The Vikings want to run the ball Sunday against Dallas, and it should help having the NFL’s best run blocker in the lineup.
The team did not list left tackle Christian Darrisaw on the injury report Friday after he suffered a concussion last Sunday at Buffalo. So Darrisaw, ranked by Pro Football Focus as the top tackle in the NFL and the top run blocker among all offensive linemen, will start against the Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“He’s going to help us,” center Garrett Bradbury said. “He’s a stud.”
The Cowboys defense has given up an average of 223.5 yards rushing in the past two games, including 207 in last Sunday’s 31-28 overtime loss at Green Bay. And Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has rushed for 100 yards in two of the past three games, going for 119 in the 33-30 overtime win against the Bills.
In that game, after Cook scored on an 81-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, Darrisaw left with a concussion. And there was some uncertainty this week about whether he would be back to face the Cowboys.
But Darrisaw, who did not practice Wednesday and wore a red no-contact jersey during Thursday’s workout, returned to practice Friday as a full participant and was off the injury report. The Vikings did list defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson (right calf), who will miss his third straight game, and rookie cornerback Akayleb Evans (concussion), who was hurt at Buffalo, as out, and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith (knee) as questionable.
“Hell, yeah,” Darrisaw said. “I’m ready to go.”
Darrisaw wasn’t sure when he got hurt, but was taken out of the game after playing 44 snaps against the Bills. Blake Brandel played the final 39 snaps, and Darrisaw said he did a “great job.”
“I self-reported it,” Darrisaw said of his injury. “I’d never felt like that before. That was my first concussion. I had a headache that was lingering and then time kept going on and on and it got worse.
“I was just taking it day-by-day (during the week), letting the symptoms go away. I was symptom free (Thursday) and able to get a little non-contact in. I got cleared (Friday) and was able to go full speed.”
Now, Darrisaw is hoping the Vikings (8-1) can put up more big numbers against the Cowboys’ run defense. But offensive coordinator Wes Phillips is prepared for the visitors make adjustments.
“I know that certainly after the last two weeks, they’re going to be in there saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to shore this up,’ ” Phillips said. “That’s usually how it works. We expect them to come out and play physical and play the run. … I think they’re going to be ready to shore up some areas they’ve maybe had a little bit of struggle in, and we’re ready for their best shot.”
Overall, though, the Cowboys (6-3) rank a solid No. 5 in the NFL in scoring defense and No. 11 in total defense. They feature linebacker Micah Parsons, who has eight sacks and is a leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
On offense, the Cowboys will get a fourth straight start from quarterback Dak Prescott after he missed five games with a hand injury. Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson called him a “very successful quarterback” who “can make all the throws.”
The Vikings were able to win 28-24 at Dallas in 2019 with Prescott at quarterback. Then, with Prescott injured, they lost home games to the Cowboys 31-28 in 2020 with Andy Dalton as his replacement and 20-16 last year with Cooper Rush taking over.
Losing those two games at U.S. Bank Stadium hasn’t sat well with the Vikings. Bradbury called them “brutal.”
“Having lost two straight against them, we definitely have that in the back of our minds and we’re definitely going to go get this win,” receiver Justin Jefferson said.
It’s a big game as far as the NFC playoff race is concerned. The Vikings are battling Philadelphia (8-1) for a possible first-round NFC playoff bye, with the Eagles holding the tiebreaker due to a 24-7 win in Week 2. And the Cowboys are trying to stay within striking range of the Eagles in the NFC East and at least help their positioning for a wild-card spot.
“Let’s go roll the ball out on Sunday and see what happens,” Cook said.