Vikings' run game takes off in 41-17 win over Dolphins

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 16: Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings runs with the ball for a 21 yard touchdown, his second of the day, in the fourth quarter of them game against the Miami Dolphins. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

There won’t be a “Victory Monday” for the Minnesota Vikings. But it’s not because they aren’t happy after a 41-17 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

It’s because they want to maintain their focus and build momentum after getting one step closer to a playoff spot. The Vikings played dominant football in all three phases Sunday and piled up more than 400 yards of total offense in Kevin Stefanski’s debut as offensive coordinator.

“I’m happy for him and happy for this team right now after a big home win,” said quarterback Kirk Cousins, who had two passing touchdowns but also threw an interception for a touchdown in the win.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said after the game he was happy with his new offensive coordinator, who leaned a lot on the entire coaching staff leading up to Sunday’s win. The Vikings got back to doing what they want to do to win games: Running the football.

Dalvin Cook had 19 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings ran for 220 total yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. That’s the most the Vikings have rushed for all season.

The offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and got a big boost from David Morgan in the run-blocking game. Morgan returned for the first time since a Week 9 injury.

“That’s my guy right there. They do the dirty work, they do the lifting. He’s just a hard-nosed, tough guy, and getting him back is important to the things we want to do,” Cook said.

Not to be outdone, the Vikings’ defense sacked Ryan Tannehill nine times. That’s their second-highest total of the season. They sacked Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford 10 times earlier this year.

Tannehill was under pressure most of the afternoon. He finished 11-of-24 passing for just 108 yards.

“The defensive line is quite talented,” Zimmer said.

“It was a lot of fun man. Offense was scoring points, and it gives us a lot of confidence defensively,” said linebacker Anthony Barr, who finished with seven tackles and two sacks to lead the defense. “We were out there flying around having fun, and that’s when we’re at our best.”

The Vikings didn’t waste any time in getting out to an early lead. They scored three first quarter touchdowns after managing just seven total first quarter points since their bye week. Cook had 59 of the 75 yards on the opening drive, 27 yards on a screen pass and a 26-yard run, before Stefon Diggs was wide open for a 13-yard touchdown to give Minnesota an early 7-0 lead.

It was their fifth touchdown on an opening drive this season.

Cook got a heavy workload on the Vikings’ second drive, which also got a big boost on a 24-yard completion to tight end Tyler Conklin. Cook finished the drive with a 13-yard touchdown to give Minnesota a 14-0 lead. Cousins said they had the same play drawn up Monday against the Seahawks, and an unblocked cornerback made the tackle. This time, Cook made the defender miss, won the race to the edge and got to the end zone.

“He did a great job and he showed the elite ability that he has to make people miss. I told him to make him miss, and it’s a big play. I handed it off and had a front row seat, he made him miss and he ran it for a touchdown,” Cousins said.

Latavius Murray scored from 14 yards out to give the Vikings a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, and it appeared a rout was on.

But Minkah Fitzpatrick picked off Cousins on screen headed for Diggs and ran it back 50 yards for a touchdown. Miami added a field goal to make it 21-10 at the half.

On the first play of the third quarter, Kalen Ballage went untouched on a 75-yard touchdown. It cut the Vikings lead to 21-17. Zimmer blamed himself after the game for a bad defensive call that led to the score. Ballage led Miami with 12 carries for 123 yards and the touchdown after Frank Gore went down early with an ankle injury.

But the Vikings dominated the rest of the game. The Dolphin’s next five possessions resulted in one first down, four three-and-outs and one turnover on downs. The Vikings had seven of their nine sacks during that span.

The Dolphins managed just 12 first downs, 193 total yards and were 2-of-12 on third down.

A pair of Dan Bailey field goals gave the Vikings a 27-17 lead. Cousins found Aldrick Robinson for a 40-yard touchdown to make it a 34-17 lead in the fourth quarter, and Cook’s 21-yard touchdown on a spin move was icing on the cake in the win.

“That’s the guy we see every day in practice and the guy we’ve been waiting to give these opportunities and to let him carry this offense because we know what kind of player he is,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “We’re going to ride him the rest of the year.”

Cousins finished 14-of-21 for 215 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings ran for 220 yards and finished with 418 net total yards. That’s balance, and a successful debut for Stefanski running the offense.

It’s an important win for the Vikings, but it’s just one win. The Bears clinched the NFC North Division after beating the Packers 24-17 on Sunday. They head to Detroit next week and control their playoff destiny.

“Nothing changes. Next week is a must-win. Hopefully this starts a little spark for us,” Barr said.

“We got two more important games left. Today we can feel great, but we’ve got to get back to work,” Zimmer said.