1. Kyle Rudolph is finally performing like a top tight end again. Since Rudolph caught nine touchdown passes and made the Pro Bowl in his second season, fans and media — and the Vikings, too — have been waiting for another big season. Instead, Rudolph was injury prone in 2013 and 2014 and had to take on more of a blocking role last season with the Vikings starting a rookie, T.J. Clemmings, at right tackle. So far this season, Rudolph has played a ton because MyCole Pruitt, the team’s other pass-catching tight end, has been out because of a knee injury — and they have been featuring Rudolph in their passing game. He has touchdowns in consecutive games, and he is second to only receiver Stefon Diggs in receptions (14) and receiving yards (166). If he keeps it up, he might just make it back to the Pro Bowl.
2. The quick passing game can help mitigate a struggling Vikings offensive line. Even though the Vikings are one of five undefeated teams, they are getting it done despite the guys up front not having come together yet. Injuries have been an issue. Four days after left tackle Matt Kalil was put on IR, left guard Alex Boone was knocked out of the game by a hip injury of his own. His replacement, Jeremiah Sirles, might have actually played better in relief — or it just looked that way because the Vikings smartly changed up their offensive approach at halftime, often putting Bradford in the shotgun and asking him to get rid of the ball quickly. After getting pressured on 38.5 percent of his first-half dropbacks, according to ESPN, Bradford was pressured on only 11.8 of them in the second half. Until this group actually jells, perhaps those quick-hitters are the way to go.
3. Punter Jeff Locke has been a difference-maker the past two games. Locke, now in his fourth NFL season, has been criticized in this space before due to his inconsistency booting the ball. But his performance the past couple of weeks suggests that the Vikings might have known what they were doing by sticking with Locke. After a shaky debut in Tennessee, eight of his 14 punts against the Packers and Panthers were downed inside the 20-yard line. In the second quarter Sunday, he boomed one inside the 10 to back up the Panthers, who ended up taking a safety. That play, along with the Marcus Sherels punt return for a TD, helped spark a Vikings comeback. Locke now has a net punting average of 40.5, on pace for the best average of his career. But that number doesn’t even do him justice given how often he has been called upon to punt near midfield.