With the Vikings passing game focused largely on Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen for much of the season, tight end Kyle Rudolph saw his role dwindle. The Vikings enlisted him more often as a blocker, and Rudolph — who caught 140 passes in 2016 and 2017 — had just 36 catches on 50 targets through 10 games.
So Rudolph had a meeting with coach Mike Zimmer before last week’s game against the Packers, asking what he could do to help the offense after the Vikings’ frustrating night in Chicago. The result was Rudolph’s biggest game since the Vikings’ Week 2 tie in Green Bay.
The two-time Pro Bowler caught seven passes for 63 yards, rebounding from a two-catch, 13-yard night against the Bears. All of his catches came in the first half, when he led the team in receptions and targets (seven). That’s also when Kirk Cousins threw for 254 of his 342 yards.
“The frustration comes because I’m a competitor, and we weren’t winning games,” Rudolph said. “I thought I could help our offense make plays in certain situations that would help our team win games. Basically, we just dove into, when are those situations and how can I help this offense be more productive? At times, that’s helping in protection and chipping and all the things I talk to you guys about all the time, but there are certain situations in the game where that’s not the case, and I felt like I could help our team out. It kind of clicked on Sunday night, and I was able to see more production than I’m accustomed to.”
Priefer on Patterson
When Cordarrelle Patterson was in Minnesota, earning a pair of first-team All-Pro selections as a kick returner, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer always said he wouldn’t relish the prospect of having to coach against Patterson.
“I always told him that if he ever left here, and I had to coach against him, I was not going to be happy that week,” Priefer said. “But any time you coach against an opponent that’s that good — and he is the best in the business at what he does — your competitive juices get flowing a little bit. So in that regard, we’re excited.”
Patterson had his sixth career kick return for a touchdown earlier this season and is averaging 30.9 yards per return with the Patriots. Priefer said Patterson isn’t allowed to bring kicks out from as deep in the end zone as he could in Minnesota, but he added that if Patterson had stayed with the Vikings, the amount of leeway he’d had with them might have changed, too.
“I think Coach Zimmer would have had us move him up a little bit, because of the rule changes, because we can’t use the double teams on the back end, that he was so good at maneuvering through there,” Priefer said. “I think we probably would have been a little more aggressive with him, and I think New England is aggressive with him at times. Because the play is different, he’s utilized a little bit differently — but man, when he gets going, he is still the same guy.”
Diggs, Rhodes still out
Diggs and cornerback Xavier Rhodes were among four Vikings players who missed a second day of practice on Thursday.
Diggs, who turned 25 on Thursday, had a wrap on his left knee as the Vikings worked Ameer Abdullah in the slot. With Chad Beebe also missing a second day of practice because of a hamstring injury, the Vikings have been working with four receivers this week: Thielen (who was limited again with a calf injury), Laquon Treadwell, Brandon Zylstra and Aldrick Robinson.
Rhodes, who injured his right hamstring on Sunday night against the Packers, did not participate in stretching on Thursday. Tight end David Morgan also remained out because of a knee injury. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander was a new addition to the Vikings’ injury report; he was listed as a limited participant because of a knee injury.