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.
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. New England clinched the AFC East with the Miami loss.
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. 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 coach Mike 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.
The spark Zimmer was seeking 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 mostly under center while completing his first seven passes with a heavy dose of play-action.
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.
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.
Dolphins: Host Jacksonville (4-10) next Sunday.
Vikings: Play at Detroit (5-9) next Sunday.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL