Kyle Rudolph

No. 2: The Vikings' most recent playoff victory was on Jan. 17, 2010, when they defeated the Dallas Cowboys 34-3. The next week, the Saints beat the Vikings 31-28 in overtime. Click here for a Vikings playoff summary.

AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

Greg Olsen hurt the New Orleans defense in a way few tight ends have this season. 

And another talented tight end awaits the Saints in Minnesota this week.

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, fully healthy now after battling a sprained right ankle over the final three games of the season, is exactly the kind of top-tier tight end who can make life difficult for a defense on third down. 

"He’s a security blanket," Vikings quarterback Case Keenum said. "I know I can always get him the ball and get him a chance. I know he’s always going to make plays for us. We count on him a lot in crucial situations.”

New Orleans held opposing tight ends to 53 catches for 577 yards, both the best marks for any team in the league, although defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said the schedule might have lent a helping hand this time around. 

"I think it probably depends a lot on who you’re playing and the tight ends you’re playing," Allen said. 

New Orleans faced just two of the top 10 tight ends in receptions, and the Saints got both of those assignments in the first two games, before the defense found its identity. 

Rudolph caught three passes for 26 yards and a score, and New England's Rob Gronkowski ripped off six catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. 

New Orleans settled down after taking on those two players. Once the defense started improving, the Saints limited other productive tight ends like Detroit's Eric Ebron, Atlanta's Austin Hooper, Tampa Bay's Cameron Brate and the New York Jets' Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

"We’re probably a little bit more athletic at the linebacker position than we have been in the last couple of years," Allen said. "What we try to do, as best we can, is take away the things that we know that the team wants to do, who they want to feature and kind of make them have to beat you left-handed, so to speak."

Olsen threw the formula out of whack  Sunday. 

Finally healthy after missing the first two games against New Orleans because of a broken foot, Olsen ripped off eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, and he frequently got wide-open against blown coverages. 

"They did a good job of attacking some of the things that we wanted to do, and we had to adjust as the game wore on," Allen said.

Rudolph presents some of the same problems, although he's not necessarily the downfield threat that Olsen presents.

Carolina's star tight end has averaged 11.8 yards per catch over the course of his career, while Rudolph has been more of a possession target. Rudolph picked up 532 yards on 57 catches this season, a 9.3 average that's right in line with his career mark of 9.8. 

“I would say similar in that they are very important to their team, and yet there are some different styles to how they play," Saints coach Sean Payton said.

Whatever the differences, New Orleans must be aware of where Rudolph is at all times, no easy task given the talented duo of wide receivers the Vikings have in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. 

“I think he’s a big part of what they do," Payton said. "Watching where this quarterback goes and how he targets players, I think (Rudolph) gives you someone through the defense. I think he’s someone that can get on a safety or linebacker and give you problems."

New Orleans needs to have answers for those problems on Sunday.

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.