MINNEAPOLIS –For the first time in more than a decade, a Vikings running back notched a 100-yard receiving game.
Jerick McKinnon made seven catches for 114 yards, putting him in the top-10 all-time for a Vikings running back in one game. The last time that a running back had more than 100 receiving yards was in 2004, when Onterrio Smith recorded 104.
"I'm trying to find a way to do my best in every game and make the most out of opportunities given to me," McKinnon said. "They have been using me more in the receiving game this year than in past years, and it's been fun."
McKinnon said he didn't have any idea he was approaching the benchmark.
"I just knew I had some catches for some long runs," he said with a smile. "When they put it on the [video board], that's when I realized I went over 100."
McKinnon's biggest play of the game came in the second quarter.
On third down and looking for two yards, Case Keenum found McKinnon for a whole lot more.
Keenum dropped back to Minnesota's 23 and targeted a wide-open McKinnon, who made the catch at the sideline near the 42, cut back inside and picked up speed until being stopped at the Cincinnati 28.
"Case put it on me," McKinnon said. "I guess they didn't want to cover me today."
When he continued to find opportunities, McKinnon capitalized on them.
"After the first catch, I figured they would guard me," McKinnon said. "Case and I were just in sync and he found me, and we were able to make some plays."
He wasn't the only one making plays.
Fellow running back Latavius Murray also came up with a big catch through the air to jumpstart Minnesota early. Keenum was sacked for a loss of 9 on the first play of the game, but on second-and-19 he found Murray, who turned and ran for a 28-yard gain.
"It was a huge play for the team to build momentum and change field position," Murray said. "It was a great start for us because we want to start fast and put points up."
Murray had two more carries for gains of 3 and 1, respectively, and capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Together, Murray and McKinnon combined for 142 of the Vikings 222 receiving yards.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said part of the team's game-plan heading into the matchup was to utilize the running backs against a battered Bengals linebacker corps.
"We hit a big screen early in the game, a couple screens early the game," Zimmer said. "They played it better later on and the rest of the game. They had a couple linebackers out, so we were trying to isolate them a bit with the running backs."
Murray and McKinnon have complemented each other all season long and contributed to Minnesota's success. Another big game from the duo – who together accounted for 242 yards from scrimmage – helped the Vikings roll to a 34-7 victory and clinch the NFC North title.
"We want the ball in our hands and to take control of the game," Murray said. "We had good opportunities and had good runs. We want to be a part of the passing game as well, and obviously Jerick was a big factor today with some big catches."
McKinnon gave credit to his teammates for helping him have a big day.
"A lot of people just see the running back catching the ball, but the offensive line has to protect and the receivers have to run routes," McKinnon said. "It was a great team win, and it was just me going over 100 yards – it was all 11 of us."
And while it's a "good feeling" to hit the hard-to-reach receiving mark as a back, McKinnon emphasized that sealing a spot in the postseason was the more important accomplishment of the day.
"It was a great win and puts us in a good position and in the playoffs," McKinnon said. "But like Coach Zimmer said, the journey isn't done. We have two games to finish the season, and it's just about us, playing with a chip on our shoulders and staying focused on the task at hand, not looking down the road."
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