Matt Asiata carried the ball only three times as an NFL running back before Sunday. He scored three touchdowns on Sunday.
“It was crazy,” he said.
Asiata, the Vikings’ third-team running back, made the most of his opportunity in a 48-30 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles at Mall of America Field.
With Adrian Peterson (foot sprain) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) unable to play, Asiata rushed for only 51 yards on 30 carries but punched in touchdown runs of 1, 1 and 5 yards.
Afterward, he was emotional as he talked about his father, Pita, who died in a bus crash in Utah in late October. Pita was driving a charter bus that collided with a construction truck.
“This means a lot,” Asiata said. “I just wish my dad was here to witness it. I know he’s with me right now in spirit.”
Asiata received word Saturday night that he would start and “got the butterflies early” on Sunday morning, he said. He scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
“He’s been through a lot with his family and the circumstances there, and to see him rewarded like this and to get this opportunity, so grateful for him, grateful for his family,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “I’m sure it was a great day for them and something he’ll be able to cherish for the rest of his life.”
Peterson and Gerhart were both listed as questionable on the final injury report after making progress throughout the week. Frazier said he ultimately looked at Peterson’s situation “globally and not just look at this one game” in deciding to hold him out.
Frazier admitted that “it was not an easy conversation, trust me on that one” because Peterson wanted to try to play.
“He was pushing all the way to [Sunday morning],” Frazier said. “I had to fight the urge to say, ‘OK, give it a shot.’ I think at the end of the day he realized it was the right thing to do. He is superhuman in so many ways, but the risk-reward, I just couldn’t see it.”
Frazier said he’s optimistic that Peterson will be ready to play Sunday at Cincinnati.
Simpson laments call
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson was called for taunting in the fourth quarter after an exchange with cornerback Bradley Fletcher. Fletcher shoved Simpson to the ground after he playfully swatted him on the rear end.
“That right there, I can’t understand,” Simpson said. “I was patting a guy on the butt, telling him ‘good job.’ He was smiling and whatever, too, and then he pushed me and I fell. They huddled there — the refs — they huddled there for a minute and they called it on me. I don’t know, they said I was taunting. I really don’t know how that was called on me.”
Simpson took exception with something one of the officials said to him. It was unclear which official he was talking about.
“It was kind of some stuff that’s controversial things that he said to our players about that,” Simpson said.
Asked to explain, Simpson said: “It was definitely nothing that you say — that you should say to our players. What he said, I didn’t like it. I wanted to go ask him about it after the game, but he took off into the locker room.”
Simpson declined to reveal what was said, only that “it wasn’t racist.”
The Eagles trailed by only 15 points with 6:26 left in the third quarter when coach Chip Kelly elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 24.
Harrison Smith and Chad Greenway stopped running back LeSean McCoy for no gain on third-and-1. Rather than punt, Kelly called for another handoff to McCoy, who ran into a wall of defenders up the middle for no gain.
Kelly challenged the spot, but the call was upheld. The Vikings used that favorable field position to take a 27-9 lead on Blair Walsh’s 38-yard field goal.
“I thought that we could have made it and I also thought if we don’t make it, we’re in trouble,” Kelly said. “If we can’t get a half of a yard, it tells you what the day’s all about. They didn’t blitz. It wasn’t like there was an all-out coming at us. We needed to come off the ball and get some movement at the point of attack and dig ourselves out of that hole right there.”
• Cornerback Shaun Prater grabbed his first career interception in the third quarter.
• Jared Allen had two sacks and four quarterback hits.
• Defensive end Brian Robison had his fifth consecutive game with a sack. Allen and Robison had two sacks each in a game for the first time since last October.
• Cordarrelle Patterson passed the 400-yard receiving mark, the seventh rookie in Vikings history to do so. Randy Moss (1,313 in 1998) has the record.
• Defensive backs Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton, former college teammates at Notre Dame, led the Vikings with eight tackles each. Middle linebacker Audie Cole had seven.
• Walsh tied his team record with seven touchbacks in the game. He made field goals of 21 and 38 yards, and was wide left on a 55-yarder.