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Film Study: Saints run defense does battle with Dalvin Cook

There was good and also there was not good vs the NFL’s second leading rusher

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints run defense has been up against some tough opponents in 2020, however none tougher than their Christmas Day clash with Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. While the Saints defense held their own against the former Florida State man, Cook didn’t go hungry on Christmas night, totaling 15 carries for 73 yards and a score against Pro Football Focus’s second-rated run defense. Here, we’ll take a look at the good and the not good from the Saints run defense on Friday.

Cook’s first run of the day was a 15-yard run on a zone concept. First, what was intended to be his hole off the left guard is filled by Chauncey C.J. Ceedy Duce Gardner-Johnson, though when the Vikings fullback blocks CCJCDGJ out of the play, Cook bounces to the outside. This is Marcus Davenport’s responsibility to contain, to keep Cook from doing exactly what he does, and when you add in a pair of missed tackles from Janoris Jenkins and P.J. Williams, Dalvin Cook’s off to a good start on Christmas Day.

Again, we see Marcus Davenport getting punished. Cook runs right into Davenport’s gap off the left guard and Davenport’s unable to shed his blocker in time to make a play. Cook uses a good burst to get by Demario Davis (not easy to do) and then b=plows through contact to finish this run into the endzone on Minnesota’s opening drive. If you haven’t figured out by now, Dalvin Cook is very good.

It wasn’t all bad for the Saints run defense in this game, as the defense settled in against Cook after those first two runs. Cook would carry the ball 12 more times after his first quarter touchdown, only giving up one run of 10+ yards and stopping him for two yards or less six times. That includes this stop from Malcolm Roach, who gets to the back side of his blocker and stops Cook for a yard on this early second quarter run.

Probably the best play Malcolm Jenkins made on Friday was this stop of Dalvin Cook behind the line of scrimmage for a two-yard loss. With both Jenkins and Demario Davis blitzing backside, Vikings fullback Jake Bargas decides to block Demario Davis and leave Jenkins free to force Cook to cut right into Shy Tuttle.

The last time that Dalvin Cook touched the ball on Friday was on this play. Late in the third quarter, the Vikings are trying to stop Alvin Kamara and friends from running away with this game. With the Saints up 31-20 and the Vikings having the ball on the Saints goal line, they give it to Dalvin Cook, and Dalvin meets David Onyemata about three yards in the backfield. Cook didn’t touch the ball at all in the fourth quarter.

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