EAGAN, Minn. — It seems there is a stat for everything these days, but there is one that perfectly sums up Kyle Rudolph.
According to Next Gen Stats, the Vikings tight end has a catch percentage of 80.49 so far in 2019, which ranks sixth among all NFL tight ends and receivers. But what stands out is that Rudolph expected catch percentage is 67.59, meaning the nine-year veteran uses his mitts to catch more passes than he likely should.
That plus-12.6 percentage in catch rate above expectation leads all NFL tight ends with at least 30 targets this season, further showcasing Rudolph's surehandedness on the field.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins explained his mindset when looking for No. 82.
"Certainly, you feel like when the ball is in his general area, he's going to come down with it, so there's a lot of confidence that he can bring it in," Cousins said. "No better example than some of the touchdown catches he's had this year that I've thrown to an 'ours-or-nobody's' spot, and he's made it ours.
"That's been pretty impressive," Cousins added. "Some of the better catches I've ever been on the throwing end of have come from Kyle catching them."
Rudolph said he and his quarterback began developing that chemistry in 2018, and have carried it over into this season.
"I think he's gotten more comfortable in throwing balls to me in traffic," Rudolph said. "I say it all the time … I take a lot of pride in trying to make the quarterback right.
"If he chooses to throw the ball to me in traffic, then I want to make sure that he'll make that choice again and do everything I can to catch it," Rudolph added.
The tight end has done just that over the past six games, especially in the red zone. Rudolph did not have a touchdown catch through the first six weeks of the season, but has hauled in six scores since Week 7.
All but one of those scores have come inside the 20-yard line, including a pair of one-handed catches in the end zone.
Rudolph first did the trick with his right hand — and a special source of inspiration — in Dallas, and then did it again in Seattle with a left-handed snag.
The tight end said Thursday that he decided to put his left mitt in the air when he realized his right hand was tangled up with Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright.
"I knew as long as I could keep K.J. on my outside shoulder, that there was nobody on my post that was going to get in the way," Rudolph said. "That's just a timing route that we've practiced every week for 13 weeks, and we finally got it dialed up that game.
"Kirk's throwing the ball to an area, so I did everything I could do hold K.J. off as long as I could," Rudolph added. "I turned and the ball was right there."
After a quiet first six weeks in the passing game during which he helped a strong running game, Rudolph has now emerged as a viable threat again through the air. He now has 33 catches for 301 yards and is tied for the team lead with six touchdown catches.
"Kyle has had a good year," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "Obviously, he's very reliable in the passing game, and he's been doing a much better job in the run game.
"He really does everything that we ask him to do, and it's good to see," Zimmer said.
Rudolph has 419 career catches (fourth in Vikings history) for 4,088 yards (10th) and 47 touchdowns (fifth).
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.
Mattison preparing to start if Cook can't go
Dalvin Cook said Wednesday that he "feels better than expected" and has plenty of confidence that he will play Sunday against Detroit.
If Cook can't go or is limited, the Vikings would then turn to rookie Alexander Mattison to carry the load at running back.
Mattison addressed the possibility of starting Sunday, and said he is simply preparing just like any other week.
"I mean, those are things you don't really think about as much. I expect Dalvin to be back in there, and I hope that he's healthy going into this game," Mattison said. "Really, I just have the motivation to go out there and just be there for my teammates, whether it's playing a lot, whether it's playing a little, I'm just going to make sure I contribute and make sure I don't let them down.
"That's something where I continue to try to prepare myself that way. That's awesome. It's humbling to hear that and know that they have that confidence in me, but I just know that I can't settle for anything. I'm never satisfied," Mattison added. "So, I'm going to keep pushing, keep being better. This is just year one for me, so there's nothing but room to improve. I'm just excited to continue to grow with these guys."
Mattison ranks second on the Vikings in carries (86) and rushing yards (416) and has one rushing touchdown.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski said Thursday that he has plenty of confidence in Mattison, plus others such as Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone.
"I think you saw at the end of this last ballgame we didn't have Dalvin and we're in a two-minute throwing session and not much changes," Stefanski said. "And really, that's the drop-off that we see at every position. It can't be much. We don't look at it like that.
"We look at as our backups know the game plan and they're ready to go," Stefanski added. "Are they the same player as a Dalvin Cook? No. We understand that, but we're not going to limit ourselves and what we can do without any one of our players."
Harris to the house
Anthony Harris can finally tell his friends and family to get off his back.
The Vikings safety scored his first-career, pick-six Monday night, as he returned a tipped and batted Russell Wilson pass 20 yards for a second-quarter score.
Harris, who now has seven career interceptions, said those close to him had been playfully razzing him about his lack of return yards in his career.
"I've had a couple interceptions in my career … but teammates and friends, they've always talked to me about yards after the catch," Harris said. "They've been giving me a hard time and we joke.
"I just tried to stay on my feet [Monday night] and get in the end zone," Harris added. "For me, once I caught it, it was, 'Where's the nearest lane?' I didn't want to let a guy tackle me. It was a good feeling to break free."
Harris, who was recently named as one of NFL.com's most underrated players, had three interceptions in 2018 and has four so far in 2019.
Of those seven picks, four were returned for no gain, including one he picked off in the end zone against Atlanta back in Week 1. Harris' three other returns that tallied yardage included a 33-yard return in Chicago in 2018, a 5-yard return against Washington earlier this season and Monday night's touchdown.