Cook had started 10 games on the season, including the first three and six of the first seven, but eventually injuries and ineffectiveness got the better of him and he was inactive for four games, including Dec. 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But with Xavier Rhodes out with an ankle injury and Josh Robinson on injured reserve with a chest injury, Cook was forced into more extensive duty, along with Marcus Sherels, who started the season far down the cornerback depth chart, and Shaun Prater, who wasn't even on the roster until Oct. 22.
"It was dependent on what they were doing personnel-wise," head coach Leslie Frazier said about the plan with Cook before the game. "We wanted to see how Chris worked out during the week of practice and he did some things fairly well, but we made the decision to go with Shaun, and then of course Shaun gets injured and we had to get Chris out there and he was a little bit banged up. But the injury to Shaun precipitated that we get Chris on the field."
Prater and Sherels started the game, and Sherels played all but one of the 77 defensive snaps. Prater likely would have had a similar part, but he was hurt in the first half. He returned to the game but ultimately wasn't able to finish. Cook got more extensive action in Prater's absence. He was also dinged up in the first half when Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu landed on Cook during an incomplete pass, but because of how thin the Vikings were at cornerback he continued to play.
The Bengals took advantage. No Viking was targeted more than Cook. The Bengals threw his way nine times, completing seven passes for 76 yards, and Frazier admitted it appeared the Bengals were intentionally targeting him.
"It seemed that way, him coming off an injury," Frazier said. "We would probably do the same thing. So, tough, tough day for him."
The longest reception against him was a 29-yard touchdown toss to A.J. Green. The Bengals receiver also beat Cook for a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Cook was hardly the only issue in the passing game. The Vikings gave up 348 net yards passing and allowed the Bengals to convert 8 of 14 third downs and 1 of 2 fourth downs.
Harrison Smith returned to the starting lineup but Frazier admitted their best player in the secondary was sore because of the amount of playing time he got the previous week in his debut following an eight-week hiatus because of a severe case of turf toe.
"He was a little sore (Sunday). Played through it, but he was sore for a period of time," Frazier said. "Worked well in practice and he'll be a little sore this week, but he'll be ready to go for the game."
One piece of good news for the secondary is that Frazier is hoping rookie first-round pick Xavier Rhodes can return for the season finale after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.
"We definitely need him, so we'll see if he's able to practice (Tuesday) or when we come back after practice. But we're hoping so," Frazier said.
Adrian Peterson played in 26 of the 49 offensive snaps for the Vikings, but with the game out of hand and Peterson clearly still struggling with his sprained foot the Vikings pulled him in the second half.
"(I) didn't feel perfect. But I felt like I was able to contribute a little bit," Peterson said after the game. "We got down early and (Frazier) pulled me out. I didn't like it. But when you think about being down by 28 points, is the risk really worth it? I just accepted it for what it was and just push to get ready for Sunday."
Peterson said on Friday that the rushing title was important to him. He started the game 122 yards behind Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, but now even Jamal Charles is ahead of Peterson. With one week to go, McCoy leads the league with 1,476 yards, Charles has 1,287 and Peterson – after rushing 11 times for 45 yards Sunday – has 1,266 yards.
"There were some moments in that game where he did some good things and there were some other moments where I just wasn't sure he had the burst we ordinarily would see. We all want to see if he's better this week with some more time," Frazier said.
"We'll see where he is this week when we get back on the field and make a determination if he's farther along than he was (Sunday) and just try to do the right thing."
Former starting MLB Erin Henderson, who lost his job to Cole and had been playing on the weak side the last three games, replaced Cole in the middle.
"I thought he did a good job when he stepped in in the absence of Audie," Frazier said of Cole. "Came in, made some nice tackles for us, did a pretty good job of directing defense. I thought he did a pretty good job of moving over from the outside linebacker spot to the middle linebacker spot."
Cole will likely be placed on injured reserve to free up a roster spot.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.