CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Vikings established their running game.
Minnesota used its new one-two punch of Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers to run for a season-high 135 yards in a 21-13 over the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.
Playing in his first Vikings game, Cam Akers (40 yards on five carries) played a complementary role to starter Alexander Mattison (95 yards on 17 carries). But both backs influenced the game by rushing with a bruising and downhill style.
Mattison had long runs of 17, 13 and 12 yards. Eight of his carries went for 5 or more yards. Akers was also effective. He gained 6 or more on every carry. His 8.0 yards per carry is the second-best of his career and his highest total since Week 12 of the 2020 season.
"They really did [complement each other]. And Cam's done a great job coming in, absorbing it," I feel really good about that running backs room, I really do. But Alex Mattison, you could feel him — he seems to just get stronger and stronger and stronger with each individual carry, and then to have Cam kind of be able to give him a [rest], keep both those guys fresh, it's kind of how I envisioned it."
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and receiver Justin Jefferson connected for both of the team's offensive touchdowns. But Mattison and Akers helped Minnesota establish a physical presence. O'Connell said the offensive line and tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Josh Oliver opened lanes for the Vikings.
For a second consecutive week, the Vikings have rushed for 130 yards or more and averaged more than five yards per carry.
"We got the guys in this room on offense to run the ball and now we're finally doing it," guard Ed Ingram said. "Having those guys in the backfield opens up everything. They have their own running styles, and we are grateful to have them in our running backs room."
View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 21-13 win over the Panthers in Week 4 of the 2023 season.
Minnesota gained 63 percent of its rushing total in the first half, setting the tone for the game. Akers and Mattison each had three second-quarter rushes and gained 23 and 22 yards, respectively. Akers also added two catches for 11 yards in the game.
Carolina led 13-7 at halftime, but the game turned in the third quarter when Vikings outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum scooped and scored a Bryce Young fumble that safety Harrison Smith forced during his first of three sacks.
The Vikings scored again on their next offensive possession. The four-play touchdown drive featured runs of 7 and 10 yards by Akers before he added a 9-yard reception. The Panthers jumped offsides on second-and-1, giving the Vikings a free play on which Jefferson capped the series with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Cousins.
View game action photos from he Vikings at Panthers Week 4 at Bank of America Stadium
"We want to try and have one of the best fields," Mattison said. "We want to make sure that we were producing out the backfield that we're playing downhill and physical. So adding [Akers] to the group and then seeing him get going today was pretty exciting. And so we just want to continue to keep that rolling and get going behind those big guys up front."
Minnesota (1-3) is headed back home for a matchup against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Akers, Mattison, and the offensive line is a combination Cousins hopes the team can continue to lean on.
"I think it's been encouraging the way we run the football. Because it's one thing to have an explosive run here or there, but if you're getting negative runs or 0-yard runs, it's not sustainable. I think what we've had is the 5-yard runs, 6-yard runs, 10-yard runs, and been able to make that repeatable," Cousins said. "I've gotta give a lot of credit to our scheme and the guys blocking, and Alex and Cam and people running. I think for us to dig out of this hole ... our ability to run the football the past two weeks is really encouraging."