1. It’s on Teddy for losing that late fumble, but the Vikings put him in a tough spot.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater played one of his finest games of the season on Thursday night when the Vikings lost 23-20 in Arizona. And coordinator Norv Turner called a good game, but it was all wasted by that fateful final play. Third down, 13 seconds left and no timeouts, the Vikings tried to get kicker Blair Walsh a little closer. It was a bit of a gamble to throw there, but the play call itself was the problem. Bridgewater was asked to target one of his receivers crossing from the left side of the field to the right sideline. To get to a spot where they could make a catch and get out bounds, they needed time, something that is in short supply behind a Vikings offensive line that is one of the NFL’s worst in pass protection. That slow-developing play put Bridgewater in a bind, but he should have just chucked the ball into the bleachers and given Walsh a chance to tie it up.
2. Terence Newman might be the guy to put an end to the revolving door at safety.
After ruling out his two starting safeties, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo, and putting another, Antone Exum, on injured reserve Tuesday, coach Mike Zimmer moved veteran corner Terence Newman to Smith’s free safety spot, where he played along undrafted rookie Anthony Harris. Both played pretty well given the circumstances. Even when Sendejo is healthy enough to return, Zimmer should consider keeping Newman at safety alongside Smith. That configuration would allow Smith to stay near the box, where he can impact the game as a blitzer and run defender, because Newman has the speed and savvy to prevent big plays as the last line of defense, something that Sendejo struggled with. Plus, that would allow the Vikings to keep their five best defensive backs, including top pick Trae Waynes, on the field.
3. The absence of Anthony Barr limited the capabilities of Zimmer’s blitz package.
Without Barr, the standout second-year outside linebacker, and to a lesser degree Smith, Zimmer was not as willing to dig through his deep bag of double-A-gap blitzes against Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. The Vikings blitzed Palmer just five times, according to Pro Football Focus, and he completed just two of those five throws for 20 yards. Instead, they chose to usually rush only four defenders. They were able to sack Palmer twice and generate pressure on 14 other plays, according to PFF, but Palmer handled the heat well, completing eight of his 13 attempts while under pressure for 123 yards and a touchdown. And he was even more efficient when the Vikings didn’t get near him. Having a healthy Barr in the mix to stalk Palmer through the A gaps could have potentially turned the tide in a tight, hard-fought loss.