By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings got their running going in their Week 4 win over the Atlanta Falcons at TCF Bank Stadium.
Since Adrian Peterson’s legal issue reached the headlines on Sept. 12, the Vikings recorded 54 and 59 total rushing yards in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively. However, Sunday the team combined to run for 241 yards, including 135 by rookie Jerick McKinnon.
Credit should go where credit is due. The offensive line, fullback Jerome Felton and wide receivers opened holes at the line of scrimmage, knocked the Falcons defensive line backward and forced defensive backs to make tackles down field.
“They punched them in the mouth from the get-go,” McKinnon said. “That’s what kept us motivated, kept us pushing, and that’s what set the tempo. When they have confidence, we all have confidence.”
The offensive line has been maligned all season. But, Sunday there was not much negative to say about the group.
“I thought we did a nice job coming off the ball,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I thought we stayed with our blocks, I thought we executed well. I thought we maybe wore them down a little bit, defensively, and I though the backs ran good too.”
The Vikings had six runs of 10 yards or more, including a 55-yard scamper by McKinnon and a 13-yard touchdown run by Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings starting five of Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Vladimir Ducasse and Phil Loadholt played together on all but one play. Mike Harris relieved Loadholt on one play due to an injury. Joe Berger also played as sixth lineman on a pair of short-yard plays.
McKinnon looks like the future of the Vikings backfield, but the team is not ready to abandon the committee approach anytime soon.
“Being a defensive coach, when you have two different types of backs come in there it changes your mindset on some of your calls and also the players, they have to think a little bit differently,” Zimmer said. “It’s not necessarily different plays all of the time – it’s one guy can get to the perimeter faster, one guy can be a little bit more physical. I hope we continue to grow (McKinnon’s) role, but I don’t think he is going to be an every down back, right now.”
Matt Asiata and McKinnon will another opportunity to rack up the yards Thursday in Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. They have allowed the most rushing yards per game through four games this season.
Harnish signed to practice squad
Due to the ankle sprain suffered by Bridgewater in Sunday’s win, the Vikings signed former Indianapolis Colts seventh round draft pick Chandler Harnish to the team’s practice squad. He joins former Viking McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the team’s 10-player practice squad. The Vikings made room by releasing rookie free agent wide receiver Donte Foster.
Sanford signs in Washington
Former Viking safety Jamarca Sanford found a new home Monday. The 29-year-old veteran signed with the Washington Redskins. He spent the first five seasons of his NFL career before being released in early August. In his career, Sanford started 44 games and appeared in 70 while making 232 total tackles, 11 passes defensed, forced eight fumbles, recovered five fumbles, intercepted two passes and recorded one sack.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.