The Minnesota Vikings’ “purple people eaters” nickname alluded to their imposing defensive line that rummaged through opposing lines throughout the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s. The Hall of Fame nickname was a copiously dispersed one - each man on the legendary taskforce was a potently charged weapon in his own right, capable of disrupting offenses to a near unstoppable level.
Nearly 50 years later, the Vikings have rediscovered another form of ammunition worthy of the “purple people eater” tabbing. This hungry force though, is packaged in one compact 5’10, 209-lb body: that of Dalvin Cook’s.
And boy has he cooked adverse defenses to a near coal-like char since returning to Vikings training camp from his prolonged holdout with the team. Cook had been adamant about the magnitude of his contract’s financial stipulations for months leading up to the 2020-21 season, and for good reason - the shelf life of a running back is one of the more rapidly expiring ones in terms of positional player standing.
An injury, especially for a man who receives the ball on 33.2% of his team’s play calls (second-highest in the NFL), is contractible at any given moment, and Cook’s knowledge of this periling life fact is what ultimately kept his foot pridefully grounded in static as he awaited his payday.
His leverage ultimately won out to the tune of a five-year deal worth $63 million in total.
And Cook’s made good on his lump sum up to this point.
The Vikings and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak are opting for run designs on 49.2% of their plays according the ESPN, but despite Cook’s hefty plenary dependence, he’s making the most of his opportunities.
He burst out of the gates in Week 1, bustling and bruising his way to two rushing touchdowns in a loss to Green Bay, before setting a new career high versus Tennessee with 181 yards on a massive 8.23 YPA average.
That record would quickly shatter just weeks later. Cook usurped the 200-yard (206) mark for the first time in his career against a Detroit front line that looked completely lost in containment attempts, and the world’s most robust compass wouldn’t have pointed their foray in an equitable direction to stop him.
The Vikes are currently enjoying the ripe fruits of a three-game winning streak, which has come in large great part on the heels of Cook’s sturdy lower half. He’s been nonpareil, churning his way to the top spot on the NFL’s league rushing total (954). That number is sure to eclipse 1,000 Sunday.
Dallas hopes that’s all he’ll surpass, though, and for their defense, Cook is standalone as public enemy numero uno.
Demarcus Lawrence shed light on his squad’s attentive approach to Cook in this week’s media pressers, saying that their top priority is avoiding a repeat of the pounding they took at the hands of Cleveland in Week 4:
“I feel like our feet are underneath us, we’re starting to play with more of a football IQ and understand more of what our coaches want from us, and we’re going out there and playing hard.”
He also added in allusion to their Browns’ disintegration: “it will not be a repeat.”
“Playing hard” may be the ultimate cliché of sporting quotes one can give to the media, but if Dallas’ performance against the undefeated Steelers is any measure of what’s to come, then that’s a quote that comes with a deep reverence of sincerity.
One thing is at their advantage: they know exactly what’s coming, and that more often than not, it will be #33 who’s lugging along as he’s entrusted with overseeing control of the pigskin.
What their winning chances in the defensive battle will come down to is simple: whether or not they’ll be able to stop him.