The Minnesota Vikings have had to deal with a lot of adversity this season, especially in the running game. Star running back Adrian Peterson got suspended, offensive linemen Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt have been place on injured reserve, John Sullivan missed time with a concussion, and Matt Kalil has been hampered by a knee injury but has not missed time.
Now this Sunday Jerick McKinnon says he will be absent from the Carolina game with a lower back injury – McKinnon has been the Vikings’ starting running back since Week 6. The Vikings will now have to rely on the plethora of backs – Ben Tate, Matt Asiata, and Joe Banyard – behind McKinnon to take over.
Even with all the problems the running game has faced, the team has still been able to find consistent success with it. The Vikings are ranked the NFL’s 13th-ranked rushing offense, averaging 116.5 yards per game. When asked how they have been able to over come all this, Vikings center John Sullivan gave the simple answer.
“We are just trying to do our job,” Sullivan said. “Go out there and execute the plays the offensive staff puts together for us and just play tough, physical football.”
It is that tough, physical running game that a lot of linemen enjoy. Of course, they are always willing to pass protect, but a majority of offensive linemen, if not all of them, much prefer being able to attack their opponents in the running game.
“I like the attacking style of run blocking,” said Sullivan. “I think most offensive linemen do, but at the same time if we had to throw the ball 100 percent of the time to win we’d be fine with that, too – whatever it takes.”
This week what it will take is another running back to step up to replace the Vikings starter. There are still options on the team at the running back position.
Sullivan said he doesn’t think it matters who is back there. They would like to have McKinnon healthy because he is a talented back and having him in there helps the team’s chances of winning, but when blocking it does not matter if the running back is fast, slow, shifty, or powerful. The offensive line will be doing the same thing every play.
“We’re focused on our jobs as individuals and then working together,” the Vikings center said. “It’s an offensive system that works, regardless of personnel.
“We just care if the play is successful. Ultimately, it could be anybody running the ball or it could be anybody blocking. As long as the team is successful, that’s what matters.”
With their leading back out, things could become more difficult against a Carolina Panthers defense that is filled with talented players, specifically linebacker Luke Kuechly, who already has 116 tackles on the season.
Although Sullivan notes the talent the Panthers have in their front seven he thinks the Vikings’ rushing attack will continue to produce as long as they continue to play their game.
“(The Panthers) have a lot of great players in their front seven,” he said. “It will be a tough challenge, but we always feel like if we go out and execute and play the way we know we can we’ll be successful.”
O-line keeps blocking, no matter the back
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