Rushing Production Linked to Vikings Wins

How important is the running game? Each time Vikings running back Chester Taylor has gone for 100 yards on the ground this year, his team has won.

The Vikings' running game has gone through its share of growing pains this season but coach Brad Childress' commitment to this aspect of the offense appears to be paying off.

The latest sign of progress came in the Vikings' 31-13 victory Sunday at Seattle. Running back Chester Taylor gained a season-high 169 yards, including a franchise-record 95-yard scoring run, and Minnesota finished with 175 yards as a team.

Taylor's total made him the NFL's leading rusher before Tiki Barber reclaimed that title on Monday night. Taylor has 590 yards on 137 carries. That type of production is what the Vikings were hoping to get when they signed Taylor to a four-year, $14.1 million free-agent contract last March.

The victory over the Seahawks marked the second consecutive game in which the Vikings have been able to establish the run. In a 26-17 victory over Detroit entering their bye week, the Vikings accounted for 135 yards on the ground and had a 4.5 average. Taylor, as usual, led the way with all but 12 of the yards.

"It's pretty important," left tackle Bryant McKinnie said of having the run game working. "Especially in the road games, you want to be able to wear down the defense, so you need to run the ball at them instead of being on your heels and pass protecting all the time."

Overall, the Vikings have registered three 100-yard plus rushing performances this season and, not surprisingly, Minnesota has won them all. It's only victory in a game without a 100-yard output came in the opener at Washington when Taylor finished with 88 yards.

In their losses, the Vikings totaled 97 yards against Chicago and 63 yards against Buffalo. Taylor's adjustment to the Vikings' version of the West Coast offense is one likely reason for the continued improvement.

Another is the fact the offensive line appears to be coming together after adding two new guards (Artis Hicks and Steve Hutchinson) and get center Matt Birk back from an injury that kept him out all of last season.

"I think that they've improved," Childress said of the run offense. "(We) probably didn't give it enough of a chance in the Buffalo game, but I think when we have the attempts we've gotten better. I think they are understanding some of the things we're doing schematically a little bit better, both the running backs, the tight ends and for sure the offensive line."

NOTES

  • QB Brad Johnson posted a season-high 97.7 quarterback rating in the Vikings' 31-13 victory over Seattle on Sunday. He also threw his longest touchdown pass of the season, hooking up with Marcus Robinson on a 40-yarder. The Vikings did put Johnson in a position to stretch the field more than they had in recent games. The biggest concern was that the Seahawks pass rushers got to him four times.

  • RB Chester Taylor is second in the NFL in rushing with 590 yards on 137 carries (4.3 average). Despite his heavy workload, Taylor has rushed for only two touchdowns this season. The second came Sunday at Seattle when he went 95 yards for a score, establishing a franchise record.

  • TE Jermaine Wiggins had only one reception for 15 yards Sunday at Seattle but it resulted in his first touchdown catch of the season. Wiggins caught a halfback option pass from Mewelde Moore in the third quarter to put the Vikings ahead to stay. Despite the fact he caught a touchdown, it has become apparent that Wiggins can no longer be relied upon for frequent multi-catch games playing in the West Coast offense.

  • WR Bethel Johnson made his Vikings debut after signing during the bye week. Johnson replaced Troy Williamson on kick returns and averaged 31 yards on four returns. Johnson also saw some time at receiver, although he did not catch a pass. Look for Johnson's role to increase in the coming weeks.

  • LB Ben Leber returned from the bye week and played without a brace on the left knee he sprained in Week 3 against Chicago. Leber wore the brace in the Vikings' game before the bye against Detroit.

  • LB E.J. Henderson did not have an interception in his first three NFL seasons but now has two in the past two games.

  • Rookie CB Cedric Griffin, who rotates in the nickel package with Ronyell Whitaker, had his first NFL interception last Sunday against Seattle.


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