spotlight on Alexander Mattison

This week is nothing like last week

Number grade (out of 10): 4.5

Running back Alexander Mattison was seemingly set up to thrive against a porous Falcons defense in his first NFL start. But Mattison, who finished with 10 carries for 26 yards in the Vikings’ loss to Atlanta, was first stonewalled and then rendered a nonfactor when Kirk Cousins’ interceptions were quickly turned into Falcons touchdowns. Mattison struggled to find much room to run when he did get the ball, as six of his 10 carries went for 2 yards or less. The Vikings’ 32 team rushing yards were a far cry from the rhythm Mattison enjoyed the previous week in Seattle when he finished with a career-high 20 carries for 112 rushing yards in relief of Dalvin Cook and the Vikings had 201 rushing yards overall.

Positive Doing the Dalvin

Mattison did his best Cook impression on the biggest run of the game – a 16-yard scamper made possible as Mattison evaded interior pressure and bounced the run outside, finding rare space to move down the sideline for 16 yards. He added a trademark hurdle, leaping over Falcons safety Ricardo Allen in the lone bright moment for the Vikings running game.

Negative No Room

Hit behind the line again and again, Mattison couldn’t find much room facing a Falcons defense that loaded the box with extra defenders. Two of the Falcons’ stops on Mattison were by defensive backs in safety Keanu Neal and cornerback A.J. Terrell, and it was Neal who knifed into the backfield to stop running back Mike Boone on the Vikings’ failed fourth-and-goal run in the second quarter.

Extra Point First Downs lacking

Rushing first downs are a decent barometer for how well the Vikings offense fares in a given week, since coach Mike Zimmer wants to grind out games. And without Cook, the Vikings tied a season low with just three rushing first downs against the Falcons, matching the lackluster output during the Week 2 drubbing at Indianapolis when Cook was underutilized and the offensive line was overwhelmed. In the other four games this season, the Vikings have at least 10 rushing first downs.

Quotable

“It was probably a little bit of both. Once it got going, then we didn’t have much of an opportunity to run the football. But we really weren’t very effective when we ran it early. And then you get down 14-0, or whatever it was, and you start throwing the ball more.” – Coach Mike Zimmer, saying both poor execution and too few run calls contributed to the ineffective ground game.

ANDREW KRAMMER