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Do not overlook Latavius Murray’s role in the Vikings’ winning streak

There has been no shortage of heroes on the Minnesota Vikings’ roster during their eight-game winning streak, but one player who has seemingly flown under the radar is running back Latavius Murray.

After a slow start to the season, the 2015 Pro Bowler has been one of the NFL’s top running backs. Over the past six games, he’s averaged 79 yards per game at 4.5 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns.

The only running backs with more yards during that time are Mark Ingram, Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy. Only Ingram and teammate Alvin Kamara have more touchdowns since Week 7.

While the Vikings’ offensive line has played a huge role in the success of the Vikings’ running game, Murray has been tough to take down when defenders get a hand on him. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound back ranks third in the NFL in yards after contact over his last six contests.

He’s been effective as a home run hitter and a ground-and-pound finisher. Murray has picked up runs of at least 30 yards in three straight games. He’s also averaging 5.1 yards per carry when the Vikings have been ahead in games.

Against the Falcons, it’s easy to forget that the Vikings closed the game on back-to-back Murray runs that took away any shot Atlanta would have at a comeback. With 3:10 remaining and everyone in the building aware Murray was going to run, he slammed up the middle for eight yards, then gained a first down on the next play to seal the win.

One of the reasons the Vikings wanted Murray was to pick up big first downs in short yardage situations. Over the last six games, he has 12 first downs and two touchdowns on 21 carries with fewer than three yards to go and no runner has carried the ball more in short yardage than Murray.

His effectiveness has been key for the Vikings’ highly-praised third down attack. It’s certainly been good, but one of the reasons the Vikings are at the top on third down is because they have the third fewest third downs with six or more yards to go.

And when they’ve had third-and-long situations, they Vikings have been very poor. Case Keenum averages just 5.8 yards per attempt on third down with more than six yards to go, which is second worst in the NFL. But 25 quarterbacks have been asked to throw on third-and-long more than Keenum.

It’s also been discussed at length Keenum’s ability to avoid sacks and the offensive line’s pass protection proficiency. Murray has played a subtly good role in protection. He’s given up one hurry all year – and that was way back in Week 4.

While Murray has taken over the top running back duties, Jerick McKinnon has maintained an effective role in the passing game – just how the Vikings planned it in the offseason before drafting Dalvin Cook. McKinnon has 23 receptions on 30 targets for 168 yards since Week 7 – and he added a touchdown catch against the Falcons.

Since Cook went down, Murray has been everything the Vikings were hoping for in a top back – he’s even shown some improvement in his patience, several times waiting for holes to open up in the Falcons’ front seven before taking off. His contribution shouldn’t be overlooked when we break down why the Vikings have won eight games in a row.

  • True Gentleman

    Right now Murray is seemingly outperforming Mckinnon, although I wonder if some of that is OL opening holes for Murray while allowing the DL into the backfield for Mckinnon.

    In any case he has been what I thought an upgrade on Asiata

    • Jordan Musser

      What I have noticed for the most part is Murray hits the hole quickly and McKinnon has always had that little stutter step before making a move.

      One thing that has been been left out of these articles has been the efficiency of our screen passes to a number of different players, McKinnon, Murray, ham, Wright, Diggs, Morgan etc. The mobility of elfien, berger and Easton have been a tremendous boost to our game.

    • Theguds

      Latavius needs a hole but when finds it he hits it hard. I really like the Dickerson sized RB.

    • Fred Barrett

      true gentleman this relates to play selection and down and distance not if they are letting defenses into the backfield or not the goal is to keep them out of position to make plays in the backfield or downfield on all offensive plays the play of the offensive line ,quarterback , receivers and running game and down and distance are all related along with play selection when you stay ahead of the chains play selection becomes easier and a team can use play action to set up the pass and run some of the same plays out of different formations 3rd down conversions become easier offensive line play is key to all this pass protection run blocking the vikings are playing good complimentary ball and latavious and keenum and receivers are all benefiting from this and as a team it also helps the defense and special teams and makes this team better

  • Cman

    It’s awesome knowing that this team now has reserve players that come in and don’t miss a beat if a starter goes down. I hate that Cook couldn’t finish what was turning into a great rookie season, but Murray and McKinnon have filled in nicely. Depth is a great thing to have.


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  • Gordon Guffey

    Besides your Case Hate its not a bad read Coller ~ That Butt Hurt feeling will go away someday ~ Maybe 2018 will be a better year for you ~ Or maybe the Vikings do the unthinkable and sign Case to a 4 or 5 year contract ~ Man talk about Butt Hurt for some of you ~ That one would be a real stinger ~

    A huge plus for the offense would be the have a full season where Diggs and McKinnon could both stay healthy for a full season ~ Murray is becoming what the Vikings thought they were getting when they signed him ~ McKinnon has been like Diggs ~ Injured in every season until now ~ So far so good (((2017))) though and thats a good thing ~ I have no doubt his injury past had a hand in the trading up and draft Cook ~ This still proves to be a good move if he can return from the ACL injury ~ Cook~Murray~McKinnon for 2018 sounds very good with Pat Shurmur and his rebuilt offensive staff coming up with many different ways to use them ~ Maybe all 3 on the field at the same time ~ ????

    In 2018 Cook and Murray should make up one of the best 1~2 combs in the NFL ~ Until then McKinnon can give us a taste of what we are missing ~

    • Matthew Rowe

      How is it “Case hate” to point out a simple statistic?

      • Big TDs

        Amen, brother.

      • Drediock

        The article was supposedly about Murry. Yet Shill coldnt resist taking his typical swipe at Keenum

        • Theguds

          He’ll write paragraphs diminishing Case’s role and then maybe give him one sentence of praise.

      • Gordon Guffey

        This topic should have anything to do with Case and Coller when out of his way to point out stats about Murray ~ It clear ~ You saw it ~

  • badzeitgeist

    I think the Captain Obvious conclusion from several of these articles is that a single player doing well isn’t going to get you to the top seed in the NFC and 3rd in the power rankings in the League. Not to take anything away from any one player’s performance, but the point is you get really good by reaching a critical mass of good players to where they are synergistic: having good receivers and a good passing QB backs people out of the box which makes the run game look better which makes play action work for the receivers etc., and it all makes the QB better, especially with an improved line. Same on D with the rush and the coverage. It isn’t about this or that individual or individuals — the Vikings finally hit that critical mass they year to where the whole is more than the parts.

    • Big TDs

      Excellent analysis. Spot on.

    • Pete

      Case in point (no pun intended) 9 Vikings players had reception in the last game.

      • RichardOwens

        I rest your Case (pun intended) 😉

        • Theguds

          I like the intended pun. Great ball distribution by brother Keenum.

  • brian199511

    Great article Mr Coller. You have helped show how a “team” wins game. Depth, running and passing and all aspects of the team. It would seem players sometimes have a few plays a game to make their contribution and Murray has certainly proved the faith the Vikings had in him was well placed.

  • JP Falconer

    Why does this website go out of its way to diss keenum? He went 25 for 30 against Atlanta and was the key to our success.

    • MC

      Keenum sucks, he has the best wide reciever duo in the nfl, a solid offensive line and a great running back tandem.

      • Theguds

        Ball Placement :)))) There isn’t worse argument history… As I said before and I really don’t need a an actual NFL QB to confirm this for me but apparently you do. Sage Rosenfels’ and Ben Leber’s remarks for that very argument: “absurd.”

      • JP Falconer

        Wow you have no eye for football if you could say that and seriously believe that.

  • JP Falconer

    Just to be clear espn 1500 was calling for case to be benched weeks ago in favor of a semi retired bridgewater who even in his prime wasnt winning games like case is this year and now they don’t want to admit just how wrong they were.

    • Fred Barrett

      JP Falconer teddy was doing just fine , he did not have the benefit of the offensive line play that case does and the games we won when he was playing were mostly because of his play case is doing great but the offensive line play is why all aspects of the offense is doing better none of these things happen without good players at skill positions murry is doing great but would look just like AP with last years line and case would look the same as he did with the rams and so on it is a team sport , same on defense people talk about shut down corners and really there are none , on defense if the front 7 don’t play well the back end can look very bad if the front seven play well and get pressure on the QB it allows the corners and safeties to do different things point is all positions depend on each other to do their job case is doing great but so is his supporting cast these articles and writers are unreal how they pick and choose players stats and teams most of them have never played don’t understand the game or worse both

      • JP Falconer

        So what is your point?

      • Theguds

        Teddy was going to have his chance to prove himself but to his misfortune he had that terrible injury. We know what Case Looks like and we know what Bradford looks like under worse circumstances than Teddy in 2015. It’s time to move on and Case is making that case week by week.

      • Gordon Guffey

        The only reason I’m even replying is because of the comment made about the OL~

        The OL Teddy had is light years ahead of what Bradford had last year ~ AP was able to gain nearly 1500 yards behind that OL while adding almost 400 yards receiving ~ He also had Mike Wallace who is a know deep threat ~ Just look at his stats before and after a year with Bridgewater ~

        Now what Teddy didn’t have is the capability to throw into tight coverage or hit on the deep passes ~ But to be fair Teddy never had Pat Shurmur and his offensive staff behind him ~ But that want help him with his throws into tight coverage or hitting on the deep passes ~ Now thats not saying he cant get better at it ~ But it doesn’t mean he can either ~ All we can do is hope for the best when it comes to Teddy ~ And not just in football either but beyond as well ~ He is a great kid and person by all the standards I have see in the media ~ But not one person outside of the Vikings knows for sure how close he is to being ready ~ For all we know the Vikings may have the kid Kyle Sloter listed as their #2 QB ~ Zimmer loves to play head games but ESPN12500 has tried to make it sound like he is planing to play Teddy this year ~ Truth is all Zimmer has said is Teddy will play when Teddy is ready ~ Maybe they are protecting him for 2018 because Case is going to get paid ~ Even if the wheels fall off in the playoffs ~

  • Gordon Guffey

    People need to get over the so called duo of Thielen and Diggs being the best in the NFL ~ Not even close ~ Now maybe if Diggs was the player he was before the groin injury maybe ~ Wright needs to be the starting #2 and should have been after the bye to get Diggs held up for the playoffs ~ Maybe the Vikings didn’t know they would be on e game away from winning the NFC North at that time but I still believe it would have been a good move ~ At worse he should have been the #3 from that point on ~

    Digss had 3 different QB ~3 and 2 different OC and he has had the same results ~ Injured at some point in the season and never regaining his play post injury ~ Once he is injured he is never the same afterwards ~ Never ~ Not to date in his first 3 years ~ Its not about talent ~ It goes back to him missing games and fading afterwards going all the way back to his college days ~ There is a reason why he was 5th round pick and not a 1st or 2nd round pick ~ After they win the NFC North it might be a good time to start focusing on getting the ball to Treadwell and Wright from time to time in games ~ Not enough to or at critical time in a game for Treadwell ~ But just in case Diggs gets dinged up once again before or in the playoffs ~ This is really going to hurt Diggs come contract time ~ Saying healthy for all of 2018 might not be enough for him to get paid like he might think he should ~ The talent is their but the body hasn’t been ~


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