All it took was two words from Greg Jennings
(and later Cordarrelle Patterson
) to describe the finish to Saturday night’s 30-28 win over the Arizona Cardinals
After a controversial touchdown by Arizona gave the Cardinals a 28-24 lead with 1:11 to play, it was a late drive by rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
amidst the chants of “Teddy! Teddy!” from the fans at TCF Bank Stadium crowd that propelled the Vikings to a 30-28 win when Bridgewater connected on a 2-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Smith
with 18 seconds left in the game.
Bridgewater finished the game completing 16 of 20 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, posting a passer rating of 136.9. But, in the first half, starter Matt Cassel
completed 12 of 126 passes for 153 yards, one touchdown and a passer rating of 125.3.
While Teddy Time may have renewed the debate outside the Vikings locker room, things haven’t changed inside and there isn’t any talk of QB controversy.
“Inside the locker room, it’s a day-to-day operation,” Cassel said. “We’re grinding through camp and obviously we’re all competing out there on a daily basis. At the same time, we’re all trying to get better at what we doing at our craft, learning a new offense. I think if there’s a lot made of it on the outside, on the inside, we’re all competing.”
What made Bridgewater’s final drive performance so impressive was how effortless it looked. There was no panic. There was no over-thinking. There were no sacks. It was as smooth as silk and a manifestation of what the coaching staff has been preaching since he arrived in Minnesota.
“Our coaches always talk about just playing football – letting it rip,” Bridgewater said. “It’s all about winning the man-to-man – the one-on-one battles. We did a good job of doing that tonight.”
Bridgewater isn’t doing anything to rock the Vikings boat in terms of creating s controversy. It remains a competition, but he still sees himself as work in progress and isn’t pushing the issue to be the starter at this point.
“Right now, I’m not even looking into the race,” Bridgewater said. “I’m just focusing on trying to become a better player each and every week. I have a great group of guys in the quarterbacks room that have assisted me on the way. I was able to complete my first NFL training camp. Those guys have been mentoring me and giving me the knowledge I need to know.”
For his part, Cassel isn’t looking over his shoulder. He’s taking a very similar approach to the play of the quarterbacks because, in the end, it’s not his or Bridgewater’s (or the fans’) opinion that will matter. It will be head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
“I’m not sure,” Cassel said of whether the race for the starting job is heating up. “It’s (Zimmer’s) decision and he’s the one who is better to speak to that than I am,” Cassel said. “At the same time, I have to keep going out, playing hard, hopefully performing well and letting them know that I’m ready to play.”
Zimmer said he hasn’t decided on a starting quarterback for the regular season yet.
Will it be Teddy Time soon? Jennings and Patterson are happy with what they’re seeing, but Bridgewater is tapping the brakes on that notion.
“It’s not,” Bridgewater said. “I’m still a young guy here. I still have a lot to prove. I have a lot to work for. I’m just going to continue to come in each and every day and get better.”
GAME NIGHT NOTES
Joe Banyard led the Vikings with 64 rushing yards on just six carries to lead all rushers. Arizona as a team ran for 96 yards on 34 carries – a dismal 2.8-yard average.
While Cassel and Bridgewater were lighting things up, Christian Ponder never saw the field Saturday.
The two teams combined to have 24 players catch at least one pass – 13 by the Vikings and 11 for Arizona. Kyle Rudolph led all receivers with four catches for 89 yards and a TD.
Kicker Blair Walsh had some struggles, missing a 51-yard field goal and an extra point.
The Cardinals converted all four of their fourth-down attempts Saturday.
As has been a theme this preseason, the refs called a lot of penalties. The teams combined to commit 22 accepted penalties – 12 by Arizona and 10 by the Vikings.
Marcus Sherels had a big night defensively, leading both teams with nine tackles. Nobody else had more than five.
The Cardinals got off to a fast start, scoring the game’s first points on their initial drive. Pinned on their own 7-yard line to start the drive, Arizona drove 93 yards on nine plays. They got into Vikings territory quickly, as Carson Palmer threw a 20-yard strike to Larry Fitzgerald and, on the next play, threw a screen pass to Jaron Brown, who broke a Xavier Rhodes tackle and raced 51 yards to the Vikings 27-yard line. Six plays later, Jonathan Dwyer scored from a yard out to give Arizona a 7-0 lead.
The Vikings responded with a scoring drive of their own following the Cardinals touchdown, driving 65 yards in 13 plays, taking 7:35 off the clock. The big play was a 23-yard scramble from Cassel and a 19-yard pass to Jerome Simpson on a third-and-15 play. The drive stalled at the 3-yard line, however, after a pass intended for Kyle Rudolph went off his fingertips, forcing the Vikings to settle for a 21-yard Blair Walsh field goal.
Prior to the Vikings field goal, Arizona had outscored its opponents 39-0.
As he has done the last two seasons, Sherels had a big punt return to help solidify his spot on the roster. On the final play of the first quarter, Sherels fielded a punt on his own 5-yard line and returned it 32 yards.
The Vikings had the biggest play of the game to date on the second play of the second quarter. Afforded time in the pocket, Cassel connected with Rudolph for a 51-yard touchdown in a seam between the safety and cornerback and Rudolph waltzed the last 20 yards untouched for the score to give the Vikings a 10-7 lead.
Return man Brittan Golden committed a Cardinal sin on his first kickoff return opportunity. He took a kickoff 5 yards deep in the end zone and began to return it and had a change of heart, but his momentum carried him out of the end zone and he had to restart. The Vikings buried Golden on the 5-yard line.
Vikings cornerback Shaun Prater left the game with a “mild concussion” in the second quarter, according to Zimmer.
Had Saturday’s game been a regular-season game, the Cardinals may not have gone on a fourth-down play from just outside the 1-yard line. Instead, Arizona went for it and capped an 11-play drive with a 1-yard pass to tight end Daniel Fells from Drew Stanton to take a 14-10 lead with 3:05 to play in the half.
In the first half, the Cardinals were twice penalized for being offside. Considering they only kicked off three times, that was a dubious distinction.
Thanks to a low line drive kickoff by the Cardinals, Banyard was able to break off a 44-yard kick return that set up the Vikings at midfield. The team would convert that good field position into a field goal that cut the Arizona lead to 14-13 at the half.
Gerald Hodges left the game early in the third quarter and was taken directly into the locker room under his own power. He had an ice pack on his left ankle after the game.
The Cardinals started the second half with a marathon 80-yard drive that included 19 plays – 13 of them runs – and took a whopping 10:06 of the clock to start the second half and give the Cardinals a 21-13 lead.
Bridgewater’s first drive of the game didn’t come until less than five minutes remained in the third quarter, but he made good on it to get points, completing 3 of 4 passes for 32 yards. The big play was a 56-yard run by Banyard down to Arizona 5-yard line. The drive stalled there and the Vikings had to settle for a 21-yard field goal.
On his second drive, Bridgewater led another long scoring drive, marching the Vikings 68 yards in 10 plays. He completed 6 of 8 passes with one of the incompletions being a drop by Adam Thielen on a perfectly thrown deep ball. Bridgewater finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Allen Reisner. He followed that up with a perfect slant to Jarius Wright to give the Vikings a 24-21 lead with 7:57 to play.
With four minutes to play, the Cardinals were on the Vikings 42-yard line facing a fourth-and-2 situation. Arizona called a timeout to set up a play, but, following the timeout, the Cards were flagged for a false start and were forced to punt.
Four Vikings didn’t dress for the game – safety Robert Blanton, cornerback Josh Robinson, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and tight end Chase Ford.
Chris Crocker took Blanton’s spot on the depth chart and Fred Evans replaced Joseph as a starter.
Adrian Peterson dressed for the game but did not play.
The Vikings’ captains for the game were Greg Jennings, Harrison Smith, Phil Loadholt and Cullen Loeffler.
Saturday was the ninth meeting between the Vikings in the preseason. The Vikings won six of them.
The paid attendance was 51,763.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Teddy Bridgewater led the comeback, but both he and Matt Cassel looked sharp in the second preseason game. Plus, get more than two dozen notes that help tell the tale of the game.
Teddy Bridgewater led the comeback, but both he and Matt Cassel looked sharp in the second game.