The Vikings finally were able to break through in the ground game against the New York Giants on Monday night. With top tailback Jerick McKinnon often running behind fullback Zach Line, the team topped 100 rushing yards for the first time this season.
Line, often a bit player in coordinator Norv Turner's offense, was used on 24 of the 72 offensive plays, his highest snap count since 2013, his rookie year.
"I think we had a pretty good mix in the game plan of me being involved. How much I'm used is always a question, but so far this season it's been a fair amount every game," the 26-year-old said Thursday. "Yeah, this week was definitely a little more than other games, but the more the merrier."
The Vikings could rely on Line a lot Sunday, too, when playing host to the Houston Texans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Kyle Rudolph, who has a rib/clavicle injury, returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday, but fellow tight ends Rhett Ellison and David Morgan missed practice again because of knee injuries.
That might mean Turner again uses more two-back sets than usual.
"If you have guys that are questionable, or if you're not sure if they're going to be in there, you can emphasize one personnel group over another," Turner said. "Zach, right now, would be an emergency guy [at tight end]."
Diggs still out
While Rudolph was back on the field Thursday, quarterback Sam Bradford's other favorite target remained sidelined. Wideout Stefon Diggs, who is tops on the team and fifth in the NFL with 372 receiving yards, sat out practice for a second consecutive day because of a groin injury he suffered two weeks ago.
Coach Mike Zimmer was not ready to rule Diggs out, though.
"I don't know. He played last week. He had a groin last week, so ... " Zimmer said.
Right tackle Andre Smith also sat out a second practice in a row because of a triceps injury, and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd remains out after knee surgery.
Cordarrelle Patterson was another offensive player who saw a spike in snaps in the 24-10 victory over the Giants. The wideout was on the field for 36 offensive plays, more than in his previous 14 games combined.
"We all know that C.P. has always flashed and always made plays," Turner said. "I think what he has really made a commitment to is being consistent and going out every day being consistent — consistent with the mental approach, consistent with the performance, consistent with the effort."
Patterson took advantage of the opportunity with five catches for 38 yards.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien took over play-calling duties last week for their 27-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said he saw some familiar plays and concepts when watching that game tape.
When O'Brien was calling the plays for the New England Patriots in 2011, Edwards was defensive coordinator for the division rival Buffalo Bills.
"There are some similar situations where they do look a lot like [ones from the Patriots]," said Edwards, who ran the defense in Buffalo for two seasons.
Latest on Walsh
Special teams coach Mike Priefer said he liked how struggling kicker Blair Walsh responded after his latest miss. Walsh was wide left from 46 yards out against the Giants. Moments later, he booted a 44-yard field goal.
But Priefer understands why Walsh continues to be heavily scrutinized.
"He made four of five," Priefer said. "[The one miss is] the kick that everybody talks about and I can understand why because that's the National Football League. At the end of the day, that may cost us someday. So we're hoping to rectify that situation and help him go out and make all his kicks."