EAGAN, Minn. — Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray finished Sunday’s game with almost equal numbers of carries and yards.
Cook rushed 10 times for 29 yards, and Murray had 11 carries for 33 yards. Cook’s longest run of the night was 9, and Murray’s was 8.
Minnesota benefited from a 12-yard gain on the ground by Stefon Diggs and multiple scrambles by Kirk Cousins.
Add it all up, and the Vikings rushed 29 times for 91 yards.
The 3.1 yards per carry was the least by Minnesota in a win in 2018, but it was nearly double the 1.6 averaged the previous week in a loss at Chicago.
The Vikings commitment to the ground game helped control the clock and keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers, particularly in the second and fourth quarters.
Minnesota possessed the ball for 34:37 total, including 10:32 in the second quarter and 10:17 in the fourth quarter.
As the Vikings (6-4-1) prepare for a rare trip to New England to face the Patriots (8-3) and Tom Brady with multiple weapons, the ground game could be important in managing the flow of the contest and minimizing the time that he is on the attack.
“Just to piggyback from last week, we kept Aaron off the field before the half and in the fourth quarter,” Cook said. “That was good, we got to keep him off the field, and it helped us in the football game. With Tom, it’s just the same thing. Two great quarterbacks. You have to keep them off the field because they can go out there and make plays at any time. It’s going to be big that we possess the football this week.”
Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings might change it up from week to week, depending on the game plan.
“We got it to Latavius a little bit more last week, and I thought that was a pretty good mix,” Zimmer said.
Murray said he’s more concerned with quality of carries instead of quantity.
“I don’t know how the course of a game can go, so I just go in when I’m told and try to do my best when I’m in there,” Murray said. “To be honest, I could be better in those carries and attempts I’m getting, so I’m always trying to work and get better.
“Obviously I want to be in the game and have the ball in my hands as much as I can, but I’m sure that goes for everybody in the offense at the skills positions,” Murray added. “The thing that can be dissatisfying is not doing the best with the carries I get, instead of just counting them.”
There’s been a tremendous correlation between the Vikings winning or losing and whether the team rushes for 100 yards in 2018. Same goes for the Patriots.
Cook said the Vikings have to establish the run game to “make them respect us and play us honest,” even though some runs might not yield significant gains.
“You just have to stay patient and keep pounding away,” Cook said. “With a team like New England, where they have so many athletic guys and they use a lot of DBs, they put a lot of guys in different spots. You just have to stay with your keys and stay the course, and big runs will come out eventually.”