Big, powerful rusher. Great pass protector. Downhill runner. Long-strider who can break off big runs. Good in space. Athlete.
Murray used those attributes to provide the Vikings with momentum when the passing game couldn’t get going Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. The running back scored Minnesota’s lone touchdown in a 24-16 win, while field goals carried the team the rest of the way.
In Murray’s best performance to date as a Viking, the running back rushed 18 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. Ahead of Week 7, he had a total of 97 yards on 41 carries.
“The thing I liked about it today was the physicality he ran with,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s a slashing-style runner. Yards after contact was good today, made the safety miss on the touchdown run. All those things were good. It’s good to see him get going. It adds to our dimension on the offensive side with a guy like Jerick (McKinnon) and a guy like him.”
Murray’s big, physical presence wore on Baltimore’s deteriorated run defense, but most of his yards came before he bulldozed through the tackles.
Of Murray’s season-high 113 yards, 75 were before initial contact, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That’s the second-most allowed by the Ravens defense this season.
On his 29-yard touchdown run, Murray gained 22 yards before contact. The running back found a hole created when Kyle Rudolph forced his defender inside and Adam Thielen pinned Eric Weddle, leaving Murray one-on-one with safety Tony Jefferson, whom he juked before diving into the end zone.
“I said they’re going to talk about me if I let them tackle me, so I have to score this touchdown,” Murray said. “I just tried to take a hard angle and let them think I was going to head for the pylon. Once I saw them bite on it, put my foot in the ground and get back up field.”
It was Murray’s first time rushing for over 100 yards since Dec. 8, 2016 when he picked up 103 yards in the Raiders' loss to the Chiefs. His banner day against the Ravens says as much about his ability as it does the offensive not missing a beat, even after sustaining two injuries.
Left guard Jeremiah Sirles, who started the last two games in place of Nick Easton (calf), went down with a knee injury in the second quarter and was replaced by Danny Isidora. The injury to left tackle Riley Reiff was less noticeable because there was no stoppage in play. Reserve Rashod Hill came in and made the transition appear seamless.
“For me to not notice it, really, the exact moment when they came in … I think that’s a really good thing,” quarterback Case Keenum said. “We kept our foot on the gas pedal and drove down to score again.”
Murray actually did most of his damage between both guard spots, but even when Sirles went down and Reiff was injured, the strength of the left side didn’t waiver. Murray picked up 66 yards on six rushes when going toward the left guard. His next best fit was to the right of guard Joe Berger, where he took five carries 31 yards. The rest of his significant damage came up through the middle of the field on four carries for 13 yards.
He performed like the physical, between-the-tackles bruiser that the Vikings expected when they signed him. The O-line did its job in creating opportunities for Murray to hit the open holes. He took it from there.
“When the offensive line puts a hat on their guy and gets me to the second level, that’s the best feeling in the world for a back,” Murray said. “That’s all you can ask for and the rest is up to you at the second level. We had a lot of those. The offensive line did a heck of a job.”