Latavius Murray may have a new contract, but this is Jerick McKinnon’s backfield for now.
That’s the message the Minnesota Vikings sent Monday night, when the fourth-year running back powered them past the Chicago Bears, providing Pat Shurmur’s suddenly anemic offense with a much needed spark.
With any concerns about game script neutralized in a low-scoring game, he was the clear favorite, out-snapping Murray 67-31.
McKinnon picked up 95 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries — including a 58-yard touchdown run — and gained just over a third of his rushing yards after contact.
With receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen locked down and out of sync with quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Case Keenum, McKinnon was the Vikings’ leading receiver too, hauling in six receptions for 45 yards.
In a normal game — a game that is not tied 3-2 at halftime, say — Murray will probably get more work on the goal line, where he excelled last season with the Oakland Raiders.
The Vikings were only the red zone three times Monday, but McKinnon remained their preferred option.
Murray had just two red-zone carries for six yards, while McKinnon didn’t get a carry in the red zone until the Vikings’ final drive, setting up the go-ahead field goal with consecutive runs of three, five and one yard.
Other notes from Monday’s snap counts:
— That was McKinnon’s fourth career game with more than 100 yards from scrimmage.
— Receiver Michael Floyd made his Vikings debut, appearing on 46 percent of their offensive snaps. He was hit with a holding call in the third quarter, but caught the lone pass thrown his way just a few plays later, picking up 19 yards.
— A week after the entire line played 100 percent of the snaps, guard Nick Easton suffered a calf injury and missed 10 snaps.
— Diggs left with a groin injury but returned late in the game, maintaining his usual workload of 70-80 percent of the offensive snaps.
— The Vikings aren’t mixing things up much on defense. Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith have now appeared on every defensive snap this season at safety.