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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Mike Zimmer predicts it, and Jerick McKinnon delivers with big day out of backfield

By Derek Wetmore

MINNEAPOLIS – Mike Zimmer approached Jerick McKinnon before Sunday’s game and his message would prove to be prescient.

“Jerick, you’re going to have a big game,” the head coach told the backup running back.

By the time the Vikings completed the 38-17 win against the Chicago Bears, McKinnon had touched the ball 11 times and picked up 86 yards and the first touchdown of his NFL career.

How did Zimmer know?

“He had a good week of practice,” Zimmer said. “He had opportunities that he had chances to make plays. We involved him probably a little bit more this week in the gameplan.

“And he’s a good player. He’s a good kid, great player, he’s a tough guy, I like the way he runs. [Matt] Asiata ran good at the end, as well. We have some – we have great kids with ability.”

Adrian Peterson may be the focal point of Minnesota’s offense, but he’s not the only running back finding time in the backfield right now.

One game after he was on the field more often than he’d ever been under offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Peterson played a role in a timeshare in the backfield Sunday in a win against the Bears. An ankle injury played had an impact on the playing time, but even before that, Jerick McKinnon was getting involved on offense and the Vikings used Matt Asiata, too.

After a Bears three-and-out to open the game, the Vikings faced a 3rd-down-and-4 situation on their first drive. McKinnon answered the bell and picked up the first down and then some. Bridgewater connected with McKinnon on a crossing route, and then the second-year running back broke a tackle with a stiff-arm maneuver and got to the edge to pick up 25 yards.

McKinnon, who’s listed at just 5-foot-9 but is exceptionally strong and has the quickness to boot, needed the speed and the strength on that particular catch and run. That kept the drive alive and the Vikings eventually capitalized on a pretty touch pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Stefon Diggs.

“He’s probably one of the best athletes if not the best athlete on the team,” Peterson said of McKinnon. “He’s strong, you look at him and you don’t think he’d bench over 400 pounds but he does. You don’t think he’d squat over 500 pounds but he does. He’s quick and explosive.”

Later, McKinnon caught a nearly-busted screen pass and ran it up the field for 30 yards. Peterson left the game briefly with what he described as an ankle sprain, and McKinnon and Asiata carried the load. McKinnon also added a touchdown on a 17-yard catch on which he basically broke three tackles to take it in for his first career touchdown.

“I think [breaking tackles] is always an emphasis,” McKinnon said. “Coach [Norv]Turner always preaches in offensive meetings, sometimes you’re going to have those one-on-one matchups and we expect to win those matchups.”

When Peterson was being disciplined by the NFL last year and missed 15 games, McKinnon got valuable experience as a rookie. That experience has helped him, he said, even though he hadn’t really made much of an impact on the offense this season until Sunday’s breakout game.

“I didn’t have to second-guess myself. When I lined up, I didn’t have any thoughts going through my head. It was just a matter of knowing what to do, knowing what’s a possibility and doing it as fast as I could,” McKinnon said. “Hopefully it’s the first of many more to come.”

Provided his ankle is OK, Peterson will almost definitely be the one getting the bulk of the work in the backfield the rest of the season and, likely, into the playoffs. Still, for a Vikings offense that had been so stagnant for much of the season, it’s probably comforting to know runners like McKinnon and Asiata can chip in some production when called upon.

The post Mike Zimmer predicts it, and Jerick McKinnon delivers with big day out of backfield appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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