Cowboys aim to “take [the] wheels out” of Vikings’ running game

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

As Vikings receiver Adam Thielen said after the Minnesota offense fell flat against the Bears, the passing game will have to step up on those days when the running game isn’t working. The Cowboys think that the Vikings’ passing game won’t step up, so they’re planning to shut down the running game.

“Rule No. 1 is to take their wheels out,” Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said, via Mitchell Gladstone of the Dallas Morning News. “If they can’t run the ball, what do they have to do? We’ve got to take their leading rusher out and make them one-dimensional.”

Their leading rusher is Dalvin Cook, who has become one of the finest running backs in the league. He’s performed so well this season that even a solid day — 71 yards against the Chiefs — is regarded as a bad day.

“I played against [Cook] at Florida State, so I know he’s got juice,” Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith said, via Gladstone. “But we’re looking forward to the challenge of playing against the guy that’s leading the league in rushing.”

Cook has the most yards this year, with 894. Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has 881, but his team has played one fewer game.

If the Cowboys can indeed put the clamps on Cook, the question becomes whether quarterback Kirk Cousins can get it done. And it’s smart for Dallas to focus on the run and to dare Cousins to beat them. He has shown a hyperawareness of the circumstances of a given game, and he seems to grip the ball a little too tightly and to think a little too much in a big spot.

As regular-season spots go, they don’t get much bigger than Week 10, in Dallas, against the Cowboys, under the lights, before an audience that will land somewhere between 25 and 30 million. And it gives Cousins his latest best chance to change the narrative that he can’t perform well when the stakes are high.

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