Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell was not disheartened by a costly fumble by running back Alexander Mattison in the team’s Week 11 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Asked about Mattison’s fumble that Denver to crawl back to a one-score deficit early in the fourth quarter of an eventual 21-20 loss, O’Connell defended the team’s starting running back, stating Mattison played well and was not responsible for the loss despite an inopportune timing of his turnover.
“It was a big play,” O’Connell said in his postgame news conference, per the Star Tribune. “I thought Alex ran the ball really well tonight, so did Ty [Chandler]. I saw a really nice balance of both of those guys out there. There’s no question it was a critical play, but not one we couldn’t overcome.”
Mattison led the Vikings to their best day on the ground this season, totaling 83 of 175 yards rushing on his 18 carries. Ty Chandler was the most efficient ball carrier on Sunday, posting 73 yards rushing on 10 carries — including a 31-yard rush off a fake punt to convert a fourth down in the fourth quarter.
O’Connell did not sway one way or the other when speaking of Mattison or Chandler as the team’s top two running backs will continue their existing timeshare after losing Cam Akers for the season due to a Week 9 hamstring injury.
“I thought the fake punt was critical. Great execution by our guys. A big momentum play that was hoping to try to put the game into a place where we can try to defend it and win it. I just think Ty in general is explosive. You can feel it when he’s out there,” O’Connell said.
“The yards after catch, the ability to still be physical but yet explosive. There’s a lot that we really love about Ty Chandler. I thought Alex (RB Alexander Mattison) ran it well, physical, a lot of yards after contact tonight. The guy’s up front did a nice job gap scheme plays, different variations and just trying to keep that front a little bit off balance and I thought both backs did a really nice job.”
Vikings RB Alexander Mattison’s Fumbles Are Magnified
Mattison’s fumble on Sunday night overshadowed his most productive game of the season as the Vikings ran the ball effectively in an overly conservative night for the offense.
The running game allowed Minnesota to dominate time of possession, but three turnovers kept the Broncos in a game they had no business being in.
It was only Mattison’s second fumble of the season, yet his issues with ball security have felt magnified, especially after a costly Week 2 fumble in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles led to threats from fans on social media.
Mattison is far from the doghouse after the Vikings committed to a two-year, $7 million contract that is nearly fully guaranteed in the offseason.
However, Chandler’s emergence does lend itself to more calls for the second-year back to see a featured role in the run game.
Ty Chandler Carving Out Role in Vikings Offense
Chandler’s uptick in playing time has largely been an effort to fill the void left by Akers. He has played 55 of his 89 snaps this season in the past two games.
The former fifth-round pick has all the potential to be an explosive playmaker in the offense, but his pass-blocking continues to be a reason the Vikings moderate his playing time. The offense is predicated on the pass and the running back position is relied upon to provide extra support.
While Chandler outgained Mattison in yards per touch, racking up 7.9 yards compared to 4.2 yards, respectively, Chandler’s shortcomings in pass protection were evident on Dobbs’ interception that led to the Broncos’ game-clinching touchdown,
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