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Bleacher Report – Vikings

The real Jerick McKinnon stood up against Bears

By Matthew Coller

Anyone who watched the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 or 2015 recognized Jerick McKinnon’s Monday Night Football performance.

Over the first two years of his career, the McKinnon was an explosive back with big-play ability and a knack for catching the ball out of the backfield. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry between 2014 and 2015 – sometimes as the feature back, sometimes spelling Adrian Peterson.

But last season he struggled behind a battered offensive line, then there were only a few spurts of effectiveness this year. From the start of 2016 until Week 4, McKinnon was averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and 5.8 per reception. The Vikings’ loss to Detroit was his worst career game as he rushed twice for zero yards and dropped a key pass on third down.

Talk about redemption.

With Sam Bradford benched with a knee injury, Dalvin Cook out for the year with a torn and Latavius Murray struggling, the Vikings turned to McKinnon to save their offense against the Chicago Bears – and he was up to the task.

McKinnon picked up 95 yards on 16 carries and added six catches for 51 yards.

He created the game’s biggest play, a 58-yard touchdown run, by patiently waiting for a hole on an outside pitch, then racing past the Bears’ second level into the end zone.

It was shades of the old Jerick – the one that ripped off a 55-yard gain against the Falcons in 2014 or scampered for a 68-yard touchdown in New York in 2015. The one that caught four passes for 76 yards against the Bears in ’15. The one the Vikings will need to carry them in the backfield with Cook out.

When the Vikings signed Murray, they didn’t know they would land Cook and switch to an outside zone running scheme. Murray is a power runner at 6-foot-3, 225-pounds. He flashed the ability to drive forward on a 3rd-and-2 for a first down. That might have to be his role as McKinnon appears to be a better fit behind an offensive line built to run outside and move on screens. When McKinnon was about to hit the hole on his 58-yard run, center Pat Elflein flew right in front of him to clear the way. McKinnon’s success on the outside fits his splits from 2016. He gained just 2.6 yards per carry when slamming the ball up the middle.

Every defense the Vikings face won’t be as dinged up as the Bears’ was on Monday night, but if McKinnon can at least scare defenses – the way he has in the past – the Vikings’ offense will be much better equipped to handle Cook’s absence and whatever QB drama is coming their way.

The post The real Jerick McKinnon stood up against Bears appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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