Whenever a conclave of media types – a.k.a. the jackyl pack – surrounds Chris Cook, the same question always seems to pop up. With each game, month, season, etc. that has passed, Cook has eluded a couple of things. One is playing all 16 games. After missing the Vikings game in London, that streak won’t end. The other is a little more personal. In three-plus years as a Viking, Cook has yet to record an interception.
When cornerbacks are looking to get paid the second contract of their careers, there are certain statistics that are critical. For receivers, it’s touchdowns. For running backs, it’s yardage. For defensive ends, it’s sacks. For cornerbacks, it’s interceptions.
To date, Cook hasn’t snagged one, but remains insistent that they’re coming. In bunches. Until then, he’s going to continue preventing opposing receivers from making big plays, which he has done pretty well this season.
“As long as I don’t give up anything, I feel good,” Cook said. “I feel like I’ve been playing well. I haven’t given up too many plays. Interceptions will come. If they keep throwing the ball (my way), I’ll definitely get some.”
Cook will be under the spotlight Monday night. With Harrison Smith gone for at least eight weeks with a foot injury, the secondary which has already been suspect, will be without its lead vocalist. The rest of the band will have to pick up the slack because the loss of Smith will be significant.
“Everyone else has to step up,” Cook said. “We’ve got Drew (Andrew Sendejo) coming in taking his spot. Drew’s a good guy. He’s a hard worker. He plays faster than most people on the field when he’s out there, so I feel like he can make some plays for us when we need them.”
One of the hot topics among the NFL fan base/amateur general manager types in the last year is that the Tampa-2 defense simply isn’t effective against pass-happy NFL offenses. It is a reaction defense, which is exactly what opposing offensive coordinators want to see. One bee sting won’t injure most. Dozens of them will. Is the Tampa-2 defense becoming an antiquated scheme? The Vikings are 1-4 and have been routinely gashed through the air, but Cook believes the problem is more in terms of execution rather than philosophy.
“I don’t think it can be considered a scheme thing,” Cook said. “I think it’s got to be considered an issue within execution. When you’re a player on the field, there’s only so many things a coach can do to make a call on the sidelines. You’ve got to go out there and play the play and get the guy down. Make the tackle. Make the play. There are a lot of things that go into it. Players have to out there and play.”
The best thing the Vikings have going for them is that the Giants have thrown 16 interceptions – 15 from starter Eli Manning and one of the four passes backup Curtis Painter threw up for grabs.
Nobody is allowing players to get their first interception more than Eli & Co. Cook hopes that trend continues for another week and helps him get off the notorious list of players with no career interceptions.
“It’s very exciting,” Cook said of New York’s penchant for giveaways. “Hopefully, he’ll come in and throw us a few.”
It’s hard to imagine a sixth game of the season being make or break, but linebacker Chad Greenway admitted that Monday’s game has the must-win tag with it. With a win, the Vikings can get back to 2-4 and have some reason to believe they have enough wiggle room to finish 10-6 or 9-7 with a chance for a playoff spot. A 1-5 record with a loss to a 0-6 team would likely kill those dim hopes.
“We have to approach it that way in our preparation and when we’re on the flight to go over there, we have to approach this with a must-win mentality,” Greenway said. “Our coaches need to coach like that. Our players need to play like that. We just have to have the approach all week – that every game at this point is must-win.”
Harrison Smith was far from the only casualty of the injury bug facing the Vikings. On Thursday, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil and A.J. Jefferson were all sidelined and didn’t practice. In addition, four others were limited – Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Xavier Rhodes and Blair Walsh.
Jason Pierre-Paul missed practice for the Giants Friday, but it was due to illness, not the injuries that have plagued him this season. Cornerback Corey Webster didn’t take part in Friday’s practice but is expected to play.
From Elias Sports Bureau and the St. Paul Pioneer Press: The combined record of 1-10 for the Vikings and Giants makes Monday’s game the worst statistical records matchup of any two teams this late in the season since the advent of Monday Night Football, with a combined .091 winning percentage.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.