MINNEAPOLIS –The Vikings had one extra coach on their sideline Monday night: three-time rushing champ Adrian Peterson.
Peterson, who is on injured reserve and recovering from knee surgery, may be unable to play, but that hasn't kept him from having his head in the game.
"He comes out and tells us where the holes are at and where to bounce it or where to keep it in," Matt Asiata said. "I think Adrian being out there just boosts our confidence."
Peterson's in-game pep talks helped get the Vikings ground game up and running – literally. Minnesota's 104 rushing yards were a tandem effort by Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, who bagged a touchdown apiece en route to the Vikings 24-10 win on Monday Night Football.
"It's great. We're a duo. We push each other – day after day after day," McKinnon said. "Matt's like an older brother and mentor to me, and any time I have him in my ear, Adrian in my ear, it doesn't make me want to be anything but the best that I can be for myself and for my teammates."
Early in the first quarter, the Vikings capitalized on a fumbled Giants punt return, recovered by Marcus Sherels. Taking over at New York's 41-yard line, Minnesota completed an eight-play drive capped off by Asiata bull-dozing for a one-yard touchdown. The score was Asiata's first since Dec. 21, 2014, when he finished off a nine-touchdown season with a pair of scores.
Asiata also contributed to the Vikings passing game, finishing with two receptions for 12 yards, including a 5-yard gain to convert a third-and-5 in the fourth quarter. That drive ended with a McKinnon touchdown.
After the Giants scored their first touchdown of the night to make it a one-score game, the Vikings answered right back. Bradford connected with wide receiver Charles Johnson down the sideline for a 40-yard play, and McKinnon pushed through on first-and-goal for a four-yard touchdown.
"He's a guy that gives us more momentum," McKinnon said. "That was a big play by CJ, and the five guys up front made it easy for me."
Prior to the score, McKinnon chipped away with the Vikings offense throughout the entirety of the game, racking up 85 total rush yards on 18 carries (4.7 yards per attempt). The third-year running back's biggest gain came on Minnesota's third possession of the game, in which he received a toss from Sam Bradford and ran the ball 25 yards before being stopped.
McKinnon said he started the second half "a little too patient," and Peterson advised him to go out there with intensity and just take what he could get.
"Adrian's always getting in our ears," McKinnon laughed. "He was telling me … 'Take those 3-, 4-, 5-yard runs, those short runs. I came out, it was a little bit of hide-and-go-seek, and he said, 'Just take it.' "
After averaging just 2.1 yards per carry and 51 rushing yards per game through the first three weeks of the season, Minnesota finished Monday's game averaging 3.2 yards on 33 attempts.
Both McKinnon and Asiata credited the offensive line with helping the run game improve.
"It's about getting in a rhythm, hitting those guys up front," McKinnon said. "They do such a good job of fighting all four quarters. It's still a work in progress, but we're getting where we need to be.
"Progress – I think that's the word to describe what we're doing," McKinnon added. "Just improving each and every week."
The Vikings run game is trending in the right direction, but Asiata and McKinnon aren't satisfied where they are. The pair said they expect to be in the film room this week, keeping their focus on getting better in whatever ways possible.
"Just keep going, one game at a time. Go 1-0 every week," Asiata said. "Playing with a chip on our shoulder, it's always great to go out there and [show] everybody what we can do."