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Rudolph, Vikings Want Faster Starts on Offense

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Kyle Rudolph is more than happy the Vikings have walked away with a win in each of their first three games.

But the veteran tight end knows there's plenty of room for improvement, especially on the offensive side of the ball in the first half of games.

"For us, we're making plays; we just have to start quicker," Rudolph said Tuesday. "That's on us as an offense and us as players … it's important for us to make first downs.

"When we make first downs, we seem to string drives together and score points," Rudolph said. "Against Carolina, we didn't make very many first downs in the first half. It's hard when you're not sustaining drives … hard to protect, hard to run the ball, hard to do anything."

The Vikings have scored just 18 points through the opening two quarters this season. Minnesota's offense has only been responsible for 10 of those points while the defense and special teams units have tallied the other eight points. Minnesota has been outscored 20-2 in first quarters before combining for a 62-20 combined clip in the other three games.

Rudolph had a touchdown catch, and kicker Blair Walsh added an extra point and field goal in the second quarter against Green Bay.

Last week at Carolina, defensive end Danielle Hunter recorded a safety in the first quarter, and Marcus Sherels had a punt return for a score before halftime against the Panthers.

The earliest drive the Vikings offense has scored on was their fourth possession against the Packers.

Rudolph, who has 14 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns this season, said one positive from Minnesota's sluggish starts is that the offense hasn't committed a turnover.

"You can make matters worse by turning the ball over," Rudolph said. "We've done a good job keeping our team in situations to stay in the game by not giving it to the other team.

"Jeff (Locke) is punting the ball unbelievable and pinning them deep," he added. "When you play the field position game, we eventually take advantage of opportunities."

One reason the Vikings might be starting slow is that quarterback Sam Bradford has been with the team for less than a month.

Rudolph said he's been working with Bradford at every possible moment to develop a strong rapport.

"We try to take advantage of the special teams periods before practice, after practice, making sure we get as many extra reps as we can on stuff we think we'll see that week," Rudolph said. "We try to take advantage of any extra time we have throughout the day."

Aside from fast starts, Rudolph said he's individually focused on being an all-around player for his teammates. That includes the dirty work and plays that don't always show up on the stat sheet.

"Just understanding there's more ways to help this team win than by catching balls," Rudolph said. "Some games are going to be like Sunday where I catch seven, and some games are going to be where I catch two.

"There's still 50 or 60 other plays throughout that game where I can help our team and help our offense be successful," he added.

Rudolph had a solid game last season against the Giants, Minnesota's next opponent, catching a pair of passes for 58 yards and a touchdown.

Creating momentum, capturing turnovers

The Vikings were able to score 25 in a row at Tennessee, 17 unanswered against Green Bay and Sunday's final 22 points by relying on complementary football, making opportunistic plays and being relentless.

"Momentum is huge in this game. It can go against you that way or be for you," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "A lot of that is creating your own momentum. We try to take the onus on that and create our own momentum by making plays and being aggressive."

The Vikings were plus-three in turnover margin against the Titans, plus-two versus the Packers and nabbed all three takeaways by either team on Sunday. Capitalizing on turnovers, including a 77-yard interception return for a touchdown by Eric Kendricks and a 24-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Week 1, has fueled the Vikings.

"Turnovers aren't something you draw up and design," Greenway said. "Turnovers just happen by doing your job and staying in position. We hope they keep coming in bunches. We hope to keep causing them by disruption up front and hope they keep happening for us."

Role reversal

Cordarrelle Patterson has become accustomed to returning kicks with panache, but on Sunday he helped limit another strong returner, Tedd Ginn, Jr.

Patterson lined up at gunner, one of the two outermost players on a punt formation, on special teams and blew past Panthers assigned to delay him.

Patterson tackled Ginn for a loss of one on a punt that netted 51.

"I don't think it was that good [of a tackle]," Patterson said Tuesday. "I think he was falling down, but I was determined to get down there fast and just make a tackle. That's my first NFL tackle, and I saw him not fair catch it, so I was ready to go down there and just make a play."

Patterson also hustled down the field to down another punt by Locke at the Carolina 2 for a net of 58. He was asked about the different role.

"It's not different [going the opposite direction] at all," Patterson said. "I was in a receiver's stance the whole time, running down there and running through like that, and I opened up my stride. I feel like I have a good chance going down there and getting a tackle. Unless they double vice me, that's going to be tough."

There's a chance

The last time the Vikings made back-to-back playoff appearances was 2008-09. The 2009 season also was the most recent time that Minnesota has opened a season with three wins out of the gate. The unblemished start could bode well for the Vikings.

Since 1990, when the current 12-team playoff format was adopted, 99 of the 131 teams (75.6 percent) to start 3-0 have qualified for the postseason.

Bucking the trend

There were 10 300-yard passing performances in Week 3 to total 30 so far this season.

The 30 individual 300-yard passing games are tied for the second-most through the first three weeks of any NFL season (34 in 2011).

So far, however, the Vikings haven't had or yielded a 300-yard passer this season.

Shaun Hill had 236 at Tennessee when Marcus Mariota had 271. Sam Bradford had 286 against Green Bay when Aaron Rodgers threw for 213. Bradford threw for 171 at Carolina when Cam Newton (262) and Derek Anderson totaled 265.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning has thrown for 925 yards this season, including 368 against New Orleans in Week 2 and 350 Sunday against Washington.

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