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Lions' next opponent: Vikings' ground game limping along

Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Vikings’ futility in the running game this season could be historic.

Vikings running back Matt Asiata is averaging 3.3 yards a carry.

Through six games, Minnesota is averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. That’s on pace to be the lowest figure in the NFL since the 1946 Lions averaged just 1.7 yards per attempt.

Those Lions, led by Camp Wilson’s 207 rushing yards, went 1-10. Entering tonight’s game at Chicago, the Vikings are 5-1 thanks to a dominant defense and a solid passing game led by Sam Bradford, although he faltered in last weekend’s 21-10 loss at Philadelphia.

No NFL team has averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry since the 1994 Patriots finished at 2.8. Rounded to the next decimal, the Vikings are averaging 2.61.

“It’s negative-yards plays, that brings your average down,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Saturday. “It is what it is. I can’t change it. It’s 2.6. That’s what it is. So we’ll just keep trying to do better.’’

The Vikings have been without Adrian Peterson since he suffered a knee injury in Week 2 against Green Bay, and he is out until at least December. Minnesota on Saturday ruled out Jerick McKinnon, the team’s leading rusher with 217 yards, for Monday’s game with a sprained ankle.

Matt Asiata, who has 158 yards while averaging 3.3 yards per carry, will start against the Bears. Sharing the load will be Ronnie Hillman, who was signed Sept. 21 and had four 100-yard games last season for Denver but lost 6 yards at Philadelphia in his only Vikings carry so far.

“That’s what I’m here for, just to come in and help our team,’’ Hillman said.

The running game needs a lot of help. The Vikings are at risk of averaging the fewest yards per carry in team history, which was 3.0 in 1978; their average of 74.3 yards per game on the ground is on pace to be their lowest ever.

Monday Night Football

Minnesota (5-1) at Chicago (1-6), 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Line: Vikings by 4.5

Cutler returns: The Bears get QB Jay Cutler back after a five-game absence because of a sprained right thumb. His backup, former Michigan State QB Brian Hoyer, broke his left arm last week.

Bad game: Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford is looking to rebound after taking six sacks and 12 hits, fumbling four times and throwing an interception last week in a loss to his old team, the Eagles.

Strong defense: The Vikings have allowed an average of 14 points, fewest through six games for this franchise since 1988. They also lead the NFL in turnover margin (plus-11) and turnovers forced (16).

Stumbling: The Bears are off to their worst start since 2000, when they dropped seven of their first eight.