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Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) reacts after losing a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Alexander Mattison deserved a better sendoff.

The 24-year-old running back, a third-round pick out of Boise State in the 2019 NFL draft, likely appeared for the final time in Minnesota’s purple-and-gold attire during Sunday’s wild-card loss.

A free agent in 2023, Mattison is a near-lock to leverage a contract with a new club out of four seasons of tough running and undervalued versatility in acclaimed RB Dalvin Cook’s shadow.

If the Vikings’ 31-24 defeat to the Giants was indeed Mattison’s curtain call in Minnesota, it’s a shame – not because he’s irreplaceable but due to his strange and too easy-to-forget farewell.

Mattison played seven offensive snaps, tied for his season low, against New York. He didn’t record a rush and caught his lone target for two yards. Simply, he wasn’t part of the game plan.

Cook, in turn, operated as an army of one, carrying 15 times and catching six passes. The usage, evidently, was misguided as he ran for 60 yards (4.0 avg.) and totaled 10 in the air (1.7).

The snapshare was weirder than the distribution of touches and dearth of opportunities for RB2: In an all-hands-on-deck playoff game, Cook took 88% of the snaps on offense, a season high.

Mattison, meanwhile, watched Minnesota’s 13-win campaign crumble from the bench.

In 17 regular-season contests, Mattison rushed 74 times for 283 yards and five touchdowns. He had 5+ carries in six games, with a season-high 10 for 54 yards and two TDs in the finale at Chicago, granted Cook was rested and received a season-low 34% timeshare in the backfield.

Furthermore, Mattison logged at least one carry in every game this season. He compiled double-digit rushing yards in more than half, eclipsed 25 yards five times and averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry in six appearances. But wait, there’s more …

Mattison had his number dialed on the ground at least once in 60 of 61 games before Sunday. The only instance where he didn’t, occurred Week 17 of last season at Green Bay, in a 37-10 loss. But even then, Mattison wasn’t invisible – he reeled in four of five targets for 13 yards.

It’s difficult to reason Mattison not being a factor over Super Wild Card weekend.

Especially since he was praised by Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell after beating the Bears.

“We consider him kind of a 1a-1b type. [He] ran really hard,” O’Connell commented about Mattison following Minnesota winning its 13th game for the third time in franchise history.

That confidence in Mattison, obviously, disappeared Sunday.

Other notes from Sunday’s snap counts:

– Another guy who got lost in the sauce Sunday – or lost in the script, somewhere: tight end Irv Smith Jr. One week after playing 32 offensive snaps in his first game off injured reserve, Smith was relegated to a tiny role vs. the Giants, on the field for just four of 57 plays. To his credit, he still impacted the game, snagging a three-yard TD about halfway through the third quarter that trimmed New York’s lead to 24-21. Still, what’s up with restricting Smith’s snaps? After T.J. Hockenson, whose 88% snapshare was tied for third among Vikings skill players, the next TE up was career backup Johnny Mundt, who tallied 21, or 37%, of the O snaps and caught one ball for 12 yards. You’d think the wild-card snap counts for Smith and Mundt would be reversed.

– First things first: Center Garrett Bradbury rejoined the Vikings starting five up front after missing the last five games of the regular season with a lower back injury. Now, for the brutally honest part: Bradbury chose a bad day to have a bad game, his worst of the season in fact. On Sunday, the former 18th overall draft pick allowed five pressures, including four quarterback hits and earned his lowest overall score of the season (45.4) according to Pro Football Focus. Woof.

– Danielle Hunter did a good job of pressuring Giants quarterback Daniel Jones on Sunday. Hunter registered four hurries, a hit and a sack via 61 defensive snaps. Unfortunately, pass-rush pal Za’Darius Smith wasn’t as effective, totaling two pressures and no takedowns on 52 snaps.

– The highest-graded player on Minnesota’s defense in the wild-card round, per PFF, was second-year outside linebacker Patrick Jones II. Playing only 13 snaps (18%), Jones tallied three pressures and assisted on one tackle. His 90.0 grade was tops between both teams.

Darrisaw 57 100%
Ingram 57 100%
Cleveland 57 100%
Udoh 57 100%
Bradbury 57 100%
Cousins 57 100%
Jefferson 56 98%
Thielen 52 91%
Cook 50 88%
Hockenson 50 88%
Osborn 33 58%
Mundt 21 37%
Ham 11 19%
Mattison 7 12%
I. Smith 4 7%
Brandel 1 1%
Bynum 72 100%
Kendricks 72 100%
Peterson 72 100%
Shelley 72 100%
H. Smith 72 100%
Sullivan 64 89%
Hunter 61 85%
Hicks 57 79%
Tomlinson 54 75%
Z. Smith 52 72%
Phillips 45 62%
Wonnum 31 43%
Tonga 24 33%
Bullard 15 21%
Lynch 14 19%
Jones 13 18%
Metellus 2 3%

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