Vikings Must Look to Replicate Running Success

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Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings came into their Week 4 game against the Carolina Panthers as one of the worst running teams in football. Alexander Mattison had fumbled away opportunities and struggled while no one behind him stepped up. Then came Cam Akers, Mattison turned a corner, and the Vikings found themselves.

Vikings Must Look to Replicate Running Success

After moving on from Dalvin Cook before the 2023 season, Minnesota decided that changing the running back room was necessary. Rather than roster a boat anchor of a contract for a declining player, Mattison was re-signed to be the lead back at a much more manageable cap hit. It seemed the position group might leave some to be desired, but the expectations shouldn’t have been this low.

Must Look to Replicate
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Through the first two weeks of the season, Kevin O’Connell’s offense put up just 69 yards on the ground. Things improved in Week 3 with a rushing output of 130 yards, but miscues again cost the Vikings against the Los Angeles Chargers. During Week 4 against the Panthers, it appeared that Minnesota may have turned a corner with both Mattison and the recently acquired Akers running with substantial success.

Nearly reaching the century mark for the first time since 2021, Mattison found substantial success on the ground. His 95 yards came on just 17 carries, and he looked to run with purpose. The starter ripped off a 17-yard run at one point and consistently found ways to hit holes with authority. On top of that, and maybe most importantly, Mattison protected the football and was free from mistakes.

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Teaming with the starter out of the backfield, Akers had a nice coming-out party in purple. He got just five carries on the ground, but he was both quick and elusive while racking up 40 yards for a whopping eight-yards-per-carry average. The former Los Angeles Rams runner looked comfortable in O’Connell’s offense, and he was a nice change of pace from the style that Mattison showed between the tackles. Akers also hauled in both targets, picking up 11 yards through the air.

Obviously, the focal point for the Vikings offense is, and will continue to be, the passing game. Kirk Cousins is a quarterback who can sit in the pocket and evaluate the defense. He has serious weapons in the form of Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Jordan Addison, but each should find more room to operate if the run game stays consistent. By finding ways to operate in space on the ground, opposing defenses cannot sit in coverage and key solely on Minnesota’s receiving threats.

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The Panthers hardly present a formidable unit on defense, but watching film and finding ways to replicate the success against Carolina is a must. Although the Vikings have weak spots in their offensive line, the group as a whole is capable of providing lanes and openings. It will continue to be on O’Connell and Wes Phillips to find ways for the top two options to get going. Look for Akers to integrate himself into the offense further, and Mattison will have a firm grip on his role with more performances like Sunday.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.