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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Committing to running without Peterson, McKinnon proves challenging

By Derek Wetmore

CHICAGO – The Vikings had the ball within spitting distance of the goal line in the second quarter, already trailing 13-0, but certainly with Monday night’s game against the Bears still in reach.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, spitting distance doesn’t always lead to points. And lately, most people who’ve learned to spit could shoot that saliva farther than the Vikings can execute a run play between the tackles in critical situations.

Last week against the Eagles, it was three trips in the red zone totaling three points. OK, you might have thought to yourself, but that’s a fluke. Eventually those things will even out, the Vikings will convert more red zone opportunities and games like the one against the Eagles will have a different outcome.

Well, on Monday night against a previously hapless Bears team, it was more of the same for Minnesota’s rushing attack.

Lined up for a 3rd-and-1 play from Chicago’s 4-yard line, the Vikings handed the ball to starting running back Matt Asiata. He picked up the first down but only managed one yard and no score.

Next play: Asiata rush off the right tackle for 1 yard.

Next: Asiata running out of a shotgun formation to the right guard for no gain.

Then Sam Bradford was sacked for a 10-yard loss after another letdown from the offensive line and the Vikings had to settle for a field goal.

That pretty well encapsulated the Vikings’ inability to run the ball Monday without Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon – and with a very suspect offensive line — on Monday night in Chicago.

Mike Zimmer’s blunt assessment after the game was that the running game “wasn’t very good.” He didn’t elaborate. He hardly needed to.

The final tally was 18 total carries for 57 yards (3.17 yards per carry), which is actually an improvement from their season rushing average. Even more discouragingly, the Vikings picked up just one first down on those 18 rush attempts, and that took a controversial replay review to uphold.

The insistence to stick to the running attack combined with the inability to execute it was a troubling pattern for the Vikings.

But don’t look for that to change. Bradford was asked after the game if it’s ever tempting for a team to stray away from runs when that facet of the offense is unproductive.

“I think we’re best when we’re balanced,” Bradford restated. “Any time you can run the football successfully, you can kind of keep a defense guessing, I think makes it much easier. So no, we are not going to abandon the run, we are not going to go straight to pass, we have got to figure out a way to run the football and stay balanced.”

The elephant in the room: Despite a next-man-up philosophy inside the Vikings’ locker room, how many times can Minnesota go to that well? Adrian Peterson is a tough guy to replace. Ditto for Jerick McKinnon. You go through the litany of offensive line setback – Phil Loadholt (retired), Matt Kalil (hip), Mike Harris (mystery illness), John Sullivan (cut) – and it’s also not terribly surprising the unit has struggled this year. (Starting left guard Alex Boone left Monday’s game to be evaluated for a concussion.)

So maybe it’s commendable that the Vikings would be so stubborn trying to establish the run with a line that’s struggling blocking and a running back in Asiata that lacks the burst of speed those other two backs have shown. Or maybe it’s counterproductive to an offense scoring points. Minnesota’s first touchdown Monday came after things seems fairly decided in Chicago’s favor, and posting 10 points for the second consecutive week is not the recipe for sustained success.

All the personnel losses and the group shortcomings, it seemed, finally caught up to the Vikings in a painful way Monday night.

The post Committing to running without Peterson, McKinnon proves challenging appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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