Vikings Should Make the Obvious Change Going Forward

Drops One Hint
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

It was another brutal loss for the Minnesota Vikings as they had control over the game for most of the day, entering the fourth quarter with a 17-3 lead and a seven-point lead in the final minutes of the game. They also made a stop in overtime, having to score only a field goal in extra time to pull off the road victory.

Vikings Should Make the Obvious Change Going Forward

It was third and less than a yard right at the cusp of field goal range. Those three points would bring a win. Of course, the Vikings, a team that averaged 6.3 yards per play over the full game, should be able to gain a yard on either of the two plays. Well, they did not. Kevin O’Connell called a couple of quarterback sneaks with Nick Mullens. Cincinnati’s shaky defense blew up the front twice, making the difference in a close game.

Vikings Should Make the Obvious Change Going Forward
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

Instead of deciding to attempt that sneak, the Vikes could’ve done it the old-fashioned way. Handing it off to the running back was an option, especially because he was running all over the Bengals all day. For the first time in his career, it was Ty Chandler getting the start, with Alexander Mattison taking the day off with an ankle injury.

And Chandler didn’t just do well for a backup; he did well period. The sophomore had an outstanding game, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. He also caught three passes for 25 yards, proving to be a solid passing target out of the backfield. Chandler recorded the first 100-yard game of a Vikings runner all season, and it was the first since Week 10 of the previous season when Dalvin Cook reached that number in Buffalo with his big touchdown run.

Not only does the average of 5.7 yards per carry look great on paper, but so do some highlight plays, including some explosives. Chandler showed fantastic burst and contact balance — and made multiple guys miss in the backfield, continuously falling forward.

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.

The last part, especially, has been a problem for the Vikings all season. Mattison has struggled to make defenders miss on broken plays, resulting in lost yardage. Those negative runs are true drive killers, and the Vikes have had too many of them in 2023. With a backup passer under center, it is crucial to have a reliable and dynamic running game.

The struggling rushing attack has been a big problem in O’Connell’s second season as the play-caller, but Chandler appears to be more than just part of the solution. He should be the solution.

Giving him carries and feeding him the ball must be a priority, even when Mattison returns from his injury break. Rarely has a backup ever used his chance as Chandler did on Saturday in the eventual loss. In a game that featured a bunch of losers on the Vikings roster, Chandler is a rare winner.

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.

His numbers drastically increased in his high-volume Week 15 performance to 335 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the season, in addition to 115 receiving yards. One aspect of his game that he has struggled with is the pass protection, but even that looked more consistent.

Regardless of the availability of other guys in the backfield, there is no excuse to keep Chandler off the field. He has done enough to get more touches, and it might just be what the team needs to get into the playoffs with three critical divisional games to close out the regular season.

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