Between Jerick McKinnon’s two touchdowns during Sunday’s 23-10 victory against the Packers, a troubling trend continued to haunt him.
“It’s been eating me alive,” McKinnon said.
Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark jarred the ball from McKinnon’s hands in the second quarter, leading to a 63-yard return by Clay Matthews that led to the Packers’ only touchdown. It marked the third consecutive game in which McKinnon has put the ball on the ground, losing two of them.
The recent fumbling woes are rare from McKinnon, who did not lose possession once in his first 431 touches across his four NFL seasons.
McKinnon made up for his fumble with a 3-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game, on the Vikings’ next drive. The shifty back continued to power the Vikings backfield with 99 total yards (69 rushing).
“The fumble was not good,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “But you know Jerick did a nice job. He caught the ball well [Sunday]. He ran the ball good. He’s good to get to the perimeter.”
McKinnon hurt the Packers on screen plays, including a 50-yard catch-and-run called back because center Pat Elflein was too far downfield before the throw. Coordinator Pat Shurmur went back to that play on the first call of the second quarter, and it netted a 27-yard touchdown by McKinnon.
“He’s slippery, man,” left guard Jeremiah Sirles said. “We trust him and he trusts us. We’ve built some great chemistry with him in the past couple weeks. Being able to have a guy back there like that who can hit the holes and have that breakaway speed, and he’s so good in the screen game.”
The Vikings diverted from McKinnon on kickoff returns. Rookie receiver Stacy Coley fielded the only return for 19 yards as McKinnon’s role grows on offense and the Vikings seek “more production” on kickoff returns, Zimmer said.
Injuries pile up
Linebacker Anthony Barr’s hit caused Sunday’s most noteworthy injury, a broken collarbone for Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but a “pretty big collision” late in the first half knocked Barr from the game and into the concussion protocol, according to Zimmer.
Rodgers and Barr were only two of the many injuries, mostly affecting the Packers. Throughout the game, Green Bay lost its quarterback, three starting offensive linemen (Lane Taylor, David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga), cornerback Quenten Rollins and linebacker Blake Martinez.
The Vikings lost receiver Michael Floyd in the first half because of a calf injury.
The Vikings defense held the Packers to 227 net yards and 10 points with Green Bay backup quarterback Brett Hundley in for much of the game. A key to the Vikings’ success was run defense out of nickel personnel, which features three corners instead of three linebackers.
The Packers gained only 72 rushing yards on 24 carries.
“Guys like Terence [Newman] and Mackensie [Alexander] are physical guys and we’ve got other good guys in the box, a good front,” safety Anthony Harris said.
Rhodes covers Adams
The Vikings opted not to have cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadow Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, instead putting the pesky defender on receiver Davante Adams throughout Sunday’s game. Adams caught five of 10 targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. Nelson led the Packers with six grabs for 60 yards.
“Just what we thought was the best thing for us to do in this game,” Zimmer said.
• Kicker Kai Forbath has now made his past nine kicks since missing a field goal against the Lions. Forbath hit two extra points Sunday and made second-half field-goal attempts from 36, 34 and 53 yards.
• Defensive end Everson Griffen now has a sack in six consecutive games, the 29-year-old’s career-best streak. Griffen is among the NFL’s leaders with seven sacks.