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Byron Murphy suffered a Grade 3 MCL strain in Bengals game

There appears to be a correlation here

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

On this first full day of the offseason, we’ve gotten some clarity on what happened to Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy that caused him to miss the final three games of the regular season.

According to Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Murphy suffered a Grade 3 MCL sprain on the third play of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15. Somehow he managed to play through the injury in that game but didn’t practice or play in any of the final three games of the regular season.

Now, this may be a coincidence or it might not be, but Murphy not being available during the final three games of the season pretty much correlates with the Vikings’ defense going directly into the toilet after being lights out for much of the season. They had a rough first three weeks and a rough last three weeks, but during the stretch in between they were legitimately one of the best defenses in the league. Had the offense been able to do anything in a few of those games, we’d be previewing a Vikings playoff game right now instead of discussing draft positioning.

Without Murphy, the Vikings had to rely on rookie Mekhi Blackmon and second-year corner Akayleb Evans, who looked. . .shall we say. . .”uninspired” down the stretch. Fellow second-year corner Andrew Booth Jr. got some snaps and looked surprisingly solid most of the time and a couple of practice squad call-ups did what they could, but the loss of Murphy was too much to overcome and shows what an important part of Brian Flores’ defense he was this year.

Murphy signed a 2-year contract with the Vikings this offseason, which means he’s going into a contract year in 2024. He expects to be fully ready for the offseason program, so hopefully he’ll be back and ready to get the defense back to more of what we saw in the middle of the season than what we saw at the beginning and the end.