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Lunchbreak: Vikings Have Turned Red Zone into Area of Success

An improved offensive line, stout defense and steady quarterback play have all been key factors along the Vikings current six-game win streak. 

But Minnesota's offense has also quietly put together another streak of sorts, this one coming in the most crucial area of the field for the unit.

The Vikings have had solid success in recent weeks in the red zone, a storyline Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune looked at this week.

Krammer wrote: 

They are making their own luck inside the opponent's 20-yard line, from where they have scored nine touchdowns in nine trips dating to Oct. 29 vs. Cleveland. That includes two TDs in two red-zone trips during Sunday's 24-7 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

"I think you have to give [offensive coordinator Pat] Shurmur some credit," left tackle Riley Reiff said. "Everybody is doing their job. He's putting together some good play calls, and we're executing right."

Krammer noted that the Vikings have ramped up their red-zone success in recent weeks as the season hit the midway point.

Minnesota has scored touchdowns on 20 of 35 red zone possessions (57.14 percent), which is the 11th-best mark in the league. 

The Vikings scored on 11 of their first 26 possessions in the red zone, but have nearly equaled that total by finding the end zone on their past nine trips inside the 20-yard line.

Krammer added:

Even while winning six of their first eight games, the Vikings entered the bye week as one of the league's most ineffective red-zone offenses. They are now a top-10 producer near the goal line, per Football Outsiders, just three weeks removed from ranking 27th in touchdown efficiency inside the 20-yard line.

There would be no better game for the Vikings to continue the streak than Thursday at Detroit. The Vikings have failed to put up 17 points [in any outing] during a three-game losing streak to the Lions.

They have scored at least 20 points throughout the six-game winning streak.

"We've got to continue to do that because that's crucial," Reiff said.

Rudolph's impact felt beyond stat sheet

Kyle Rudolph produced a career year in 2016, catching a career-high 83 passes for a career-high 840 yards to go along with seven touchdowns.

The Vikings tight end might not approach those numbers this season, but he's helping out in other areas that has led to Minnesota's 8-2 record.

Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com recently wrote that while Rudolph might not be racking up the catches and yards he had last season, the former second-round pick is still making a big impact on the Vikings offense.

Coller wrote:

*The stat that best displays the difference between 2016, when he was the most targeted receiving option on the team, and this year is on third down. Last year, the Vikings targeted Rudolph on 44 third downs and converted just 17. This season he's 13-for-22 and 11-for-13 on third downs with fewer than six yards to go. *

One of the key concepts of the West Coast offense is to use passing plays almost like running plays – extremely high percentage throws that keep the sticks moving. Rudolph has been a significant part of that with screen passes and play-action rollouts setting him up for short – but significant- gains.

Coller noted the importance of the Vikings converting a third-and-4 from the Rams 6-yard line with a pass to Rudolph that set up Latavius Murray's second rushing touchdown of the game. Rudolph had five catches for 58 yards with a long of 28 yards in Sunday's win against the Rams. The tight end has 42 receptions for 366 yards and three scores so far in 2017.

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