Vikings’ Alexander Mattison has another strong game filling in for Dalvin Cook
He carried 22 times for 90 yards, giving him 315 yards in the three games he has started this season with Cook out.
When Alexander Mattison gets in a rhythm, that’s when he really gets going.
With Vikings running back Dalvin Cook sidelined with a shoulder injury, Mattison got his third start of the season in Sunday’s 29-27 loss at Detroit. He carried 22 times for 90 yards, giving him 315 yards in the three games he has started this season with Cook out.
Mattison has carried 73 times in those games, giving him an average of 4.3 yards per carry. But when Mattison has relieved Cook in games this season, it’s been a different story. He has carried 37 times for 90 yards for a meager average of 2.4.
“I think for anyone playing this game, getting in a rhythm helps,” Mattison said Monday. “So, I think that contributes. I’m the type of back that likes to play downhill, so the more it piles up, I guess, the better the game can go for me.”
With Cook still resting the shoulder he hurt Nov. 28 at San Francisco, Mattison is expected to start again Thursday night against Pittsburgh at U.S. Bank Stadium. He’s pleased with how he has stepped up when Cook has been out.
“It’s just a matter of attention and trying my best to be consistent, and just going out there and fighting for my brothers,” said Mattison, who has 405 yards rushing on the season. “I play this game passionately. … I’m just going to continue to give my all. The results are the results.”
The Vikings trailed 20-6 at halftime Sunday before mounting a comeback and taking a 27-23 lead in the final two minutes. Mattison scored on an 8-yard run in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 20-15. After Minnesota closed the gap to 23-21 early in the fourth quarter, Mattison had a chance to tie the score but was stopped on a two-point conversion play from the 1 that followed a Lions penalty.
“One of the guys ended up spiking on the inside, just kind of cluttered it up, and I tried to be my own blocker and get in there one-on-one with the (linebacker), and he had leverage on me,” Mattison said. “We just have to clean it up on the inside, and we’ll make sure that we convert that next time.”
Mason Cole found out early last week he would be shifting from center to right guard against the Lions.
After starting left tackle Christian Darrisaw suffered an ankle injury at San Francisco on Nov. 28, the Vikings moved right guard Oli Udoh to left tackle in practice. They then inserted Garrett Bradbury as the first-team center and shifted Cole’s position. And that’s how it remained against the Lions.
“They informed us that this was going to be the lineup so we could get some reps at it, and we just kind of took it and rolled with it,” Cole said Monday.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked three times, tying a season high, but Cole believed the line changes worked out well. Cousins did throw for 340 yards in addition to Mattison rushing for 90.
“There’s always a few plays you wish you could have back, but overall I think it went well,” said Cole, who started the previous four games at center after Bradbury started the first seven this season. “I think I felt more comfortable as the game went on. … Hats off to Oli. Moving from right guard to left tackle is not easy. He held his own out there and did a good job.”
Justin Jefferson has 1,209 yards receiving for the Vikings. As soon as Thursday, he could join Randy Moss, who did it with the Vikings, and Odell Beckham Jr., who did it with the Giants, as the only NFL players with 1,250 yards in each of their first two seasons. If Jefferson reaches 1,356 yards, he would break Beckham’s record of 2,755 for the most in a player’s first two years. … The Vikings are ranked No. 30 in the NFL in total defense. The only time they have finished that low in a season was in 2013, when they ranked No. 31. Head coach Leslie Frazier was then fired and replaced by Mike Zimmer.