A Puzzling Number from the Vikings Week 6 Win

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell looks on during the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings earned their second victory of the season by beating the Chicago Bears on Sunday, 19-13.

The win came despite Week 6 being Minnesota’s first game without Justin Jefferson in the lineup as he remains on IR due to his hamstring injury.

Because of the injury, the expectation was that the Vikings would move the ball around, featuring other pieces of their offense such as rookie WR Jordan Addison. However, as the dust settled from the game, a puzzling number emerged that remains largely unexplainable.

A Puzzling Number Emerged from Minnesota’s Week 6 Win

Puzzling Number
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) rushes the ball against Chicago Bears linebacker T.J. Edwards (53) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

That number revolves around RB Alexander Mattison. Throughout the course of the game, the Vikings ran or threw the ball 53 times. On 25 of those plays, the ball went in Mattison’s direction. The running back carried the ball 18 times and had 7 targets in the win, trailing only TE T.J. Hockenson in the target share.

If the Vikings had won the game in dominant fashion, nobody would have any problem with this. However, Chicago’s defense (which went into the game allowing the second-most passing yards per game) completely shut down Minnesota’s offense throughout the game.

Minnesota totaled just 220 yards of total offense, their lowest total of the season, and especially in the second half, they were completely lifeless.

Mattison did not help those numbers. His 18 carries resulted in only 44 yards (a 2.4 yard-per-carry average), and he caught four of his seven targets for just 28 yards (averaging just 4 yards per target).

Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) rushes the ball against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

This is not just a one-off game for the Vikings starting running back, either. Mattison is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry this season, and he is yet to have a play go for 20+ yards. Still, Minnesota continues to force-feed the ball to the RB.

Making matters worse, the Vikings converted just two of their 13 third-down attempts on Sunday. Six of those attempts came with Minnesota sitting 10+ yards away from the first-down marker.

Folks, that is not a recipe for success. The Vikings needs to find a way to get more yards on early running downs in order to make those third downs more manageable.

It would make sense for Minnesota to continue making Mattison their bell-cow back if they didn’t have quality backups. That simply isn’t the case, though.

Cam Akers was acquired via trade with the LA Rams earlier this season, but through his first three games with the Vikings, he has just 11 carries. Those carries have gone for 63 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Ty Chandler was also a fifth-round pick by the Vikings in 2022, and he has totaled just 8 carries for 42 yards this season.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Cam Akers (31) catches a pass in the second half as Chicago Bears linebacker T.J. Edwards (53) closes in to defend at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t a call to eliminate Mattison from the offense by any means. He is a veteran back that is plenty capable of playing a role in the backfield of an NFL offense. However, Minnesota should make a more concerted effort to get their other RBs involved to take the workload off of Mattison.

Mattison has been targeted in the passing game 28 times, and he has five drops. This total ranks second-most in the league behind only Puka Nacua, who leads the NFL with 50 receptions. Mattison’s drop percentage of 17.9% is also second-highest in the league behind Joe Mixon’s 19%.

It’s hard to believe that the Vikings went into the game trying to get Mattison the ball nearly 50% of the time, but that is exactly what transpired on Sunday. Something in the gameplan needs to be adjusted to ensure that a tough San Francisco 49ers defense isn’t able to focus on one player more than another particularly without Jefferson in the lineup.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.