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Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said his defense had Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook right where it wanted him. And then he was gone.
For the second straight week, Cook ran with power and purpose as he ran over another NFC North foe. On Sunday, it was the Lions’ turn to play the nail to Cook’s hammer as he ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns — a week after he ran for 163 yards and scored four touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers.
“I think first thing for me, I just got to give Minnesota credit first,” Patricia said after the 34-20 loss. “I thought Dalvin did an unbelievable job of running the ball today. I thought their O-linemen blocked us and we weren’t able to get off those blocks and make some plays. Took advantages of some angles that I think were out there.
“Again, I would say, one of the most impressive things I thought was really the yards after contact. There was a couple plays where we’ve got him right there where we need him and he was able to kind of break free and turn those into some really big plays.”
As impressive as Cook was last week, when he earned NFC offensive player of the week honors, Sunday’s game against the Lions was special because it was the first time he ran for 200 yards in his career.
“Yeah, it’s big, man,” he said. “You talk about confidence, and you talk about just building from last week. Like I said, those guys up front, they’re going to go home today with a lot of confidence that we can run the football.
“And that’s what it’s all about with me: giving those guys upfront, and my guys that are blocking for me a lot of confidence. And we’ve got that confidence going into Monday Night Football.”
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Patricia wasn’t the only person on the Lions to credit Cook, who leads NFL running backs with 858 yards and 12 touchdowns and will likely enter the discussion for NFL MVP. Lions defensive lineman Austin Bryant also praised Cook while offering a perfunctory answer for improving the run defense.
“I mean, Dalvin’s a great player,” Bryant said. “You’ve got to play well against great players. We didn’t do that in the run game. We need to go back to the drawing board and clean up our fundamentals and technique. That’s where it all starts. I know y’all are tired of hearing that but it’s true.
“Everybody in the league is talented, everybody has God-given abilities. But when it comes down to it it all comes down to effort, technique and fundamentals and attitude and having a gritty attitude to say we’re going to stop the run. And that’s going to be point blank period. So we’ve got to go back to the drawing board this week, work it, rep it and make sure everybody’s on the same page and get it fixed next week.”
The biggest indictment of the Lions’ struggles against Cook came on his 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, when only John Penisini came close to stopping him by thrusting out a hand. Cook said he saw some poor run fits from the Lions and good blocking that allowed him to run free.
“I seen my guys get on some guys,” he said. “In this league, you’re going to have to break one or two tackles to get where you’re going, and that’s just playing in the NFL.
“I had a guy that was in the hole and I knew if I broke his tackle there were some guys misfitting and I had some daylight. Like I said, guys got in front of people. You see receivers getting on guys and giving me a chance to make some plays.”
But it was worse than that because the run came when the Lions only had 10 men on the field.
“Man, I ain’t gonna sit here and blame nobody,” cornerback Desmond Trufant said. “We’ve got to be better overall. Like I said, when you make those types of mistakes, good players, good teams, they take advantage. We’ve just got to be better overall.”
Patricia indicated it was a communication problem that led to the Lions playing shorthanded.
“Those are things we got to get fixed,” he said. “We got to make sure we handle those better and communicate on the sideline better when those things happen. If we have an injury, or if we have a situation where something comes up, to make sure everybody’s tapped in with that. We got to get it right from a coaching standpoint.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.