ARLINGTON, Texas – A hot microphone near the end zone picked up Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph adding insult to two-point conversion when he called the Cowboys’ Chidobe Awuzie, a 6-foot cornerback, a “little boy” after stealing a pass over his head.
It was that kind of night for Rudolph, the Pro Bowl receiving tight end-turned-blocking specialist, who caught three passes in the Cowboys end zone — two touchdowns and a critical two-point conversion — during the Vikings’ 28-24 victory over Dallas on Sunday night.
Rudolph’s trash talking? That was raised to the level of the game’s stakes between two NFC playoff contenders, he said.
“That’s the kind of game it is,” Rudolph said. “When you come on the road and play a big game — for me, the best part of getting in the end zone is turning around and seeing the five linemen run toward me.”
The re-emergence of the 30-year-old as a red-zone threat should be a welcomed sight for the Vikings after he had caught only four touchdowns in his first 21 games with quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Rudolph now has four touchdowns in the Vikings’ past four games, which could be a sign of things to come. Wide receiver Adam Thielen’s hamstring injury has opened up targets, according to Cousins.
“He’s always been an elite red-zone target,” Cousins said of Rudolph. “We have to find him ways to get him more opportunities, because he showed tonight how special he is. Without Adam, we have to kind of reinvent ourselves and find some ways to get other people involved, too.”
Rudolph’s catches scored as many points (14) as yardage (14), and they came in critical moments. His one-handed touchdown grab — which Rudolph thought Cousins might have been trying to throw away (Cousins said he wasn’t) — gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead. His second touchdown made it 14-0.
Cousins went back to Rudolph again when needing a two-point conversion following Dalvin Cook’s fourth-and-goal touchdown run to make it 28-21 late in the third quarter.
Rudolph — no stranger to the end zone — was glad to be reacquainted after recent absences.
“It’s big. It’s what I’ve done my whole career, it’s what I made a name doing,” Rudolph said. “So, it was good to be back involved. Kirk showed a lot of trust in me, both of those throws were in traffic — really all three of them were in traffic. That’s what we’ve been working on.”
Among all the standout catches from Sunday night, between Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper and Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, it was Rudolph’s one-handed grab that started it all.
So how much time will he spend watching the replay?
“I’m going home and going to bed,” Rudolph said. “I’m not watching anything. We got another big one next week.”