Part of being the last remaining unbeaten team in the NFL includes the natural national attention a team receives. In 2016, there is a lot of chatter about the Minnesota Vikings and the start they’ve got off to this season.
Kyle Rudolph, who appeared Monday on the program “Pro Football Talk” on NBCSN, was asked to explain some of the questions surrounding the Vikings offense.
Rudolph was asked his thoughts on being an afterthought Sunday. He was targeted just four times, catching two passes, but he said he wasn’t frustrated. He had a lot of work to do other than catching passes in this particular game, because he was the only relatively healthy tight end on the roster after MyCole Pruitt went down and, with a concussion suffered by Brandon Fusco, the offensive line was also shorthanded.
“That’s how the game goes sometimes,” Rudolph said. “There are different things I need to do during the course of the game. Yesterday we got a little banged up up front – another offensive lineman goes down and another tight end goes down. I was called upon to do a lot more in protection. But also we had a lot of matchups we liked on the outside – guys like Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright and Cordarrelle Patterson all stepped up and were winning on the outside. That’s how a game goes sometimes. I can’t let the fact that I’m not getting the ball thrown my way keep me from doing things that can still help our team win.”
One player who was used plenty in the offense was Thielen, who caught seven passes for a career-high 127 yards and a touchdown.
Rudolph was asked if he was surprised how big Thielen stepped up with Stefon Diggs sidelined with a groin injury, Rudolph said that, while Thielen hadn’t had a splashy game like he did Sunday, he was making key receptions and big contributions throughout the season.
“Adam is a guy who seems like every time his number is called, he steps up,” Rudolph said. “He had a couple of huge catches earlier in the year – a couple of big third downs against the Titans in Week 1 and a big catch at Carolina. With Diggs being down this past week, Adam stepped up huge. He had the first touchdown, but also had a lot of big catches throughout the game.”
PFT asked one of the questions that has been asked often in Minnesota – why isn’t Laquon Treadwell earning a role in the Vikings offense?
Football fans saw what Treadwell could do at Ole Miss, routinely dominating NFL-caliber defensive backs in the SEC. Why not with the Vikings?
“It’s just because there are so many other guys in that room,” Rudolph said. “It’s hard when you have five or six other extremely talented wide receivers who have been in the league for a few years. It’s hard to crack that lineup. But Laquon is getting better every day. He works hard and I know when his number is called, he’ll be ready.”
Also of national interest is the rebirth of Cordarrelle Patterson as an offensive threat. Relegated to simply kickoff returns for the better part of the last year, Patterson took on the role of being a gunner on the punt coverage team – creating a big turnover on a punt that led to a Vikings touchdown against the Giants on Monday Night Football.
His role has expanded and Rudolph said Patterson has never lost his competitive edge, even though he has been a part-time player.
“Cordarrelle Patterson is an extremely talented receiver,” Rudolph said. “He’s a guy where we we’re getting the ball in his hands in situations where he can catch and run, whether it’s through screens or in the run game. He’s a guy who, anytime you get the ball in his hands, he can score. It’s important to get his touches throughout the game. Cordarrelle is a guy who has had an incredible attitude through all this.”
With the Vikings finding players to take on big roles that weren’t in the plan at the start of the season, it made sense that there would be questions pertaining to whether or not the Vikings wanted their bye week this week.
As most people likely know, the worst thing that can happen in front of a bye week is losing, especially for a team that hadn’t lost all year.
Rudolph said that, while the momentum the Vikings have is strong, given the injuries the team has been suffering, he believes the bye week is necessary right now. It also helps considering Rudolph became the father of twin daughters last week.
“We’ll do everything we can to keep that momentum locked in through the bye week,” Rudolph said. “I definitely think it’s big for us to get a week off and time to heal up and get ready to go for this second half stretch. We’ll do everything to keep that momentum going, knowing how important it is to pick up right where we left off.”
You get the feeling Mike Zimmer won’t let the players lose that momentum over the bye.