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Notebook: Multiple Ways for Vikings to Make 'Big Gains'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —At least a small part of Pat Shurmur's time before games includes mentally projecting possible stats.

All the studying of an opponent, game-planning and practicing give the Vikings interim offensive coordinator a general ballpark figure based on a few things.

But then, there's also occasions like the first play of the game last Sunday in Jacksonville — a surprise reception of 44 yards by Kyle Rudolph after Kyle Rudolph took advantage of solid protection and extended the play.

"Going into the game, in my mind, I'll say, 'This is probably going to be a good game for X player,' but as the game plays out, the first play last week was not designed to go to Rudy [as the primary target], but Sam scrambles around, and we get a big gain out of it," Shurmur said. "You just never know. That's why there are route concepts, and you've got to have guys doing what they're supposed to do, and Sam will try to find the open guy. You want to throw it to the open guy."

The Vikings were later able to hit deep connections with Adam Thielen for 41 yards and with Stefon Diggs for 45 yards.

"We hit some so-called deep throws last week," Shurmur said. "Lost in all of this, we actually threw the ball deep the week before more. We just didn't hit on them [against Dallas].

"We hit on more last week, and you certainly see what an explosive play can do for you," Shurmur added. "We also threw some check-downs where we made guys miss and got big plays. The key is to get big gains, and it happens in a lot of different ways."

Giving defenses more to worry about could help the Vikings offense as it continues to evolve and adjust.

Three Vikings receivers have been particularly reliable

Cordarrelle Patterson ranks third among all receivers with a catch rate of 78.6. Diggs ranks fifth at 77.2 percent, and Thielen ranks ninth with a rate of 74.7 percent.

According to more league stats, Thielen is tied for fifth with a drop rate of just 1.8 percent, Diggs is ninth at 2.5 percent, and Patterson is 20th at 4.3 percent of "catchable passes."

Add it all up, and multiple factors, including Bradford's accuracy has the Vikings quarterback leading the league with a career-best completion percentage of 71.2.

Shurmur on Adrian's return to practice

Many of the questions Shurmur fielded this week involved the return to practice of Adrian Peterson.

The Vikings designated Peterson to return from injured reserve but were still evaluating his progress on Friday. He practiced all three days for the first time since suffering a torn meniscus in Week 2.

Asked for an update on Friday, Zimmer said, "We just have to make sure everything is good with the doctors and everything going forward, that's all."  

Shurmur said Peterson can add a "boost" when he does return.

"Looks good. He's got fresh legs, I guess, and has been able to execute the plays necessary for this game plan," Shurmur said. "We'll just have to see if he's ready yet. It's a process, so you go through the practice sessions and as you recover from the practice sessions into the next day.

"With a guy like Adrian in the game, sometimes he can create a big gain and an explosive play just by handing him the ball," Shurmur later added.

Spying the speed

Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes is known to bring a physical style of play to the field.

Rhodes will likely need his running shoes Sunday against the Colts speedy collection of wide receivers.

T.Y. Hilton is the No. 1 option for Indianapolis, but Rhodes said Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett are also dangerous. Colts On Friday afternoon, Head Coach Chuck Pagano ruled Moncrief out for Sunday's game.

"A lot of speed… and he's not the only one, I can tell you that," Rhodes said of Hilton. "The whole receiving corps have speed.

"The guys on the Colts aren't really all that big, they're more explosive," Rhodes later added. "They're quick, twitch-muscle guys that can get down the field pretty fast. I have to be on top of every route and be aggressive."

If Rhodes does match up against Hilton from time to time, he'll go against of the NFL's most productive wide receivers.

Hilton's 78 receptions are tied for eighth-most in the NFL with Stefon Diggs, and he ranks second with 1,203 yards and his six touchdowns have him tied for 11th.

"(Hilton) comes in and out of breaks, it's unbelievable," Rhodes said of Hilton, who has recorded four straight 1,000-yard seasons. "He's made some catches I've seen on film that were great.

"You can tell him and (Colts quarterback Andrew) Luck have a great chemistry and bond because that's Luck's guy," he added.

Added Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer: "He's the No. 1 receiver (on passes) over 20 yards in the league. Fast, quick, competitive."

The Colts move Hilton around in their formations, including into the slot, so Mackensie Alexander also could be challenged by Hilton.

Associated Press Makes Changes to All-Pro Team

Speaking of Munnerlyn, this news might make the nickel cornerback happy. Munnerlyn has been lobbying for slot corners to be added to the Pro Bowl rosters. They haven't been yet, but the Associated Press announced on Friday that they are adding a defensive back designation for the secondary that can be a safety or a cornerback.

The AP wrote: "This is to recognize the importance of the slot cornerback in today's defenses. The DB can be a safety or a cornerback; the idea is to reward defensive backs who cover slot receivers."

The other changes are: offensive linemen will be voted for by specific position, one running back will be on the team, but a flex player (running back, fullback, tight end or receiver — voter's choice) on offense.

On defense, the listing of front seven defenders will include two edge rushers, two interior defensive linemen and three linebackers.

On special teams, a punt returner and a special teams player (non-returner) have been added to a kickoff returner, placekicker and punter.

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