The Minnesota Vikings gave Latavius Murray the first chance as the starting running back after Dalvin Cook’s injury, but Murray wasn’t as good as he expected.
The veteran running back that the Vikings acquired in free agency averaged a respectable 4.2 yards on only six carries in the first half of Monday night’s win over the Chicago Bears, but the offense struggled with an ailing Sam Bradford at quarterback. Murray got six more carries in the second half with Case Keenum in relief at quarterback, but by the time the game ended, Murray’s average was down to 2.6 yards per carry.
“Each week is going to be a different week, what we feel like,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Murray started out the game good. He had good runs early; he kind of tapered off a little bit. I think Jerick [McKinnon] started off a little slow and then he got going towards the end. We’ll just have to see how it goes as we continue to go forward.
In a self-evaluation Thursday, Murray saw plenty to improve in his game.
“Honestly, I think for the most part I ran well, but I think there was times where I was second-guessing myself a little maybe, didn’t have my feet under me, but other than that I felt I ran the ball well. But, still, there’s a lot more I can improve on and be a lot better – and I will be a lot better,” Murray said.
“Just hitting it, hitting what I see, my first read or my first reaction.”
As Murray’s production declined, the Vikings turned more to Jerick McKinnon, who finished with one of the best games of his career. McKinnon had 95 yards rushing, with a 5.9 yards-per-carry average that was bolstered by a 58-yard touchdown run.
Murray expects that the coaches will go with the hot hand moving forward.
“I’m really not sure, but I think the hot hand thing for sure. Coach tries to keep whoever is running really well in there in the game,” Murray said. “I wouldn’t expect that to change.”
Most running backs preach that they need more carries to get in a rhythm, but Murray knows it is on him to earn those additional carries.
“It’s going to start with me and what I do with my carries,” he said. “I know I’ll be better and so I have confidence that if I’m playing better I’ll have more opportunities.”
Murray said last week that his ankle, which was surgically repaired six days after the Vikings signed him in March, still wasn’t 100 percent. But after his most extensive action on Monday night, he said the ankle felt good and he believes he is “capable of making explosive runs.”
To date, however, that hasn’t happened. In 26 attempts through five games, Murray’s longest run is 8 yards.
However, in their first game without Cook available, the Vikings combined for 159 yards rushing. McKinnon accounted for 95 yards, Murray had 31, Keenum produced 22 with a scramble and WR Adam Thielen added 11 with an end-around run.
“All our yards combined, you want to have that success running the ball, regardless of who’s running it because that’s only going to help us get the ball down the field and get in the red zone and score points,” Murray said.
But, while he seemed satisfied with the overall rushing performance, he sounded dejected about his own showing.
“I just know what I’m capable of. I know what I’m able to do. I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed; I’m just not satisfied,” Murray said. “… I’ve got to continue to work and get better so I can do more. I’m just not satisfied. Not disappointed or upset, just not satisfied yet with my level of play.”