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Elflein's Steady Play Helping Boost Vikings Rushing Attack

EAGAN, Minn. — Pat Elflein is making more and more of an impact since his return to the Vikings lineup.

Elflein missed all of spring practices and all of training camp with shoulder and ankle injuries before being activated to the 53-man roster just before the start of the 2018 season.

The Vikings center was inactive for the first two games of the season before making his 2018 debut by playing one-third of the offensive snaps in Week 3. But since then, Elflein has played 398 straight snaps for Minnesota.

Elflein said he has continued to progress over the past two months.

"I felt really good against Detroit," Elflein said of Minnesota's 24-9 win in Week 9. "I'm still getting better each week and feeling better, but I feel like that game was good.

"It was a good bye week. Had some time to relax. Not time off, but time away. Working on my body, staying in shape and lifting … but also some relaxing, so it was good," Elflein added. "As an athlete, there's always something that's bothering you. Letting the whole body rest was nice and beneficial."

Elflein was one of Minnesota's most important players as a rookie in 2017 after he was a third-round pick out of Ohio State.

The center played 16 total games [including postseason play] and was named to the All-Rookie Team by the Pro Football Writers of America.

And ever since Elflein has returned to full-time action in Week 4, he's made a similar impact this season for the Vikings.

Minnesota has rushed for an average of 104.5 rushing yards per game since Elflein returned, and the Vikings have five of their six best outputs on the ground with Elflein in the starting lineup.

View images from the Vikings practice in preparation for the Chicago Bears at the TCO Performance Center on Thursday, November 15.

Elflein wasn't about to toot his own horn about that statistical improvements.

"I just think all five guys are doing their job," Elflein said. "When you rush the ball well, it's not even just the linemen that are blocking. The receivers are doing their jobs well, too. The tight ends, too.

"Everything has just been clicking," Elflein added.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo said earlier this month that Elflein has been 'very, very' influential in Minnesota's ground game.

"Especially when you are running your inside zone. Any runs. We always just talk about getting the play started," DeFilippo said. "When you're running inside, Pat does a good job of denting the line of scrimmage at the point of attack to where you can get the play started, and I think you've seen our amount of negative runs decrease since he's come back."

Added Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer: "Pat has done a nice job all year. He does a really good job of getting a guy turned, getting his hips in the right place and getting up to the next level."

Besides returning to form physically, Elflein's mental game has also stayed sharp.

Case in point: Dalvin Cook's 70-yard run against the Lions started with Elflein diagnosing Detroit's defensive scheme and changing the protection to one that helped spring Cook for the longest carry of the running back's career.

"I saw the safety was down in the box so we all adjusted really well to it. I saw it and Riley saw it, too, so we all echoed it down the line. It was great recognition and execution by everyone up front. We practiced that look a lot, so to notice it quickly and execute was good by all five guys."

The Vikings have seven games remaining, including four within the division, starting with a Week 11 road tilt against the Bears on Sunday Night Football.

With winter approaching and the playoff push heating up, the Vikings will look to successfully run the ball down the stretch.

The Vikings will likely rely on the man on the middle in their offensive line to help get the job done.

"I feel refreshed and excited," Elflein said. "We've got a big game coming up. These games are fun."