s valuable to take care of that football. It’s like your world when you’ve got it in your hands," Cook said. "Gotta take care of it and I’m moving on."
Cook admits the play still leaves him with a bad taste in his mouth, as a winnable game slipped away. The turnover was reviewed as it appeared Cook might be down by contact, but there wasn’t enough video evidence to overturn the call on the field.
He was asked Wednesday if he was surprised that the call stayed a fumble.
"When you’re in a hostile environment like that, you can’t leave the game in the ref’s hands. That’s part of being a pro, taking care of the football and being consistent in what I do," Cook said. "I wasn’t surprised, it was a 50/50 call, they made the call and that’s what we gotta live with."
GARRETT BRADBURY: ‘I DO KNOW PENALTIES, THEY WILL KILL YOU’
The Vikings’ penalty numbers were equally gaudy and hard to look at after Sunday’s loss. There were 17 total infractions called, 12 enforced for a total of 116 yards.
There were four on the first offensive series alone. C.J. Ham got called twice for false starts. In total, there were six false starts, four holding calls and one for unnecessary roughness. It was tough to watch for even the diehard Vikings fans.
Brabury, like the rest of the team, had no explanation for the flags.
"I don’t have a great answer for that one. I do know the penalties, they kill you. You all saw, it puts you behind the eight-ball," Bradbury said. "When you’re 2nd-and-15, 2nd-and-20, 3rd-and-20, not a whole lot of play calls that can get you out of that. All the penalties, they’re all correctable."
The Vikings faced six third downs of at least 15 yards Sunday, and five of them were 20-plus yards. When they faced a third-and-8 or less, they were 6-of-8 on conversions. Kirk Cousins, in addition to being sacked three times, was pressured throughout the game.
Because of the penalties and getting down multiple scores, the Vikings had to get away from their bread and butter: Running the ball. Cook averaged just three yards per carry. Bradbury says it comes down to surveying the defense pre-snap, making a call with the protection and sticking to it.
"Just making sure everyone is on the same page, that’s kind of offensive line play. Making sure we all understand what we’re doing, make a call quickly and just go with it," Bradbury said. "When we’re playing clean, we’re doing what we’re supposed to, we’re really good."
We'll find out Sunday how many of those mistakes are corrected in practice this week.