EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mike Zimmer stood a few yards off the line of scrimmage and stared down the approaching Vikings receivers Thursday.
The first-year head coach offered encouragement and critiques as receivers worked on moves that the Vikings hope will cause more separation from Bills defenders than the previous week in a loss against the Lions.
"We've got to get into the route, we've got to win in transition, we've got to get out of the route and extend for the ball," Zimmer told reporters after practice.
It's a four-point plan the Vikings want to lead to more points when Minnesota (2-4, 0-2 NFC North) visits Buffalo (3-3, 1-1 AFC East) at noon (CT) Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Vikings receivers combined for 87 yards on 11 catches against the Lions, and a lack of receivers winning one-on-one matchups convincingly has been cited as a reason that caused hesitation for rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who was sacked eight times in his second NFL start.
"We talk to each other and feel like we let this whole offense down, so it's our job to step up this week and show everybody what this offense is about," receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. "Everybody's got to do a better job of getting open. We've got to do everything we can and beat man coverages and everything defenses are throwing at us."
Patterson said he "couldn't cut like I wanted to" because of a hip injury he suffered Oct. 2 at Green Bay. The second-year pro said treatment this week has helped him.
FAMILIAR FOE: As highlighted in this week's Ticketmaster Hot Matchup, an interesting bout will take place between Vikings defensive backs who held Detroit's receivers to 64 yards on 10 catches (20 targets) last week and the aerial attack of the Bills that has 23 completions of more than 20 yards.
It will also be a reunion for Vikings DB Xavier Rhodes and Bills WR Sammy Watkins, who played against each other twice during their college careers when Rhodes was at Florida State and Watkins was at Clemson. Their teams split the matchups. Watkins had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson's 2011 win, but was held to 24 yards on six catches the following year when Rhodes finished the 2012 game with five tackles and a pass defended in an FSU victory.
Watkins had 117 yards on eight catches and a touchdown in his second NFL game to help Buffalo defeat Miami 29-10. He also had 87 yards on seven catches against Detroit two weeks ago. This past week, however, New England limited him to two catches for 27 yards, becoming the fourth team this season to keep the fourth-overall pick of 2014 under 32 receiving yards in a game.
"Sammy's a great rookie receiver," Rhodes said. "He was a great receiver in college. When you watch film on him, he's explosive, fast, comes out of his breaks really well, a powerful guy. I'm looking forward to going against him."
Rhodes said he's spent less time worrying about where he's supposed to be and more time knowing it in his second pro season.
"Receivers are different, so you have to work on what's going to help you that week against that receiver," Rhodes said. "Each and every week I'm doing something to go against that receiver."
PROGRESS FOR GREENWAY:Zimmer said veteran linebacker Chad Greenway, the team's leading tackler the past six seasons, is making progress on a ribs injury that's sidelined him the past three games.
"I talk to him, and yesterday we were in pads and he felt pretty good, so we'll keep going," Zimmer said. "We've done a lot of tests to see where he's at healing-wise and it looks pretty good, so I'm going to have to trust him and what he says."
Greenway had six tackles and a special teams tackle in 2010 when the Vikings and Bills last met.
PARTICIPATION: Patterson, Chase Ford (foot) and Harrison Smith (ankle) also fully participated. Linval Joseph (ankle) and Jabari Price (hamstring) were limited. Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin), Gerald Hodges (hamstring), Shariff Floyd (elbow/ankle), Corey Wootton (lower back) and Michael Mauti (illness) did not participate.
For Buffalo: Marcus Easley (knee) and Ty Powell (ankle) did not participate. Kyle Williams (knee), Da'Norris Searcy (knee), Brandon Spikes (ribs), Aaron Williams (wrist/neck) and Marquise Goodwin (hamstring) were limited. Garrison Sanborn (knee) fully participated a day after being limited.
WEATHER: The temperature at Winter Park at the start of practice was 66 degrees Fahrenheit with a sunny beginning before a few clouds arrived.