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Vikings' running backs McKinnon, Murray don't like being overlooked

Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon (21) carries the ball against Chicago Bears cornerback Marcus Cooper Sr. (31) during the third quarter Dec. 31 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Shirtless at his locker following practice Friday, Jan. 12, Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon let everyone know that he has a bone to pick.

"Every time I turn around I feel like all I'm hearing about is the Saints," McKinnon barked. "Like I said, they're a good team, they've done a lot of really good things this season, and they've had a lot of success. They deserve (the attention). ... I just feel like it's all been about the Saints."

Perhaps the thing bothering McKinnon the most is the fact that he and his running mate Latavius Murray are being overlooked.

Nobody is talking about the fact that the duo has combined for 1,412 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground this season, plus 524 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Not with the Saints' dynamic 1-2 punch of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara descending upon the Twin Cities this weekend.

Are people sleeping on the Vikings backfield?

"They are," McKinnon repeated three times.

Does the Vikings backfield deserve more recognition?

"It doesn't matter," McKinnon snapped.

Well, OK then.

There's good reason why Ingram and Kamara have generated so much attention, as their emergence has taken the Saints from something of an afterthought at the beginning of the season to a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and maybe the biggest threat to the Vikings in the NFC.

With the powerful Ingram bringing the thunder, and shifty Kamara serving as the lightning, the two have combined for 1,552 yards and an astounding 20 touchdowns rushing, plus 1,242 yards and five touchdowns receiving.

It's a much different look than the Saints brought to Minnesota for the Week 1 matchup between the teams. In that game, Ingram and Kamara combined for 35 yards rushing and 74 yards receiving, while competing with the since-jettisoned Adrian Peterson for touches.

"They have done a phenomenal job this season," McKinnon said. "It's going to be fun to watch them against our defense because we've got a lot of good guys on that side of the ball as well."

The Vikings' offense also has a different look. Dalvin Cook dominated the backfield in Week 1 before going down with a season-ending knee injury.

"It's more of a 1-2 punch now," McKinnon said. "Earlier in the season Dalvin was getting a boatload of the carries. I just think me and Latavius have done a good job of complementing each other throughout the season and just making sure both of us are going with each other."

"We're still doing the things we want to do," Murray added. "You know, obviously Dalvin had a good outing against them and ran the ball really good. We haven't gone away from running the ball since he went down. It's just now me and Jerick have had to step up. ... We have different running styles, and we're still able to run the same plays, so I think for a defense it's kind of hard to defend something like that."

That two-headed-monster approach has become a trend in the league of late, not only with the Vikings and Saints.

In fact, every team left in the NFC playoffs has a 1-2 punch in the backfield. The Eagles have LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, and the Falcons trot out Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

"We talk about McKinnon and Murray," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "That's a solid combo. Luckily, I think we probably play (against) the top duo in the league every day in practice.''

Those might as well be fighting words as far McKinnon is concerned. What about for Murray?

"To be honest, I really don't care," he said. "I'm just worried about what we do. I'll let everybody else talk about what they want to talk about."

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