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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Jerick McKinnon must get a grip if he wants to be Vikings’ top running back

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS – Jerick McKinnon had a 27-yard touchdown reception and a 3-yard scoring run in the opening half of the Vikings’ 23-10 victory Sunday over the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium, but in between those two TDs the running back also had a costly miscue that couldn’t be ignored.

After gaining 20 yards on a run to the Packers’ 22-yard line in the second quarter, McKinnon took a handoff from Case Keenum and gained 2 yards before putting the ball on the ground. It was recovered by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews and returned 63 yards deep into Vikings territory to set up a Brett Hundley to Davante Adams touchdown pass that tied the score at 7.

“In that situation, I can’t do that and it is something that I haven’t done in the past,” McKinnon said. “For me it is just about responding, and making up for that mistake. Not for me, but for my teammates. Those guys are fighting hard and for me to go out there and put the ball on the ground, I can’t do that.”

The troubling thing is this marked the third consecutive week in which McKinnon has coughed up the ball. This is a new issue for the four-year veteran. McKinnon entered this season having never fumbled the ball in 42 career games. That included 324 rushing attempts and 91 receptions.

That streak came to an end three weeks ago in the third quarter of a loss to Detroit, when McKinnon’s fumble was recovered by Lions defensive tackle Anthony Zettel at the Minnesota 47. That set up a 37-yard field goal by Matt Prater that pulled Detroit within a point.

Last Monday in Chicago, McKinnon fumbled a kickoff in the third quarter but caught a break when it went out of bounds before the Bears could recover.

“The fumble was not good, especially at that point of the game,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of McKinnon’s miscue on Sunday. “I thought we had a chance to get in scoring position and we fumble and give it back and they end up scoring. But Jerick did a nice job, he caught the ball well today, he ran the ball good, he’s good to get to the perimeter. There’s still some things we have to correct with him, as with a lot of our guys, but it’s always good correcting after wins.”

There also was a lot to like about McKinnon’s effort.

After not gaining any rushing yards on two carries and dropping a pass in the loss to the Lions, he led the Vikings in rushing for a second consecutive game as he played a big role in helping replace injured rookie Dalvin Cook. McKinnon finished with 69 yards on 16 carries and caught five passes for 30 yards. He had 95 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown against the Bears and also caught six passes for 51 yards.

McKinnon appears to be a better replacement for Cook in the Vikings’ scheme than free-agent addition Latavius Murray, who had only 28 yards rushing on 15 carries against the Packers.

“He can do a lot of things and he sees the field really well,” Vikings quarterback Case Keenum said of McKinnon. “A back who can pick up protections and catch the ball out of the backfield. And to do what he’s obviously able to do once he gets the ball in his hands, that’s a guy who you want on your team.”

McKinnon would have had a bigger day receiving on Sunday but a first quarter pass that he took 50 yards to the Green Bay 2-yard line was called back because center Pat Elflein drew a flag for being an ineligible man downfield.

“I am just trying to find a way to make a play for the team,” McKinnon said. “When my number is called, I just try to make the most out of the opportunities that the coaches are giving me. From week-to-week, it’s starting to increase a little bit. But for me, it is all about working and getting better. There is always something you can take away from the game and get better at the next week.”

The post Jerick McKinnon must get a grip if he wants to be Vikings’ top running back appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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