It’s a crazy league, but not so crazy that anyone thinks the Vikings can win a Thursday night shootout in the desert.
Not against a 10-2 Cardinals team that’s won six straight and leads the league in yards (419.5) and points (31.8) per game. Not with quarterback Carson Palmer making an MVP statement and receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. on the verge of posting the finest of his many stellar seasons at age 32.
There is heightened pressure on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, running back Adrian Peterson and a Vikings offense that was embarrassed, questioned from within and mocked by its opponent in the 24 hours or so after Sunday’s 38-7 beating from Seattle, the franchise’s worst home loss since 1984.
“Oh, yeah,” guard Mike Harris said when asked if there was more pressure on the offense. “We got to do better for us to go where we want to go. We have to give Teddy more time, open up more holes for AP.
“That’s the game plan this week. If we don’t do that, it’s going to be very hard to win. This is what it is. I put pressure on myself to do better than last week. And I know I can.”
The pressure isn’t only to improve on Sunday’s season-low totals of 31 yards rushing and 125 total yards. Or limit the turnovers and the kind of penalties that put the Vikings in first-and-30 and fourth-and-38 situations against Seattle.
The pressure also is there to control the clock while protecting a defense that’s suddenly wobbling because of injuries. Three of the team’s best defenders — linebacker Anthony Barr (groin), free safety Harrison Smith (hamstring/knee) and nose tackle Linval Joseph (foot) — are expected to miss the game.
After Sunday’s game, Peterson said the team was outcoached and outplayed. He questioned a game plan that gave him a season-low eight carries for 18 yards. A day later, coach Mike Zimmer said he wasn’t concerned about “people’s opinions” but agreed that Peterson “probably should” have gotten more carries.
Peterson said there “is a little bit” of pressure on the offense. But he also said there isn’t anything more he can do to try and earn more carries early in games.
“I run hard every play, so I’m just going to keep doing what I do,” Peterson said. “I don’t have anything to prove. I feel like I’ve been doing it for a long time. They know what I can do. It’s about going back and watching the film and seeing what we could have done better as an offense, and you move on. That’s what we did. I came in Monday with a smile on my face, ready to roll and thinking about Arizona.”
Meanwhile, Bridgewater said he feels no added pressure because of the weapons he has to work with. But the outside pressure is mounting as Bridgewater continues to misfire on his limited number of deep-ball opportunities.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bridgewater has thrown 38 passes that have traveled 20 or more yards in the air. He has completed 10. Two have been dropped. This has earned him a No. 29 ranking as a deep-ball passer.
Sunday, Bridgewater went 0-for-4 in that area. He threw three incompletions and an interception that Seattle turned into a 21-0 lead a play later.
Monday, Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin said Bridgewater was “so scared” during Sunday’s game. Tuesday, Bridgewater acknowledged that he had heard the dig.
“Bruce and I are close, we’re very close,” he said. “We talked before the game. … We also traded jerseys after the game. I think Bruce was just excited they got the up on us. I was able to defeat Bruce as a freshman in college [Louisville over West Virginia], so there’s a little history behind that.
“Those guys were talking all game and those guys are a pretty confident group. To hear that is just — that’s typical Bruce. It is a little embarrassing to hear that, but Bruce, he’s still a good player. He’s a good guy off the field also.”
Zimmer was asked if Bridgewater was affected by the mounting outside criticism.
“I don’t know, you’d have to talk to him about those kind of things,” Zimmer said. “He and I talked a good amount about a lot of it. I would say he’s human.
“I’m sure he hears things and just like I hear things. No one likes people saying how bad you are or anything like that. I don’t know that it affects it, but I think we’re all human.”