Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs from Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jerome Baker during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Cook carries Vikings past Dolphins 41-17

December 16, 2018 - 4:32 pm
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Dalvin Cook had a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns on a season-high 19 carries for Minnesota as the Vikings recommitted themselves to running the ball. They stayed in control of a spot in the playoffs with a 41-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Latavius Murray added 68 rushing yards and a score on 15 of the team's season-high 40 attempts. The Vikings (7-6-1) converted each of their first three drives under interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski into touchdowns before turning the game over to the defense.

"We felt it in practice all week, the way we flied around, the way guys got lined up," Cook said. "We felt the sense of urgency to get things done."

Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter each had two of the nine sacks of Ryan Tannehill , totaling 71 lost yards for the Dolphins (7-7). Miami came crashing down from the euphoria of defeating New England with that double-lateral 69-yard score on the final play last week .

Minkah Fitzpatrick returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and Kalen Ballage scored on a 75-yard run on the first snap of the second half to bring the Dolphins within 21-17. But on their next five possessions they netted a staggering minus-27 yards on 16 plays.

Tannehill finished 11 for 24 for 108 yards, as the Dolphins took just their fifth loss in the last 17 games he has started and saw their wild-card bid in the AFC take an even bigger hit. Baltimore, Indianapolis and Tennessee all won to move to 8-6 and leave Miami in ninth place in the conference race.

"Obviously things are out of our control at this point, but we've just got to keep playing," Tannehill said. "Win the games we have left on our schedule, and whatever else happens is out of our hands."

Though Chicago won the NFC North by beating Green Bay, the Vikings moved a critical step closer to returning to the postseason. With enough help, they could clinch the second wild-card spot next week.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs and Aldrick Robinson while going 14 for 21 for 215 yards for the Vikings, who posted their second-highest score in five years under coach Mike Zimmer. Miami gave up 30-plus points for a sixth game this season and 400-plus yards for the ninth time this year.

The Vikings were held under 285 total yards at Seattle last week for the fourth time in their last five games and limped home with their record back to even. So Zimmer made a last-ditch move to try to salvage the season by firing first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and promoting Stefanski to replace him. One of Zimmer's public criticisms of DeFilippo in recent weeks had been a lack of consistent commitment to establishing a running attack.

"I think Kevin knew what I wanted," Zimmer said, complimenting Stefanski for acting "calm and collected" throughout the week and during the game.

The spark Zimmer sought was immediate, with the Vikings settling in nicely at home after two rough weeks on the road. They needed only 19 plays, keeping the ball on the ground 12 times, to cross the goal line on each of their first three possessions. Cousins, who has operated out of the shotgun for the majority of the season, was often under center while completing his first eight passes.

"We couldn't stop the run, and they were able to do all their play-actions off of that," a downcast Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. "The last thing we needed to happen was to get behind like that."

With 202 yards, the Vikings gained the highest first-quarter total in the NFL in a season filled with prolific production nearly everywhere. It was their most points in the opening 15 minutes since a 28-point output on Oct. 9, 2011, against Arizona.

The special teams were sharp as ever for Minnesota, too, with Dan Bailey making all five of his extra points and both field-goal tries. Marcus Sherels set up one of those kicks with a 70-yard punt return and totaled 116 yards on five returns.

INJURY REPORT

Dolphins: Frank Gore, the NFL's active rushing leader, hurt his left ankle on the second-to-last play of the first quarter and didn't return. ... Fitzpatrick, the first-round pick who was drafted as a safety, started at CB for Xavien Howard for the second straight game. Howard, who entered the week tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, has a knee injury. ... Backup DT Ziggy Hood (hamstring) limped off the field at the end of the third quarter.

Vikings: Backup TE David Morgan (knee) returned from a four-game absence. CB Trae Waynes (concussion) was back after missing the last game.

UP NEXT

Dolphins: Host Jacksonville (4-10) next Sunday.

Vikings: Play at Detroit (5-9) next Sunday.

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