After victories over Tampa Bay and Washington, things looked brighter for the Vikings from all angles, including possibly getting Adrian Peterson back for next week’s Packers game.
But negatives have set in. Teddy Bridgewater, who seemed on the verge of a breakthrough at quarterback, struggled on Sunday at Chicago. And the Vikings blew a 10-0 lead against a team that had given up 50 points in back-to-back games, and scored only 13 points against the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL.
Now the Vikings have to face the hottest team in the league, the Green Bay Packers. The Packers did what no other team could do – ran the Philadelphia Eagles off the field -- on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles, with one of the best defenses in the league, were no match for Aaron Rodgers and his buddies.
And all of a sudden Peterson’s return doesn’t look very good, with Peterson blasting the NFL and claiming that they are not playing fair with him. It’s no sure thing that Monday’s scheduled grievance hearing will come off in Peterson’s favor and without him the Vikings are going to struggle because they don’t have a running game.
I often have told this story when writing how important the center is for a National Football League team.
The Vikings were another example today, missing injured John Sullivan (concussion) as they scored only one touchdown and lost 17-16 at Buffalo on a last-second touchdown pass by Kyle Orton.
It was a draft I attended in 1968, and Paul Brown was drafting for the expansion Cincinnati Bengals, who had the No. 2 overall pick. The Vikings took USC tackle Ron Yary No. 1. There were some great quarterbacks and running backs available, but when it came time for Mr. Brown to announce his draft choice, he said “The Bengals select Bob Johnson, center of the University of Tennessee.” Knowing Brown as I did, I asked him, “Why are you doing that?”
He said “Bob Johnson will play a dozen years for me, and without a good center, you can’t win.”
And he was right. Johnson played 12 years, and his No. 54 is the only number retired by the Bengals.
So when Joe Berger, who hasn’t played much center in the NFL, and hardly any for the Vikings, came in at center for the injured Sullivan, the team was in trouble. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked five times.
The Vikings just don’t score touchdowns, and until they find a way to score touchdowns without Adrian Peterson and without Kyle Rudolph and without Matt Cassel and without Brandon Fusco, and now without Sullivan, it’s going to be more difficult.
The media has really put the pressure on Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who had a big day two weeks ago against an Atlanta team that has a 2-3 record and a suspect defense. The Falcons’ victories have come against Tampa Bay and New Orleans, two teams that have struggled this year.
I’m not saying that Bridgewater doesn’t have great potential, but he will go against the best defensive team he has faced, by far, and have one of the worst running attacks in the NFL behind him, when he plays Detroit on Sunday. Detroit has the top-ranked defense in the league, and the Vikings offensive line will have to have the best day it has had since the Atlanta game if Bridgewater is to succeed.
We will find out how good Bridgewater is Sunday. It’s possible that he will go into the game at not 100 percent, because of a sprained ankle that kept him out of the Packers game.
He has been called a franchise quarterback by some media people, but at this point, I wouldn’t put him the same class as Francis Tarkenton, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Bridgewater still has to prove himself to be a “franchise quarterback,” and I’m one of the media who is cheering for him to become one despite my feeling that Christian Ponder will still wind up playing well for some other team before it’s all over.
The Patriots beat the Vikings on Sunday by turning three interceptions into 17 points. They had four interceptions in all off Matt Cassel to win 30-7 at TCF Bank Stadium.
Nobody expected that many interceptions, or that the Vikings would have a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown, or that Adrian Peterson’s absence would affect the team that much.
But one thing people did expect was that the Vikings’ schedule would make it hard for them to get off to a good start.
The Patriots were a better team. Now the Vikings have to play at New Orleans, which has unexpectedly lost its first two games and cannot afford to go 0-3. The Saints will be ready for the Vikings.
Then the Falcons come to town with a very good quarterback in Matt Ryan. The Vikings could win that home game, but it won’t be easy.
As for Game 5, the Vikings will not win at Green Bay. You can be assured of that.
The Lions are here in the sixth game, and new coach Jim Caldwell will have Detroit playing better than it has in the past.
So be prepared for some losses in the early part of the schedule, and a better record in the latter part of the schedule. If the Vikings can steal two or three wins in the first six games, they’ll have a good chance to contend for the playoffs.
Philadelphia was one of the hottest teams in the NFL coming into the Vikings game on Sunday, having won five in a row and owning the hottest quarterback in the league in Nick Foles.
Foles had only one interception and 20 touchdown passes coming into the game.
The Vikings were six-point underdogs and had not gone into a game, in my memory, with as many key players on the sidelines. Included in that list was Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Brandon Fusco, Xavier Rhodes, Chris Cook and others were out because of injuries.
The Vikings starting tailback was Matt Asiata, who didn’t even dress for four games this year and saw little or no action because Peterson was No. 1 and Gerhart was No. 2 among the running backs.
But thanks to a very good quarterback performance by Matt Cassel, who completed 26 of 35 passes for 382 yards, two touchdowns and a 116.6 quarterback rating, the highest of any Vikings QB this year. Cassel also ran for a touchdown.
The result was the Vikings scored a big upset, beating the Eagles 48-30, even though it looked as if they were going to blow another game in the second half when the Eagles got within a touchdown. The Vikings have lost four games this season in the closing minutes.
Cassel and former Packer Greg Jennings have become quite a tandem. On Sunday, Jennings caught 11 passes for 163 yards and a 57-yard touchdown. In the last two games, Cassel to Jennings has been worth 16 receptions for 216 yards.
Five players who had seen little or no action played a big part in upsetting the NFC East leading Eagles. Asiata carried the ball 30 times for 51 yards and three touchdowns. Joe Berger stepped in at right guard for Brandon Fusco and helped solidify the line. Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford filled in at tight end very capably. Backup cornerback Marcus Sherels played the entire game on defense, in addition to returning punts and playing on special teams. The other cornerback, Sean Prater, was picked up midseason from the Eagles, and he had an interception against his former team.
So the Vikings win the games they are not supposed to win, and lose the ones they probably should win.
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