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Vikings See Signs of Boosting Run Game, More to Improve

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The blend was smooth, the balance was nice and the results were completely positive.

The Vikings opened the third quarter against the Panthers with a drive that covered 79 yards, lasted 5:17 and ended with a brilliant throw by Sam Bradford and an artful catch by Kyle Rudolph on a 15-yard touchdown.

One of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's expressions is, "Don't tell me about the labor, just show me the baby," but the way that Minnesota moved the ball forward during the drive had a correlation with the score.

The Vikings had four rushes for 25 yards, and Bradford was 6-of-6 passing for 54 yards after Minnesota netted just 34 yards in the first half against the defending NFC Champions. It was one of two possessions in the game during which the Vikings avoided a run of no gain or a loss or suffered a sack and the only one that ended with a touchdown by the offense.

Jerick McKinnon rushed for gains of 4, 9 and 4, and Matt Asiata had a carry that gained 8 on a second-and-1 during the drive.

It was their first game of working to fill in for Adrian Peterson, who is recovering from a torn meniscus, and a sign of what the Vikings hope is more to come for a run game that is 32nd in the NFL with 51 net rushing yards per game after ranking fourth in the category in 2015.

Right tackle Andre Smith, who signed as a free agent this offseason, said struggles have happened "a guy here, guy there."

"You just have to make sure that everybody's executing, that everybody's handling their job, and then we'll be OK," Smith said. "Just every guy putting a hat on their head [will help]. Guys being in the right place and doing the right thing, working as a unit."

Zimmer said there were signs of progress and some more things to fix.

"We got out on the safety a couple of times last week, but he got downhill so fast that it ended up being a 3- or 4-yard gain as opposed to a bigger play," Zimmer said. "I think some of the play actions will help open things up, you know, if these safeties keep jumping things. Some of that will help. We made a couple of wrong calls, there's a number of things."

The Titans and Packers loaded the box against Peterson, but the Panthers had a slightly different approach* *after Bradford threw for 286 yards against Green Bay.

Bradford who is 2-0 for the Vikings, who have had strong performances on defense and special teams to go along with an offense that hasn't committed a turnover.

"I feel like when we're balanced as an offense is when we're at our best," Bradford said. "I thought we did run the ball pretty well in the second half against Carolina and kept them off balance a little bit. We know it's something that's important and something that we need to get going."

The Giants, meanwhile, rank fifth in the NFL in rush yards allowed (77.3 per game).

"We're closer, but we're just not quite getting there yet," Zimmer said. "This is a tough team to run the ball against. They haven't given up a lot of yards running, but we're going to have to hard-headed and stick with it."

Streak stopper and extender?

Minnesota snapped Carolina's 14-game win streak at home that dated to 2014. Now, the Vikings can end another streak: seven consecutive losses on Monday Night Football since Dec. 28, 2009.

The run includes a pair of decisions to the Giants and the 2015 season opener at San Francisco.

The Vikings also can extend their current streak of regular-season victories to seven. Minnesota closed 2015 with wins against the Giants and Packers on Sunday Night Football, which also set the stage in Week 2 for a rematch with Green Bay.

View images from the Thursday, Sept. 29 practice at Winter Park.

Injury reports

The first injury report of the week has been published.

For the Vikings: Zach Line (knee), Alex Boone (hip), David Morgan (knee) and Sharrif Floyd (knee) did not participate. Anthony Barr (wrist), Jerick McKinnon (toe), Xavier Rhodes (knee) and MyCole Pruitt (knee) fully participated.

For the Giants: CB Eli Apple (hamstring), S Nat Berhe (concussion), T Marshall Newhouse (calf), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin), DT Robert Thomas (illness) and S Darian Thompson (foot) did not participate. RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) was limited. DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) fully participated.

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