DETROIT – Dalvin Cook kept his brilliant season rolling by rushing for a career-high 206 yards and two scores on 22 carries, leading the Minnesota Vikings to a 34-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Kirk Cousins threw for three touchdowns — two to tight end Irv Smith Jr. — in his second straight turnover-free performance for the Vikings (3-5), who averaged 8.9 yards per play on the way to their first home win this season.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who didn’t practice all week due to coronavirus exposure protocols, left the game in the fourth quarter for concussion evaluation after taking a knee to the head during a sack. He was picked off on consecutive possessions in the third quarter, first at the Minnesota 12 and then in the end zone. Chase Daniel threw another interception after taking over.
The show again belonged to Cook, though, with his predecessor Adrian Peterson watching from the opposite sideline. Cook, whom Peterson admiringly called “a lethal weapon” this week, has 478 yards and six touchdowns from scrimmage in two games since missing one with a groin injury.
Peterson had eight carries for 29 yards while again dropping behind rookie D’Andre Swift in the pecking order for the Lions (3-5), who lost their ninth straight division game and are 2-13 against the NFC North under coach Matt Patricia. He’s 0-5 against the Vikings.
The Vikings entered the game ranked second in the league in yards per play (6.34) and more than doubled that average on their first two possessions to quickly take command.
Cook, who has an NFL-leading 12 rushing touchdowns, scored first. Then, after Matt Prater’s 46-yard field-goal attempt went wide left — the only missed kick of any type in 43 attempts against the Vikings this season — Cousins hit Smith for a score to cap a second consecutive five-play drive.
The dagger came in the closing seconds of the first half, another blemish against a defense that has been consistently underwhelming under Patricia. The Vikings went 87 yards in six plays and 64 seconds, pushing their lead back to 10 points after former Lions running back Ameer Abdullah took a screen pass 22 yards to the end zone.
Considering he wasn’t allowed to practice with the team all week and was missing leading receiver Kenny Golladay to a hip injury, Stafford was plenty sharp early. He completed 16 straight passes in the first half, all on underneath routes with the Vikings giving their inexperienced cornerbacks continued insurance with a heavy dose of two-deep safety looks. Marvin Jones Jr. caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter that cut the lead to 13-10.
Then it all fell apart. Linebackers Eric Wilson and Eric Kendricks had the backbreaking interceptions for the Vikings, sandwiched around a blocked punt by Austin Bryant. Romeo Okwara blocked a punt in the fourth quarter, too, but that came after Cook’s 70-yard touchdown run on a simple off-tackle play as he powered straight through the arms of defensive tackle John Penisini.
Lions: Rookie CB Jeff Okudah hurt his ankle in the third quarter. ... Backup CB Tony McRae hurt his right knee while blocking during a punt return in the second quarter and was taken off on a cart. ... With Jamal Agnew (ribs) inactive for the first time this season, Danny Amendola returned punts and Marvin Hall returned kickoffs. ... FS Tracy Walker (foot) also had his first absence, replaced by Will Harris, who was banged up on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Vikings: Smith had his right upper leg looked at by the medical staff after his second TD, in the third quarter. He didn’t return. ... Kris Boyd started at CB for Cameron Dantzler (concussion). With Mark Fields joining Mike Hughes on injured reserve this week and Holton Hill (foot) sidelined for a fourth straight game, the Vikings were missing four of their top six CBs.