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NOTEBOOK: Vikings Offense Using Unselfish Attitude to Win Games

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The Vikings defense has long prided itself on being an unselfish bunch, a group that doesn't care who gets the credit for success. 

Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter do the work up front, which then in turn helps out linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, who allow Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes to do their thing on the back end.

Minnesota's offense has taken on that mantra in recent games, too, as the unit is hardly concerned with any stat other than winning.

"I feel like we've just scratched the surface," Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright said of Minnesota's three-game streak. "(We have) a lot of depth … this team is great; the coaches are great. We like each other; everybody loves each other around here.

"I think you can see it on the field, whether it's special teams, defense or offense, we enjoy being around each other and having a great time playing this game," Wright added. "When you can see the bond of a team on the field, it makes for a great team."

Perhaps the most selfless position group on Minnesota's offense has been the Vikings running backs.

After not having any player rush for 100-plus yards in a game in 2016, Minnesota has had two different players (Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray) each accomplish the feat through seven games this season.

Jerick McKinnon almost got there in Chicago as he ran for 95 yards.

"Even when it was all three of us, it was a tandem," Mckinnon said Monday. "Unfortunately, Dalvin went down, so me and Latavius are trying to make the most out of the opportunity.

"I think we've been doing that, but the offensive line has done a great job of helping us," McKinnon added. "Those guys have been phenomenal this season so far."

Murray was the latest back to eclipse 100 yards, rushing for 113 of them on 18 carries Sunday against Baltimore. 

While McKinnon had 14 carries for 47 yards, he actually quipped Monday that perhaps Murray should have gotten more carries since he had the hot hand. 

"Whoever gets going first, why go away from them?," McKinnon said. "Latavius got off to a strong start yesterday and finished strong and had a strong performance."

The Vikings have seen seven different offensive players score a touchdown so far in 2017. Minnesota had eight offensive players do so in 2016.

Add in the fact that the Vikings have had to play multiple quarterbacks and use various combinations on the offensive line, and the unit will look for anyone and everyone to step up as they hit the season's midway point.

"The depth has been so important," McKinnon said. "Having guys step up … it's just about all of us working together for a common goal, and that's what we're doing.

"We trust everybody who gets a chance to come into the game," McKinnon later added. "There's no decline."

Finding things to fix

The Vikings went 7-for-15 on third downs (47 percent) on Sunday against the Ravens, but were 0-for-3 on trips to the red zone (no touchdowns after moving inside Baltimore's 20-yard line), forcing Minnesota to settle for three second-half field goals by Kai Forbath, who kicked a career-best six on the day.

Receiver Adam Thielen said that winning is the most important thing, but admitted there were a couple of things that Minnesota can do better when it reaches the red zone.

"We got the win, so that was good, but we had some things we've got to correct," Thielen said. "We've got to get more separation on top of routes, but I thought it was a pretty good performance. We've got to convert on third downs in the red zone. That's something that showed up a lot. If we convert those third downs, then we can score touchdowns instead of field goals."

Cleveland's defense limited Tennessee to 0-for-2 on red zone trips Sunday. The Titans made it inside the 10-yard line twice but settled for a field goal and turned the ball over on downs when Derrick Henry was stopped shy of the goal line on a fourth-and-1 play.     

Much respect

Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons, was placed on injured reserve Monday.

Thomas suffered a torn triceps on Sunday against Tennessee, ending a remarkable consecutive offensive snaps streak at 10,363.

The Vikings locker room respected what Thomas was able to accomplish over the course of 167 straight games.

"That's incredible," right tackle Mike Remmers said. "I'm sad that it ended for him. He's a hell of an athlete, a lot of fun to watch."

"I have a lot of respect for him," Remmers added. "To be able to play that long is just really impressive. I don't know the second-longest streak. It can't even be close to that, I feel like. It's very impressive, especially on the offensive line."

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