Dynamic Playmaker Promised Larger Role by Vikings Head Coach

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A brutal loss in Cincinnati threw a monkey wrench into all playoff scenarios for the Minnesota Vikings. A big lead in the fourth quarter makes the defeat especially hard to swallow. However, there were some encouraging aspects in that matchup, like the emergence of Nick Mullens, who showed that he could operate the offense efficiently.

Dynamic Playmaker Promised Larger Role by Vikings Head Coach

The playmakers on offense also had a fantastic day. Rookie Jordan Addison snapped his five-game streak without a touchdown by scoring twice, Justin Jefferson returned and did the usual JJ things, and T.J. Hockenson racked up 63 yards.

Dynamic Playmaker Promised Larger Role By Vikings Head Coach
Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) dives for the end zone as Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) and Cincinnati Bengals safety Dax Hill (23) defend in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

But the star of the show was sophomore Ty Chandler. The running back has shown flashes all year but remained inconsistent as a protector in both the running and passing games. Without Alexander Mattison, who is dealing with an ankle injury, the 25-year-old was asked to step up, and he exploded for 132 yards and a touchdown on the ground while adding three catches for 25 yards in the passing game. It was the first 100-yard rushing game by a Vikings running back since Week 10 of the 2022 season.

His heroics were ultimately overshadowed by the flawed fourth-quarter defense and the offense’s inability to gain a few inches on two attempts, but he has certainly done enough to earn a larger role entering the final stretch of the season, and head coach Kevin O’Connell agreed with that idea but wouldn’t commit on the starting job.

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Alex (Mattison) is going to try to work himself back this week, we’ll see how he does throughout the week. There’s no question that I thought Ty had a huge role and impact on the game the other day and we’ve been giving Ty more and more carries throughout the middle part of the season especially going back to losing Cam Akers for the duration of the year.

Ty is absolutely a guy that is going to continue to see a featured role in our offense. What that looks like moving forward, as far as who gets the first touch of the game and all those things, we’ll continue to work through based upon what we’re attempting to do scheme-wise but there’s no question that we have confidence in Alex but Ty has done a lot of great things and will continue to do so and hopefully be a huge reason why we’re able to have some success offensively down the stretch.

Kevin O’Connell

O’Connell also emphasized that Chandler had a great day running the ball, both in pass protection and as a receiver. It was by far Chandler’s most consistent and best all-around game of his young career. The question of whether he starts or not shouldn’t be a big deal. Much more important is that he continues to get enough touches to be a difference-maker even after Mattison’s return.

Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) eyes the goal line on a touchdown run in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.

The two running backs are a pretty good combination for a committee, as Mattison is a powerful runner, while Chandler is much more explosive but doesn’t have the size. There is room for both of them in the offense, and the number of carries for each should be dictated by their efficiency in the game and the game plan.

Although the veteran struggled early in the season and fans started to call for his job, he has played well in the last few contests before his injury and should continue to be a major part of the offense. The coaching staff must find a way to feature both of them efficiently to take some responsibility off of Nick Mullens. A functioning running attack is the best friend of any quarterback and is especially helpful for backups.

New Starter to Get
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Chandler will turn 26 in May as he was an older prospect coming out of college. His statement game might have opened the door for him to be the starting running back in the upcoming season. He has produced 355 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 2023.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt