One Quiet Development Arose in Vikings Win over SF

Sep 23, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view outside U.S. Bank Stadium and ship. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Last week, as most Minnesota Vikings fans prepared for the worst heading into a Monday Night Football showdown with the San Francisco 49ers, folks called for more touches in the purple team’s offense allotted to running back Cam Akers.

Well, it happened.

One Quiet Development Arose in Vikings Win over SF

The Vikings defeated the 49ers despite status as a seven-point underdog, careening their playoff probability to 55%, per ESPN’s Football Power Index. Somehow, Minnesota’s season is back on track, with the “easy” part of the schedule afoot in the next six weeks.

One Quiet Development
Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Cam Akers (31) runs after the catch defended by Carolina Panthers safety Xavier Woods (25) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

And while Minnesota didn’t rush the rock too much — 21 rushes to 45 passing attempts — Akers quietly took over the attention load from RB1 Alexander Mattison, if only by a whisker. Akers tabulated 12 touches on offense to Mattison’s 10, the first time any tailback out-touched Mattison this season.

Why is this significant? It may be a segue to future operations.

Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Cam Akers (31) lowers his head as he is tackled by Carolina Panthers safety Sam Franklin Jr. (42) during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings grabbed Akers via trade from the Los Angeles Rams in September in a swap with the lowest stakes imaginable. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah essentially obtained Akers for free, a late-round pick swap in 2026 — yes, three years from now.

Akers, a former 2nd-Rounder, has the talent to thrive in an offense; he just never totally caught on in Los Angeles. Now with the Vikings, the young playmaker could be experiencing a transition to the “lead guy” or at least an equitable carry split with Mattison.

Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell runs off the field after pregame warmups before a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports.

Five days ago, before the Vikings chipped off the 49ers, head coach Kevin O’Connell said about Akers, “I’ve really liked what Cam has done since he’s gotten here. He’s got a really nice combination in my mind — he sees it — he can kinda get the run in the right spots.”

Those positive comments translated to 12 touches for 61 yards in the Vikings signature win of 2023. And if the plan worked versus the NFL’s top team, it’s a reasonable indicator the Akers show will continue. To the eye test, Akers appears more productive than Mattison, although the men possess different skillsets.

Feb 26, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Florida State running back Cam Akers (RB02) speaks to the media during the 2020 NFL Combine in the Indianapolis Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Moreover, a boost of Akers in the gameplan would be incredibly vital for the Vikings. Minnesota still ranks dead last leaguewide in rushing playcall percentage, throwing the pigskin 69% of the time while handing the ball to Akers, Mattison, and others just 31% of playcalls. Good football teams need balance, and if the Vikings determine Akers is the real deal, they could run the football more, which helps with time of possession, another horrid Vikings stat through seven games.

Akers was never going to be named the bellcow back in Minnesota’s offense, at least not immediately. But his workload on Monday Night Football suggests the tide is turning toward a more equitable split with Mattison.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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