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Kyle Rudolph Helps Vikings Meet Zimmer's Goal for 1st Downs

MINNEAPOLIS –Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer challenged his team to gain 22 first downs against the Giants Monday, and they delivered.

Kyle Rudolph can't even tell you what day the meeting was, but he remembered the message.

"Coach said it on, oh, my days are all screwed up playing on Monday, but our Wednesday meetings, I guess Thursday, that we needed to get 22 first downs on offense," Rudolph said following the game.

Minnesota had exactly that many — six via runs, 14 by passing and two awarded after penalties — en route to its 24-10 Monday Night Football win.

"It was important for us to stay on the field, sustain drives and score touchdowns, and in order for us to do that, we've got to convert on third downs," Kyle Rudolph said. "So whenever my number is called, I'll try to do my best and make the play and convert a first down."

Rudolph finished the game with five receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. Of his four non-scoring plays, all but one converted to Vikings first downs.

"We talked about [that] last week at Carolina," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "We had 11 in the first half, and we wanted to get to 22 tonight. We did that."

The tight end was just one of nine Vikings who made catches in Minnesota's 24-10 defeat of the Giants. Seven different players notched first downs.

"We've got a lot of guys that can make plays. I've been saying it for a while, not only in the running back room, the tight end room, but we've got a lot of guys in that receiving room that can go make plays," Rudolph said. "It's huge because not every game are guys like Stefon [Diggs] going to go out and catch nine balls for 180 yards, and we had other guys step up."

Rudolph referenced Adam Thielen, who made an 18-yard catch for a first down on a second-and-18, and Charles Johnson, who snagged 70 yards on just two receptions.

"We've got so many guys that can go out and make plays, it makes us tough to defend," Rudolph said.

His own big play came midway through the second quarter. The Vikings lined up on third-and-4 at the Giants 7-yard line, and Sam Bradford found Rudolph in the back of the end zone. Rudolph hauled in the pigskin despite tight coverage from cornerback Trevin Wade.

A majority of Rudolph's catches came in heavy traffic.

"It shows the confidence that Sam has in me to throw balls in those tight windows, whether there are guys draped on my back or in close proximity, so if he has the confidence to throw it to me in those situations, I've got to come down with the football," Rudolph said. "I take pride in making those catches.

"Sam's a baller," he continued. "He goes out there each and every game, and you can see him getting more and more comfortable now, not only at the line of scrimmage but in the huddle and as a leader of this offense and of this team. Guys gravitate toward his energy out there, and he's bringing it now and bringing more fire on top of the incredible attributes he has as a quarterback. You're starting to see the leader in Sam come out a little bit."

Conversely, Bradford said being able to trust Rudolph makes his job a lot easier.

"It's kind of a two-way street there," Bradford said.

On the one-month anniversary of Bradford arriving in Minnesota via trade, the quarterback said the chemistry he and Rudolph had early has only continued over the past couple of weeks.

"He's such a big target, and he's got strong hands," Bradford said of Rudolph. "He makes a lot of tough, contested catches. The catch he made in the red zone tonight was fantastic.

"He was a guy that I've trusted since I got here," Bradford said.

Bradford had hoped he could get Rudolph into the end zone twice because his wife, Jordan, is scheduled for labor induction on Tuesday morning. Rudolph, preparing to be a first-time father, admitted it would have been nice to have a pair of touchdown balls for his twin daughters.

"That was the goal, to be able to get one [touchdown ball] for each of them," Rudolph said.

He added with a laugh: "They'll have to learn to share, so this will be a good lesson for them."  

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