ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys' defense expected the Vikings would use a steady diet of Dalvin Cook – running and receiving – Sunday night.
The NFL's leading rusher indeed made enough plays in different ways to lead the Vikings past Dallas, 28-24, at AT&T Stadium.
Cook piled up 183 total yards from scrimmage (97 rushing, 86 receiving) and a third-quarter touchdown run that gave the Vikings the lead for good.
"We're going to look at it and be disappointed with how we played defensively," Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said. "I thought our offense did a great job and kept us in the game. We just have to find a way to get off the field, and we can't let a team run like that."
After 10 weeks, Cook leads the NFL with 894 rushing yards. Counting Sunday, he also has eight games with at least 100 total yards from scrimmage this season – the most in the league.
The Cowboys knew Cook would be an all-purpose option for quarterback Kirk Cousins. The defense bottled him up on the ground early, holding him to 27 yards on 9 carries in the first half.
But he also had an explosive receiving play on both of the Vikings' first-quarter touchdown drives: a 27-yarder and a 30-yarder, eluding multiple tacklers along the way. Aided by Cowboys penalties, both plays put Minnesota in the red zone.
"I thought we did a good job defending the run at the outset of the game," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "They got him the ball in the screen game and that's what they do. It's a big part of their offense all year long, and they did a good job giving him some space. You don't want him out in space, because he can really hurt you."
Said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence: "They tried to stretch us out sideline to sideline and make us run. He's a quick back, I'll give it to him. But it's all about us rallying and tackling."
The defense battled and got off the field twice in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance at a winning drive. But the Vikings also appeared to control the line of scrimmage for large stretches in the second half.
On the drive leading to Cook's third-quarter touchdown run, the Vikings ran Cook and rookie Alexander Mattison 11 times for 58 yards on the 13-play possession.
Stopping the run is the Cowboys' top defensive priority each week. They weren't satisfied with their overall performance there Sunday.
"It starts with a guy like me who didn't tackle well," Lee said. "We started slow and we need to be better as a group. And you've got to give them credit for how they played."