Matt Asiata had an unexpected career day against Philadelphia's defense. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)
If you watched Minnesota Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson's 79-yard screen pass touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14, you may have noticed a running back named Matt Asiata helping out with his blocking acumen. That's where Asiata's generally been throughout his NFL career -- blocking once in a while, most often on special teams, and hidden on the depth chart behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. But with Peterson and Gerhart both out against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Asiata got his first real shot to carry the ball -- and he certainly made the most of it.
In Minnesota's 48-30 win over the Eagles, Asiata -- who had three career carries before this game -- scored three rushing touchdowns and finished with 30 carries. An undrafted free agent out of Utah, Asiata signed with the VIkings in 2012 and made final cuts as a backup fullback against the odds when Lex Hilliard did not impress and Jordan Todman suffered an ankle injury. Asiata did enough to stick through two relatively undistinguished seasons from a statistical perspective, and his teammates have appreciated his unselfishness. Quarterback Matt Cassel seemed to hope that Asiata would get a chance to do something in this game.
"I don’t know, because the entire season I’ve had Adrian and Toby back there," Cassel said Wednesday, when asked how things would be different without his two primary backs. We’ll just have to see come Sunday. We might have to make a few in-game adjustments, but at the same time Matt Asiata ... he was the guy that sprung that block for Cordarrelle on that play. The guy didn’t get any reps during practice but he steps in on the field in the most pivotal part of the game and steps up and makes a huge block, so I anticipate these guys being ready to go. It’ll give them an opportunity. That’s how I got my start. Sometimes injury happens, but what you have to do is close ranks and move forward."
After the game, Asiata's mind was on his father, Pita, who died in a bus accident on Oct. 28.
“My dream was to make it to the NFL, and I wish my dad was here to witness it.”
Asiata became the first player in the NFL to score three or more rushing touchdowns in his first career start since former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper did so in September 2000.
“I look at it as a blessing," he said, "just getting the opportunity to show the coaches what I can do and help this offense out,”