EAGAN, Minn. – Latavius Murray didn’t mince words when asked about the Vikings run game.
“It’s been non-existent, to be honest with you,” the running back told Twin Cities media members Monday morning.
Over four games, Murray has 19 carries for 64 yards. Minnesota as a team has a league-low 416 rushing yards on 107 attempts – including 61 scramble yards by quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“That’s just what it is,” Murray continued. “We’ve just got to figure it out. We have to be better.”
Fellow running back Dalvin Cook said the game situation has largely dictated the ability to get the run game off the ground.
“The games just got out of hand where we need to throw the ball,” Cook said. “You’re aren’t going to be able to run the ball if you’re trying to play catch-up. This is just how the game works out.”
Cook was limited in Thursday night’s game at Los Angeles by design.
After tweaking his hamstring at Green Bay and missing Week 3 against Buffalo, Cook was held to 18 plays against the Rams. He said the injury is “still healing up” and that he needs to be patient.
“I want to be 100 percent as bad as everybody else wants me to be 100 percent, but I’m just not there yet,” said Cook, who returned this season after tearing his ACL one year ago today. “I’ve just got to keep chipping away at it, and I’m going to be ready when the time comes.”
Whether it’s Cook, Murray or one of the Vikings two rookie running backs in the game, Murray said it’s necessary to be “more efficient” with the carries they get.
Murray said that negative runs have to be eliminated. He pointed out that Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo runs an aggressive offense focused on getting the ball downfield.
“It’s easier to do that when you’re putting it in the air, but I think we’re definitely going to need the run game just to complement everything,” Murray said. “There’s still a whole lot out there for us as a team, for us as an offense, [in the] run game. I think just not getting frustrated with where we are at this point. We still have a lot of opportunities to do the things we want to do.”
Delving into the Vikings defense
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer expressed concern following Sunday’s loss – in which the Rams were allowed 38 points – about Minnesota’s pass rush.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, whom the Vikings signed in free agency, was asked about that facet of the game Monday.
“We’ve played a few teams [with] that scheme, as far as the boot action is limiting our pass rush a lot,” Richardson said. “We’re trying to get that corrected because I feel like we can do more as far as that, for the throwback. Buffalo had it, the Rams had it in the game plan. They see the defense vacating, they’ll throw it back [to the running back], and that’s a screen play, too, so we had to honor that. Stuff you just don’t see on film.
“It looks like we’re not pass rushing, but that’s what we’re doing,” Richardson added. “We’re doing our jobs, so I think it can get better.”
He provided keys to making a quarterback uncomfortable quicker, even if the sacks aren’t there.
“Just get him off his spot, be effective, put a lot of pressure in his face, around his legs if you can,” Richardson said. “I get held a lot, so definitely be around his legs a lot. Other than that, honestly, the whole defense has to go hand-in-hand. Coverage is coverage, and we can force bad throws.”
Minnesota’s defense undeniably struggled over the first quarter of the season, but the team hasn’t lost faith.
Murray said he knows what the defense is capable of.
“I trust in everybody in this locker room, and I definitely trust them to do whatever it is they need to do to get it right,” Murray said. “I think league, regardless what position, what side of the ball you’re on, will humble you. And when it does, you have to look at that and figure out how to fix it. And I think it’s just that way all around the board.”
Treadwell on Cousins’ trust & team-first mentality
After a game against Buffalo where Minnesota scored just six points, the Vikings said heading into Thursday night’s game that they had to bounce back.
Cousins led an offensive charge that certainly fit the bill, and the Vikings offense scored 31 points on the road that, despite the loss, made a statement.
“It’s always great to go out and perform really well as a unit,” said Laquon Treadwell, who had a season-high 47 receiving yards on four catches.
Treadwell has experienced his own bumps in the road to start the 2018 season, including a handful of drops. After a rough outing at Green Bay, the receiver continued to be targeted by Cousins in the pair of subsequent games.
Treadwell was asked about Cousins’ trust in his receivers.
“It’s always important to know that your quarterback trusts you. It’s always [important] to be on the same page as your quarterback and continue to get better over the season,” Treadwell said. “It shows a lot from him. The game’s on the line, and he’s still coming back to guys and allowing guys to make more plays.”
As the Vikings weather back-to-back losses and look to right themselves against the Eagles on Sunday, Treadwell is grateful to have Cousins as a teammate.
“He’s a competitor, he’s a battler. He’s for the team. He’s fully immersed in the team – defense, offense, he’s there, he’s talking about different scenario,” Treadwell said. “He [even] wants to know about your home life. He’s just a good guy to be around.”