The Vikings lost four players, including starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes, to injuries during their 31-14 victory over San Diego on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Rhodes suffered a concussion. He was briefly motionless and face down on the turf in the second quarter after colliding with teammate Andrew Sendejo as Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers hit Keenan Allen on a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Sendejo missed the tackle and slammed into Rhodes, snapping Rhodes’ neck back.
“We know we play a dangerous game,” Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “At the same time I hope my teammate, my player, is OK. … Hopefully, he’ll be back out there when we start practicing again.”
Defensive end Justin Trattou suffered a left ankle injury in the first quarter and didn’t return. Starting wideout Charles Johnson injured his ribs in the first quarter but quickly returned and took several snaps before sitting the rest of the game. Coach Mike Zimmer said Sendejo hurt a leg in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Robert Blanton.
Rhodes will have to clear the NFL’s concussion protocol before he can practice. Left guard Brandon Fusco went through that process last week and was ready to play Sunday.
“Having some key guys like that go down, it’s not a good thing,” Fusco said.
Rhodes wasn’t around the locker room after the game. Trattou was on crutches while Johnson was moving gingerly but said he was “OK.”
Waynes steps in
Zimmer had a special message for his rookie cornerback Trae Waynes at halftime.
“ ‘Hey, 26, it’s your time. Let’s go,’ ” Zimmer said. “So we have confidence in him. I’ve been saying he’s been getting better each week.”
Waynes, the Vikings’ 2015 first-round pick out of Michigan State, stepped in for Rhodes in the second half. Rivers went after the rookie to start the third quarter, and Waynes responded with two tackles in the Chargers’ first two drives of the second half.
He finished with four tackles, assisted on another and knocked down one pass. He also made a late block on Chad Greenway’s interception return for a touchdown. Waynes also nearly had his first interception, but he couldn’t hold on to the ball.
“I just stayed patient and read the receiver and broke on the ball,” Waynes said. “Just unfortunately, I didn’t catch it. I’m going to see that [in my dreams] for a while.
“It was really important to [make an impact right away]. They say veteran quarterbacks are going to go against rookies until you stand up for yourself and that’s what I tried to do.”
Waynes played against his former high school teammate, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who finished with 14 carries for 51 yards.
“I didn’t get a chance to tackle him. I wanted to,” Waynes said. “It’s just a dream come true, something we’ve been talking about since middle school.”
The pair met at midfield after the game and posed for pictures before exchanging jerseys to close out the special day.
Playing second fiddle
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s stats weren’t gaudy; he completed 13 of 24 passes for 121 yards with an interception and no TD passes.
“It was a great team win,” Bridgewater said. “We were able to change the field position, defense, special teams game with [Marcus] Sherels doing a great job each week with the punt [return]. We took advantage of every situation that we had.”
Adrian Peterson’s 126 rushing yards were the offense’s highlight.
“We’re going to get a bunch of opportunities with Adrian doing what he’s doing, scoring a lot,” Bridgewater said. “When those opportunities present themselves, we’re going to have to take advantage of them.”
Fusco started Sunday’s game and said he felt good after the victory despite suffering a concussion in Week 2. He missed Wednesday’s workout but passed the concussion protocol and practiced the rest of the week.
“We were more concerned about my jaw from last week and I woke up with some headaches on Wednesday,” Fusco said. “So just really being precautious and being careful with stuff, because head injuries are not a fun thing to deal with and it’s a very serious matter. … I feel great.”
Back on track?
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh was error-free, with a 24-yard field goal and four extra points.
He converted a 40-yard field goal in the third quarter, but a Chargers penalty nullified the play and gave the Vikings a first down. They eventually would score a touchdown on the drive.
“I think we’re now 8-of-9 in our last nine attempts in the regular season dating back to last year, so that’s something you can build on,” Walsh said. “It’s nice to see the ball go through from 40 [yards] even though it doesn’t count. I’d much rather have a touchdown, anyway.
“You definitely want a clean day, and it’s been a while. I’m happy about it. It helped our team today and that’s what I need to do, is help this team win.”