Latavius Murray threw a stiff arm into Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea, releasing five games’ worth of frustration from a lackluster rushing attack, on his way to a 21-yard touchdown in the Vikings’ 27-17 win on Sunday.
“It felt good,” Murray, wearing Michael Jordan’s No. 23 Bulls jersey, said after the game. “It really did.”
As Murray racked up a career-high 155 rushing yards, the Vikings channeled a physicality not unlike that in the 1990s NBA. A Cardinals nine-man defensive front wasn’t enough to stall Murray on his touchdown run. He squeezed between tight ends David Morgan and Kyle Rudolph, breaking one listless Cardinals arm tackle before throwing his limb into Bethea’s facemask.
The run gave the Vikings a 7-3 lead. They did not trail the rest of the game.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings when you see a running back go flying by you without stopping at all,” guard Mike Remmers said. “The crowd gets into it. It’s amazing. I felt bad because for a few games we weren’t running the ball as well as we should have. It was good to get it going today.”
On a day when running back Dalvin Cook was ruled out after a pregame workout, Murray put together a rushing day not seen from a Vikings back since Adrian Peterson had 158 rushing yards on Nov. 29, 2015.
That was the Vikings’ game plan. Entering Sunday, the Cardinals’ last-place rushing defense had allowed a league-high eight touchdowns on the ground. Murray and quarterback Kirk Cousins made it 10.
“Part of it is, you know, stick with it some,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “You just have to keep pounding away and pounding away and that’s kind of how these things happen.”
The Vikings offense, which entered Sunday as the NFL’s most lopsided toward pass in the run-pass ratio, didn’t need much patience against the Cardinals.
Murray’s second and third carries went for 26 and 21 yards (the touchdown) in the first quarter, doubling the number of runs of 20 yards or longer the Vikings produced in the previous five games.
Is this a sign of things to come? Murray kept the praise in check by pointing to the Cardinals’ issues stopping the run. Still, the Vikings’ confidence gained Sunday isn’t overshadowed by their opponent’s problems.
Of the Vikings’ 195 rushing yards, 46 came on the final, game-sealing drive that ate up the remaining 3 minutes, 14 seconds.
It was the football equivalent of Jordan draining the shot clock before driving to the hoop at the buzzer.
“I don’t want to sit here and say that we cracked the code, because they had been vulnerable to the run game,” Murray said. “But I will say I feel we’re capable of running the ball that way every week no matter who we’re playing. … We need to, so we have to figure out a way to do that.”