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Notebook: Vikings Offense Shifting Focus to Colts 3-4 Scheme

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —A week after one of its best performances of the season, the Vikings offensive line is prepping for a different challenge.

This one isn't necessarily about who the Colts have on the other side of the ball, but rather where they will line up.

Indianapolis runs a 3-4 defense, meaning the Colts employ three down linemen and four linebackers in their front seven defenders. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings have been seeing more 4-3 looks of late, which includes four defensive linemen and three linebackers.

"We've been in a little bit of a 4-3 mode the last couple of weeks," Zimmer said. "So, we've got to get back to the 3-4 and the things we do there and changing some of that up."

The Vikings have faced a 4-3 defense in each of three past three games against Jacksonville, Dallas and Detroit, equaling the amount of teams that predominantly use that scheme the Vikings faced in their first 10 games.

According to press box statistics, Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford was only hit twice and was not sacked at all against the Jaguars.

Bradford and Zimmer said tight ends and running backs also had a hand in helping keep the quarterback clean as the Vikings racked up 377 yards of total offense.

"I think the backs did a good job," Zimmer said. "(Jacksonville) blitzed a lot.

"As I told the team the day before, two days before [the game], 'When you blitz, and you hit them a couple times, you've got to have some big cojones to keep blitzing,'" he added.

Vikings left guard Alex Boone said he liked the progress his unit made this week, except for Minnesota's ability to cross the goal line.

The Vikings were 2-of-5 in the red zone. Their five trips inside the Jaguars 20-yard line included a fumble, a turnover on downs and a field goal.

"The problem is, though, when we get in the red zone, we have to score points – more points than we did," Boone said. "We did a little bit of shooting ourselves in foot – easily fixed, easily correctable, we just have to go out there and do it."

Linebacker Erik Walden leads the Colts with 8.0 sacks. Indianapolis' defense ranks 25th in the NFL by allowing 25.6 points per game. The Colts rank sixth in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns at a rate of 48.84 percent.

Patterson's progress

Cordarrelle Patterson has as many receiving touchdowns this season than he did total receptions in 2015.

On Wednesday, the former first-round draft pick assessed his season so far. Patterson has 44 catches for 352 yards and that pair of scores.

"It's been good. They say hard work does pay off," Patterson said. "I just like to go out there and do whatever I can to help this team get a win.

"Sometimes things don't go the way you want them to or how you had planned, but you really have no control over that," he added. "You have to control what you can control and just go out there and work your tail off."

Patterson had three catches for 18 yards Sunday in Jacksonville but had a big 11-yard grab to move the chains on third-and-10 with just over three minutes remaining.

The 25-year-old, who also had a 53-yard kickoff return and leads the NFL in kickoff return average (31.7 yards), said he was happy to make an impact in the 25-16 win.

"That's my job," Patterson said. "I go out there and do whatever I can to help this team out.

"Any chance I get to make a play, I'm going to make a play," he added. "I really don't know which (play) was more (important) … I'll let you be the judge for me."

View images from the Vikings Wednesday, December 14 practice at Winter Park.

Home sweet home

Vikings fans who attended last season's Wild Card game against Seattle likely don't have warm memories of a day where the temperature was minus-6 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind chill was calculated at minus-25.

"I think about that game all the time," Patterson said. "Just sitting on that bench, I'm glad they had warm benches. Just being back there returning kicks, it was so cold that I couldn't even think straight out there."

The Vikings now play inside U.S. Bank Stadium, meaning they don't have to deal with wintry conditions like the ones expected Sunday. According to accuweather.com, Sunday's temperature is projected to be a high of minus-8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, a Minnesota native, said he's glad the Vikings won't be outdoors on the University of Minnesota campus this time around.

"It's nice," Thielen said. "I think the temperature on Sunday is supposed to be below zero, so it will be a little bit better than last year, when we had to play outside.

"We're excited. It's obviously a great atmosphere in the stadium, and we feed off that," he added.

Boone, in his first year in Minnesota, had a different approach to the weather.

"Cold, indoor, outdoor, who cares? It's football," Boone said. "Go out and play, and everything else will take care of itself. I think the more you worry about things, the more things are going to happen."

Injury reports

The first injury reports of the week have been released, and the starting quarterbacks for each team are part of 22 total players listed.

For the Vikings: Bradford (right shoulder) was limited. Harrison Smith (ankle), Trae Waynes (concussion), Brandon Fusco (concussion) and Laquon Treadwell (ankle) did not participate. Jeremiah Sirles (ankle), Everson Griffen (hip), Joe Berger (concussion), Marcus Sherels (rib) and Stefon Diggs (knee) were limited. Edmond Robinson (hamstring) and Matt Asiata (ankle) fully participated.

For the Colts: Luck was one of Indianapolis' eight players who did not participate Wednesday, along with S Mike Adams (not injury related), TE Dwayne Allen (hip), CB Vontae Davis (not injury related), RB Frank Gore (not injury related), LB Robert Mathis (bicep), WR Donte Moncrief (hamstring) and T Joe Reitz (back). T/G Denzelle Good (concussion) and DT Zach Kerr (concussion) were limited.* *

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