Vikings, Ponder still not finding Rudolph

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Tight end Kyle Rudolph had gone nearly a full game Sunday without catching a pass. The first time Rudolph was able to get his hands on the ball, it helped the Minnesota Vikings secure an important 21-14 win against the Chicago Bears.
This wasn’t quite how Rudolph envisioned himself making an impact, but his biggest play of the game was hauling in an onside kick from Chicago to allow the Vikings to run out the clock.
“Well, he had the onside kick,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave joked when asked by a reporter this week about Rudolph’s zero-catch game. “That was his first touch of the game. I congratulated him for that.”
It was an important play, and Rudolph is a perfect player for the “hands” team. But the 2011 second-round pick was noticeably absent previously. Rudolph is generally a quiet player, one who chooses not to be a disruption.
So, his frustration after the win was a big surprising. Minnesota had just won an important game in its quest to reach the postseason, but Rudolph was held without a catch for the third time this season.
“Yeah, that’s something you have to ask coach Musgrave about,” Rudolph said. “Definitely want to contribute. I practice all week to contribute. I do everything I can to contribute.”
Rudolph’s disappointment is understandable. The Vikings’ second-leading receiver this year with 45 catches for 412 yards and a team-high eight touchdown catches, Rudolph has been held blanked by opponents too often. Without leading receiver Percy Harvin in the lineup on Sunday, Rudolph was the top pass-catching option, and quarterback Christian Ponder couldn’t connect with his big tight end.
Heading into the season, Minnesota had talked up the emergence of Rudolph. Coaches and teammates pointed out his big hands and wide catching radius, saying he is open even if he’s covered. The result in games indicates otherwise.
“We want to see more of him,” Musgrave said. “We’re disappointed we didn’t get him involved the other day. (That was) just the way the game went, and it didn’t work out. That’s not our aim. He is a viable target, and we want him to be a big part of what we do.”
Without Harvin the three previous games, Rudolph had 18 catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns.
“When Percy was around, you knew Adrian (Peterson was) going to get his touches, and then you’ve got to get Percy his touches,” Rudolph said. “I felt like I kind of fit right in there after those two. Now a guy like Percy goes down with the injury and I want to step up and be that playmaker in the pass game.”
The Vikings had a limited game plan passing the ball Sunday because Peterson ran for 154 yards. Ponder threw just 17 passes, completing 11. A few days later, Rudolph was able to look on the game with more perspective. He admitted his frustration but said the lack of catches was easier to handle because of the win.
“Winning fixes everything,” Rudolph said. “You come in on Monday and watch the tape and it’s never really as bad as you think. After the game, you get kind of caught up in the emotions of the game. You watch the tape and see all the great things that we did, especially in the run game.”
Winfield listed as questionable: Veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game at St. Louis after missing practice the entire week with a sore knee. Winfield has been listed on the injury report for much of the second half of the season because of the knee and has been limited during that time.
Coach Leslie Frazier said Winfield’s knee is a little more sore than previously, but he said the rest for the 14-year veteran this week was more precautionary and that Winfield should be ready to play Sunday.
Running back Adrian Peterson returned to practice on a limited basis Friday with an abdominal injury, but Frazier said Peterson is expected to play Sunday and he’s listed as probable. Cornerback A.J. Jefferson practiced in a limited capacity the past two days after passing his concussion testing. He’s listed as probable, and Frazier said he should play Sunday.
Jasper Brinkley (shoulder), Charlie Johnson (ankle), Phil Loadholt (knee), Rudolph (shoulder) Jared Allen (shoulder), Robert Blanton (neck), Letroy Guion (shin) and Chris Kluwe (knee, groin) are listed as probable and practiced fully on Friday.
The Rams have listed defensive tackle Jermelle Cudio as questionable with a foot injury.
Running back Steven Jackson (foot), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (illness), linebacker James Laurinaitis (back), linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow), safety Craig Dahl (head), center Scott Wells (knee), cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), tight end Mike McNeill (thigh) and receiver Danny Amendola (foot) are all probable.
Griffen avoids fine: Vikings defensive lineman Everson Griffen was flagged for unnecessary roughness against Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler in last week’s win, but he wasn’t fined by the NFL.
Griffen had little time to react hitting Cutler as the quarterback was falling because he was being taken down by teammate Jared Allen. Griffen was fined $15,750 for a late hit on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last week, almost expected to receive fine after the game on Sunday.
“It’s difficult,” Griffen said. “You(‘re) supposed to have the targets on, but you know, he still got the ball in his hand and he’s going down. I’m just going to make a tackle. I’m not worried about where I throw my body. He’s out the pocket. I’m just making a tackle. When it comes down to it, I may get fined. That’s the league these days. We just take it game by game. As long as we win the game, I (could) get fined a million times as long as we win. So, I’m happy we won.”
Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman was fined $7,875 unnecessary roughness for hitting a player late after he came in after dived at a pile of players after the whistle.

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