Wide receivers Jarius Wright and Mike Wallace were egging on Teddy Bridgewater in the Vikings locker room after Friday's practice. The quarterback's response: "You all just be ready when I come to you."
The conversation seemed to address how often, or not, Bridgewater has targeted the two receivers on the field. Wright, however, later provided clarification: The banter was about video games — who was going to beat who at "Madden NFL."
Had it been a back-and-forth about actual football, Wright could have argued he has been ready as much as anyone when the ball comes his way, especially on third down.
The fourth-year receiver out of Arkansas has only been targeted 32 times, for 19 catches and 257 yards. But 15 of his receptions have been for first downs, eight for converted third downs.
"Being in the right places at the right time," Wright said, explaining why he's become one of Bridgewater's favorite late-down targets. "Just mine and Teddy's trust for each other … that might be something that works for me on third downs.
"To me, the catches are very valuable, and in the NFL third downs are always a big down. And if you can convert on third downs and keep the ball rolling, it's always a pretty big play."
In seven of the 11 games they've connected on third down to extend drives, including four of the past five games. He had two against Green Bay.
"Jarius has been doing a great job for us making plays on the third downs," Bridgewater said. "He's always in the right place at the right time. That's what a quarterback asks for."
Wright prefers man-to-man coverage and the mismatches in the slot. He beat Atlanta cornerback Jalen Collins to the middle on third-and-4 for an 8-yard gain in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 20-10 victory. The play extended the drive just shy of midfield and was capped with a Vikings field goal, making the score 13-3.
"When I lined up, I just saw man coverage and I knew with the route I had that I would have a chance to get the ball," Wright said. "Teddy trusts me to get open, and I knew that I had to get open for him. When you add those two things together, it works out."
The bond with Bridgewater dates to last season, when the pair spent a lot of time connecting in practice with the second-team offense. Once Bridgewater was forced into the starting role, he was already familiar with Wright's ability to get open.
The Vikings signed Wright, a rookie in 2012, to a four-year, $14.8 million contract extension in September. But in late October, Wright felt he wasn't playing up to his own standards. Wide receivers coach George Stewart told Wright to be patient, and the advice has paid off.
"He's been a guy that's very dependable, very trustworthy and very smart, and able to win inside the slot," Stewart said. "He does a great job of film study, does a great job of trying to figure out what the defensive back is trying to do to him. And he and Teddy, they're on the same page in terms of seeing the same thing."