Rudolph’s dirty duty
Before running back Jerick McKinnon could do his “Dirty Bird” celebration, tight end Kyle Rudolph needed to toe that fine line between dirty pick play and legal rub route on the goal line. “The nice thing is when we’re in those big-people personnel, you have [defenders] who aren’t familiar with covering,” Rudolph said after Sunday’s 14-9 win over the host Falcons. “I’m just running my route. If I just run my route, it’s good.” Asked if he happens to run his route right at the defender, he smiled and said, “At the beginning a little bit.” Rudolph was lined up wide right. McKinnon was in the slot. Rudolph ran inside as linebacker De’Vondre Campbell initiated contact. The two of them rubbed linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, who was trying to cover McKinnon outside. The rub left McKinnon open for his 2-yard touchdown catch. “If it wasn’t for Kyle, I wouldn’t have scored,” McKinnon said.
Treadwell jump-starts surge
The Vikings had converted only two of six third-down opportunities when they lined up on third-and-3 from the Atlanta 44 with 4:26 left in the third quarter. Atlanta led 9-7. Rudolph and Stefon Diggs were bunched tight left. Laquon Treadwell and Adam Thielen were bunched right. “It’s a crossing route,” Treadwell said of the play. “I’m picking for Diggs. I go over the top. He goes underneath.” But it wasn’t Diggs who came free. It was Treadwell, who stopped in an open pocket in the defense. “That’s part of the route,” he said. “Pass through the hash, turn and look. Case [Keenum] found me.” The 9-yard reception was the only time Treadwell was targeted. But it was the first of three consecutive third-down conversions on a touchdown drive that lasted 8 minutes, 15 seconds. “Case turned back to me,” Treadwell said. “I was open. First down.”
Quigley’s best punt as a Viking
If only my golf ball could do what Ryan Quigley’s second punt on Sunday did. The ball hit at the Falcons 3-yard line, spun sideways and went out of bounds at the 2. The sidespin wasn’t a fluke. “It’s something I have, and something we work on in practice,” Quigley said. “I’m comfortable with that punt. I was going for that with my first punt, but mis-hit it.” The first punt was a 34-yarder to the Atlanta 22. The Falcons took advantage, driving to a field goal and a 3-0 lead. The second punt went 46 yards before it danced out of bounds. The Falcons went three-and-out. The Vikings took possession at their 47-yard line. Nine plays later, they scored a touchdown for a 7-3 lead. A week after the Vikings struggled on special teams, Quigley had a 45.0-yard average with a 43.4 net.
Thielen’s jab step, cut perfect
Perhaps the best move of the entire game was the outside jab step receiver Adam Thielen gave to free himself from Falcons cornerback C.J. Goodwin at the line of scrimmage. The move came with the Vikings facing third-and-4 from the Atlanta 43 with 3:59 left and the Vikings leading 14-9. Goodwin was in press coverage. “We knew that’s what they were going to give us,” Thielen said. “In critical situations, they were going to play man and try to play you one-on-one and beat you.” Thielen’s outside jab step was so hard and so convincing, Goodwin leaned outside. Thielen then released inside and was wide open for a short slant that became a 22-yard gain. The Vikings ran out the clock from there. Asked if that move freed him off the line, Thielen just smiled and said, “We’ll have to look at the film and see.”
Murray gets emotional
Running back Latavius Murray doesn’t show a lot of emotion on the field. Or off the field. He’s running harder and better as the season unfolds. But you rarely see him get riled. Sunday, he got riled in the second quarter. He could be seen jawing with Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley after a 9-yard reception. “It was just football,” Murray said. “I told him that. It was a physical game. I was just excited.” Murray said he was more upset with one of Beasley’s teammates stepping in between them. “His teammate kind of backed him up,” Murray said. “I expect him to do that.” And, hey, it worked to Murray’s advantage. On that nine-play, 53-yard touchdown drive, Murray had five touches for 50 yards, including a 2-yarder on third-and-1 and a 30-yarder down to the 2-yard line. “It’s just football,” he said. “It was a tough game.”