Kyle Rudolph has been a key component of the Vikings passing attack as of late.
Minnesota's tight end has 13 receptions in his past two games, his highest catch total in consecutive games in his NFL career.
When Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked if he feels Rudolph had one of his best games of the season against Atlanta, he gave what he described as "a long answer for yes."
"Kyle is a very conscientious kid. Obviously he's kind of a receiver at heart, he wants to catch the ball like everybody does, he's kind of bought in to the concept as well about, 'This is who we are, and I don't know when my opportunity is going to come, but when it does, I have to take advantage of it,' " Zimmer said in his weekly press conference Monday.
Rudolph caught seven passes on 10 targets for 53 yards in the win over the Falcons, leading the team in each of those three categories. Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater took note of his big target's performance after the game.
"It's just great to get Kyle going," Bridgewater said. "Especially coming off of last week's performance. He's a guy that's a hard worker, detailed guy, and he is playing some good football for us right now."
The 6-foot-6 tight end has reached the end zone in three of the team's eight victories this season. His four total receiving touchdowns are a team high.
Rudolph's size can present a tough matchup to opposing defensive backs, and his quickness can open up matchups against linebackers as well.
"They were doing some things that allowed us to get to the tight end a little bit in the passing game," Zimmer said.
In the first quarter of the game against the Falcons, Rudolph caught a short pass from his quarterback and beat a defensive back to the sideline for a 12-yard gain and a first down.
"The best one to me was the one he ran on our sideline, the outside-breaking route, we'd been running," Zimmer said. "We'd been running that route, and he was kind of iffy about it. He went out there and beat the guy to the outside, and Teddy [Bridgewater] made a nice throw and [Rudolph] double tapped the sideline. He's progressing with a lot of things of continuing to run through the route."
Committing to blocking out front
The Vikings ran the ball 39 of 67 plays in the victory last week.
With the Vikings committing to the run, Rudolph and the rest of the Vikings know that they have a commitment to block down the field on running plays.
"He's kind of made a commitment to understand that he can be a big factor in helping us run the football, as well.
"It really is about the team," Zimmer said. "I've always preached the team and I know they're not always getting all the catches that they want to get, but they understand we're pretty good running the football, and they're a part of it as well."
The Vikings ran for a total of 191 yards last week and Vikings RB Adrian Peterson had 158.
Minnesota's tight ends Rhett Ellison and MyCole Pruitt have been paving the way along with Rudolph.
"Those guys go in there and they've got to block safeties all the time and corners," Zimmer said. "This week was a tough matchup because they have so many guys in the box, so we needed them to be part of it and the last run that Adrian [Peterson] had, Rhett [Ellison] made a great block, he basically blocked two guys, so the tight ends are doing a good job. That's who we are, and they have to take part ownership in it as well."
Peterson has five touchdowns in the Vikings past four games. The Vikings receivers know blocking the perimeter can be a factor when number 28 is in the backfield.
"He can take it the distance each and every play," Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs said in the locker room Monday. "As far as downfield blocking, if anyone knows football it can spring guys free. You don't want your guy to make the play, and that's how we approach it. In our room we stress it a lot because we take (blocking) seriously."