Vikings Must Find Their Run Game in Philly

Apparently 1/3 of the NFL Wants Alexander Mattison
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During the offseason, a point of emphasis was put on the need for a more consistent run game as part of the Minnesota Vikings offense. Minnesota wanted a more efficient run game to open up the passing game. That was the plan.

Vikings Must Find Their Run Game in Philly

The first chance to put this to the test came in Week 1 against the Buccaneers, and it was nowhere to be seen. The Vikings must find their run game in Philly. It will be a long night for the offense if they don’t.

Find Their Run Game
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The Vikings head to Philadelphia for a Week 2 matchup with the Eagles for the second year in a row. Last season, the Eagles defensive line wrecked the game as Philadelphia ran out of comfortable 24-7 winners. The Eagles added first-round pick Jalen Carter to their IDL, who burst onto the scene in his debut. Meanwhile, the Vikings kept their IOL the same, except Garrett Bradbury will be injured and replaced by backup center Austin Schlottmann. The omens aren’t good.

Last year, I suggested Minnesota needed to get the run game going to be successful in this fixture. They didn’t. Kirk Cousins was the leading rusher with 20 yards, and the Vikings weren’t successful. Can they do it this time? Indications from Week 1 aren’t promising, as the Vikings run game was borderline nonexistent. Alexander Mattison (34 yards), Cousins (7 yards), and Ty Chandler (0 yards) combined for just 41 yards on a total of just 17 carries.

After releasing Dalvin Cook in the offseason, the Vikings can’t rely on him to produce the occasional explosive play to make the run game numbers look better than they are. The only way the Vikings game works is with efficiency, and that plan has some flaws.

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The Vikings offensive line struggling to create running lanes for their running back to attack is becoming the norm and presents a problem when Mattison is your lead back. He’s not someone whose game thrives on making defenders miss. He needs holes to attack and use his power and physicality to chip away at a defense. Even with C.J. Ham and Josh Oliver employed to help with the blocking, it wasn’t enough last week. Should they see the field more this week as the Vikings try to establish the run? It’s the only way I can see the Vikings having success, but there is another part to this plan, one with which the Vikings are having even more problems.

The Screen Game

The screen game is an extension of the run game and an area Kevin O’Connell has been desperate to get going for the Vikings. Outside of the 64-yard touchdown by Cook against the Colts last season, there has been very little success from screen passes. That big play is why you keep trying, but when they get blown up behind the line of scrimmage repeatedly, it becomes very frustrating.

The Vikings 2021 Offense by the Numbers: After Week 1
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There is no Cook anymore to make that sort of explosive play, but Mattison can be useful. Addison might be the guy to provide the explosives in the screen game. The Vikings tried once against the Buccaneers, but Addison was hit when he caught the ball. I expect the Vikings to return to Addison with those types of play, though.

Whether it’s the run game or the screen game, the Vikings must start blocking better, and people must start making defenders miss. Especially on a night like Thursday when asking Cousins to drop back into the pocket will be fraught with danger.

The promise of more emphasis and efficiency in the run game was nowhere to be seen in Week 1. How do the Vikings fix that coming up against a powerhouse defense like the Eagles? It will be extremely difficult, but the Vikings must find a way. Otherwise, they will be in a hole at 0-2 after two games, with another challenging game against the LA Chargers on the horizon.