Sunday's win across the pond marked Jerick McKinnon's second game this season in which his rushing and receiving yards combined for more than 100 yards from scrimmage.
McKinnon made six catches for 72 yards. His reception total for the season is now at 28, which is tied for ninth-most among running backs. Ben Goessling of the *Star Tribune *delved into McKinnon's contributions over the first half of the season and said he's becoming one of the league's best receiving targets at running back.
Goessling said that McKinnon has "seemed to float in the team's offense in search of the right fit" since he was drafted in 2014 and that the 25-year-old has now started to find his groove. Goessling wrote:
When Pat Shurmur replaced Norv Turner as the Vikings offensive coordinator about a year ago, though, things started to change for McKinnon. He caught 35 passes in the final nine games of that season, as the Vikings again sought to get him the ball out of the backfield as a way to circumvent their leaky offensive line.
There was some question surrounding McKinnon's role in 2017 when the Vikings drafted Dalvin Cook in the second round and signed Latavius Murray in free agency. McKinnon started out as Minnesota's primary kick returner, but since Cook suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 4, McKinnon and Murray have seen increased reps. Since that time, McKinnon has racked up 163 yards through the air, earning him a mention by Goessling as "one of the more productive pass-catching backs in the NFL."
This year, an athletic line in front of the Vikings running backs has jolted the team's short passing game. McKinnon is third on the team through eight games with 28 catches. He was three yards off a career-high for receiving yards against the Browns on Sunday. And it's worth wondering if the free agent-to-be might have a promising future in Minnesota.
Coller: Give Thielen the credit he deserves
The Adam Thielen story, especially for Minnesotans who have followed the hometown hero from his days at Minnesota State University, Mankato to starting receiver for the Vikings, is a classic.
And while there's no denying the uniqueness of Thielen's journey and the many odds he beat, 1500ESPN.com's Matthew Coller said the focus on Thielen's background can be "a holdup from giving the star receiver the credit he deserves." Coller wrote:
Thielen isn't great for an undrafted guy, he's just great. And with Stefon Diggs out or slowed by a groin injury for the past few weeks, Thielen has made quite clear that he's among the best receivers in the NFL. That was on display again in London as he grabbed five passes for 98 yards. Thielen could have had even more if a 40-yard pass hadn't been called back for a chop block.
His story is great. It should keep being told. But there should be just as much focus on the things he does on the field. Head Coach Mike Zimmer talked about his route running ability after his strong game against the Browns.
"He sets routes up really good," Zimmer said. "He leans one way, then he goes the other way or he leans this way and shakes and goes back the other way. He's probably as good a route runner as we have. Just setting defensive backs up, understanding man coverage, zone coverage and how to work the defenders' leverage."
Thielen's 627 receiving yards currently ranks second in the league among receivers, beyond Antonio Brown's 835 for Pittsburgh. His five catches at Twickenham Stadium – including one for his first touchdown of the year – make him the only player in the NFL to have at least five receptions in every game this season.
So Thielen deserves to get the same type of attention for his play that other top receivers do, rather than just being known as that undrafted guy who made it. He showed that again against the Browns.
Keenum played well after 'sleepy' start against Browns
The Vikings are back in the states and looking forward to the bye week with a 6-2 record under their belts.
Things were touch-and-go for Minnesota in the first half of yesterday's matchup, but the Vikings came out of halftime ready to go and pulled away from Cleveland for their fourth consecutive win. Kevin Patra for NFL.com highlighted Case Keenum's performance. Patra wrote:
The Vikings *came out sleepy in London but pulled away in the second half. Case Keenum played well, finding underneath dump offs to Jerick McKinnon early to move the chains. The QB made a bevy of third-and-long throws to keep Vikings drives alive. Keenum converted on third-and-15, third-and-11, third-and-9 (DPI), and third-and-10. The veteran attempted 43 passes, his most of the season, finishing 27 of 43 for 288 yards, two TDs and an INT against a leaky Browns secondary. It wasn't all perfect, as Keenum had four balls batted at the line of scrimmage in the first half, one of which was intercepted. Keenum has been a pleasant surprise this season replacing an injured Sam Bradford. Keenum's been steady on balance for a defense-first squad. With Teddy Bridgewater getting healthy, the Vikes are in an enviable position of having options under center moving forward.*