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McKinnon Close to Exclusive 500/500 Club for Vikings Running Backs

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Jerick McKinnon is on the verge of joining an exclusive club Sunday, but needs a big game through the air to get there.

The Vikings running back enters the regular-season finale with 526 rushing yards and 421 receiving yards, meaning a few big pass plays could push him into the rare 500/500 group.

That has happened just a dozen times in franchise history, and just once since 1986. Bill Brown, Chuck Foreman, Ted Brown and Darrin Nelson each accomplished the feat multiple times, and the last player to do so was Moe Williams in 2003.

Foreman has the most combined yards of those such seasons. He tallied 1,761 combined yards (1,070 rushing and 691 receiving) during the 1975 season.

McKinnon was modest about the possibility of moving into that special group.

"If I get it, it'd be a good accomplishment," McKinnon said. "I heard it hasn't been done in a while, but I'm pretty sure the names that are on that list are pretty good. 

"If I do it, it'd be a good achievement to have and be a part of, but I'm looking for the win over everything," McKinnon added.

What about his chances at getting there?

"Seventy-nine [receiving yards] is a lot, though," McKinnon said with a smile. "We'll see how the plays work out. I'm just going to have a clear, conscious mind. It's not going to be on my mind when I'm playing.

"There's been some games where I've been able to slip out of the backfield and some games where I haven't," McKinnon added. "But more so than the 79 yards, I just want the win and first-round bye. We know how big this game is."

If anything, McKinnon's season so far has shown off his multiple talents, as he's racked up 189 total touches for 947 yards, good for almost exactly five yards per touch.

The former third-round pick is close to nearing his career high in rushing yards (539) and has already set a career high with three rushing touchdowns. He has also set career highs in receptions (51) and has tied his career high with a pair of scores through the air.

"Just being able to have receiving yards, catches, and being able to run between the tackles … anytime a running back can do both it shows his versatility," McKinnon said. "(I can) line up in the backfield, line up out wide, just mix up a variety of things. I take pride in everything, my whole game.

"I know versatility is big in my game, so I put a lot of pride in it in the offseason, particularly running routes," McKinnon said. "I like everything about [being] versatile. It's hard on defensive coordinators and people like myself use that to their advantage."

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur has been able to use McKinnon all over the field. He said Thursday that the Vikings running back sort of defines the position in today's style of play.

"I think because you have to be able to catch the football at all the skill positions, you're seeing more and more and more where teams are utilizing the running back as a receiver," Shurmur said. "Lots of empty sets, a lot of running back-primary throws from the backfield. Then, the utilization of the running back as a check down when you're trying to get the ball down field and you can't for whatever reason. He's able to do that where he's primary or he's a check down, or we extend him as a receiver. 

"I think that's important, and I think it helps you play good offense," Shurmur said. "Quite frankly, there's not much role for a skill player on offense if he can't catch the ball. The running back is no different." 

A pair of running backs in the NFL — Todd Gurley of the Rams and Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell — have already surpassed the 500/500 mark.

Arizona's David Johnson was a candidate to do so this year but has missed most of the season with an injury. Carolina rookie Christian McCaffrey is also close to the mark, but he needs 79 rushing yards to do so. 

"I do my own thing, but I like to look at a lot of Le'Veon and David Johnson. Those guys are more route runners," McKinnon said. "McCaffrey, of course, coming in … they can line up out wide and in the slot. And I started looking at Gurley a few years ago."

Chicago might be a good team for McKinnon to try and get the accomplishment against, as he has had plenty of successful days against the Bears in the past.

He has four of his five career touchdowns against Chicago, and rushed for 98 yards on the ground, including a 58-yard score, in Week 5. It was the longest rush allowed by the Bears this season.

In the four games against Chicago where he's gotten at least 10 total offensive touches, McKinnon has racked up 400 total yards with two touchdowns on the ground and two through the air.

"That's one of those things over the years where I've had good games," McKinnon said. "It happened to be games where the scheme, play-calling, things like that … that's been an overall credit to my success against the Bears. Just getting me involved in different ways."

The running back has topped 79 or more receiving yards once in his career, a Week 15 performance against Cincinnati when he had 114 yards through the air.

But if McKinnon can hit the mark Sunday, he'll reserve an exclusive spot in franchise history.

"You're talking about 1,000 total yards, that's a lot of yards," said Vikings running back Latavius Murray, who has rushed for 731 yards and added 100 receiving yards. "Whether it's on the ground or in the air, that's a lot of yards and shows that he's played a huge part in the offense this year and is a huge part of the success we've had. I think the sky is the limit for him. He has all the talent and the ability in the world, and I love him to death. 

"His work ethic, the way he goes about his business … he's a real pro. It's really cool to see and really cool to be around," Murray continued. "He makes me want to be a better player, and I hope I do the same for him. You just love that when you see a guy doing things the right way."

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