Kyle Rudolph was spotted in the reception column in the Vikings’ 16-10 victory over Kansas City on Sunday. The end zone, too.
Sarcasm aside, the tight end has seen his production plunge while he is tasked with helping block for running back Adrian Peterson and protect quarterback Teddy Bridgewater behind a patchwork offensive line.
“I think he has made it a point of emphasis because he knows how important it is to this team,” said fellow tight end Rhett Ellison, no stranger to the dirty work in the trenches. “You protect the quarterback, you give yourself a pretty good chance to win the game.”
Rudolph caught a second-quarter, 4-yard scoring strike from Bridgewater, Minnesota’s only touchdown against the Chiefs. But it was Rudolph’s work against Kansas City’s top pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston that brought him equal satisfaction.
“At the end of the game they were joking around with me that they didn’t have a single rush the whole game because I hit them every time,” Rudolph said. “If that’s the way it’s gotta be for us to win games this year, then so be it.”
Rudolph is on pace for 51 receptions and six touchdowns this season. He had 53 and nine in 2012 when he made the Pro Bowl.
Staying healthy remains his biggest priority. Rudolph played the first three games in 2014 before hernia surgery sidelined him eight weeks. He never fully recovered until the offseason.
In 2013 he missed the final eight games after breaking his foot.
“I actually talked to him last week, and I said, ‘Hey, I understand that you’re helping a little bit more in the blocking parts of things,’ ” coach Mike Zimmer said Monday. “And I said, ‘You never know when it’s going to be your day.’ (Sunday) he caught two or three balls, one obviously for a touchdown.
“To me, those are all important things about being a team, doing what you can do to help this team win, and you never know when it’s going to be your time.”