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Vikings Offensive Line Rolling with Punches, Continuing to Improve

Last week's practice emphasis for the Vikings offensive line was to improve the run game, and it paid off.

Minnesota finished its Monday Night Football win over New York with 104 yards rushing, increasing its Week 4 yards-per-carry average to 3.2.

Right guard Brandon Fusco said repetitions have been key.

"The drills and whatnot that [offensive line coach Tony Sparano] is teaching us in the run game, we just keep reppin', reppin', reppin'. It's starting to stick, and it's starting to come together," Fusco said after the game. "We saw some signs of what we can be tonight. It's just a step forward, and we have to keep it going.

"Getting over 100 yards was key," Fusco added. "I know 100 yards doesn't sound like much, but that's a good step for us, and we just have to keep feeding off that."

The offensive line has been thrown a couple of curve balls of its own this season, as left tackle Matt Kalil was placed on injured reserve after Week 2, and T.J. Clemmings was called up in his place. Jeremiah Sirles has also had his number called in the past two games, at two different positions.

When left guard Alex Boone was sidelined with a hip injury at Carolina, Sirles stepped in. Boone returned to the lineup in Week 4, but Sirles ended up playing right tackle in place of Andre Smith, who was injured early in the first quarter.

Sirles said he's comfortable rotating through positions. During the 2015 preseason, the Chargers gave Sirles reps at all five spots before San Diego traded him to Minnesota.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has been pleased with Sirles production.

"He played well again. Another spot," Zimmer said Tuesday. "The thing about him is that he's going to battle all night long.

"He's a battler, it's important to him," Zimmer added. "He's done a nice job."

Running back Jerick McKinnon said the offensive line played a huge part in him gaining 85 yards on the ground against the Giants.

"The guys up front did a real good job of fighting all four quarters," McKinnon said. "It's still a work in progress, but we're getting where we want to be."

Quarterback Sam Bradford also said he was impressed with Sirles and the entire unit's performance. Throughout the entire game, the Vikings allowed zero sacks and only two hits on Bradford.

"When [Andre] went down and Sirles came in, I thought he did a great job out there for us," Bradford said. "I think the game ball should go to those guys up front. They kept me clean and kept those guys going in the run game. I think that was probably one of their best games of the year."

Zimmer echoed Bradford's thoughts on the line, specifically saying he thought Monday was the best of Boone's four games with Minnesota.

"Fundamentally, he was very good," Zimmer said. "He got on the guys. He was good in pass protection, physical in the run game. It was his best game he's played since he's been here."

Zimmer said the whole unit keeps "battling" and is being helped by the experience of center Joe Berger.

"Tony Sparano's really doing a good job with those guys. Getting them prepared, getting the next guy ready," Zimmer said. "I think Berger being in there and having Boone on the one side has helped the communication on the left side. Berger has helped the communication on the right side. Hopefully it keeps going."

As McKinnon said, it's a work in progress. Under Zimmer, the Vikings are always looking for ways to continue improving. The offensive linemen, however, feel like they're on the right track.

"Step by step, we're getting better," Fusco said. "We're getting more comfortable with each other, and it's just one step tonight. I think we go and watch the film, [and we'll] see what we can work on."

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