McKinnon made the difference, with 146 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches in the 20-17 win. He rushed for 95 yards on 16 carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run, and McKinnon added 51 yards on six catches.
“When you can run the football, it makes it tough,” coach Mike Zimmer told reporters after the game. “Defenses start loading up and give you a better chance to throw the ball some. The play-actions were better, we had a couple [bootlegs] in there we hit for first downs. I think all those things are important. In the first half, the running game was OK, but it wasn’t really moving.”
Murray added 31 yards on 12 attempts, and 12 more yards on two catches. Some will say he is still fighting to get up to speed after an ankle injury limited him significantly in the offseason.
Regardless, McKinnon has emerged as the guy. And he’ll likely be the guy for as long as he is healthy enough to be the guy.
It’s not the first time McKinnon has stepped up. Last year, with Adrian Peterson out for most of the year, McKinnon had 85 rushing yards on 16 carries in a Monday night win over the Giants and 89 yards on 16 carries in a Week 17 win over the Bears. (His best game came in 2014, with 135 yards against the Falcons during Peterson’s suspension.)
The timing for an emergence is even better this year for McKinnon, who is in the last year of his rookie contract. If he can get it done, he can get paid on the open market in 2018, since the Vikings will remain all in with Cook.