The Vikings definitely were the only team in the league to spend the first month of the season facing three quarterbacks who have played in four Super Bowls and won three MVPs.
But guess what? None of them — Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton nor Eli Manning — posted a passer rating higher than 70.7 or scored more than 14 points. In fact, none of them came close to the 86.5 passer rating that greenhorn second-year Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota put up against the Vikings in Week 1.
Add it all up and the Vikings rank fifth in defensive passer rating at 67.7. Denver is first at 61.3 followed by Seattle (65.6), Philadelphia (66.1) and Houston (67.4), which plays the Vikings on Sunday.
Rodgers (70.7), Newton (47.6) and Manning (63.3) each had his season low against the Vikings. For Newton, it was his lowest rating in 24 games. For Manning, it was his lowest since he posted 50.7 in last year’s loss to the Vikings.
The Lions have the league’s worst defensive passer rating (120.2). The Packers are at 105.3, one of only six above 100.
Next up: Osweiler
Next up for the Vikings is Houston’s first-year full-time starter Brock Osweiler, the 6-8 quarterback who got a four-year, $72 million deal — with $37 million guaranteed in the first two years — to go from Denver to Houston after only seven NFL starts.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, whose team gave up a first-round draft pick and a conditional fourth-rounder for Sam Bradford a week before the season, wasn’t about to sit in judgment on what the Texans paid or overpaid the inexperienced Osweiler.
“[Finding a franchise quarterback,] that’s what it’s all about,” Zimmer said. “Having a guy that can play quarterback. It’s still the toughest position in sports. Most franchises are riding on this guy. We were fortunate to have Teddy [Bridgewater] and then fortunate enough to get Sam.”
Osweiller ranks 38th in passer rating with a 74.8. Only four players rank lower.
“[Osweiler’s] got an extremely strong arm,” Zimmer said. “For a big guy, he’s mobile. Seems to know where to go with the football.”
Tight ends injured
Three players who started Monday night’s game and a total of three tight ends did not practice at all Wednesday.
Not practicing were tight end Kyle Rudolph (clavicle/rib), receiver Stefon Diggs (groin), right tackle Andre Smith (triceps), tight end Rhett Ellison (knee), tight end David Morgan (knee) and tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee), who is a starter but hasn’t played since having knee surgery after the season opener.
On the injury report with full participation were offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles (ankle), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (knee) and linebacker Anthony Barr (wrist).
The Vikings have three red-zone passing touchdowns this season, one in each of the last three games. And all of them have been thrown by Bradford to Rudolph.
Zimmer said the developing bond is a credit to Bradford trusting what he sees and Rudolph using his size and big catch radius to finish the play.
“It’s kind of the saying, ‘Throwing him open,’ ” Zimmer said. “And I thought [Rudolph] has made some really good catches in tight quarters.”
Bradford said he’s got “a lot of trust in” Rudolph.
“Obviously, it really helps when you have a target like Kyle,” Bradford said. “He’s a big body. He’s got a big catch radius. I think he just does a really good job of using his body to kind of shield defenders. He’s one of those guys, me being here a month, we’ve kind of clicked.”
Humor still intact
The pileup of injuries to key players on offense hasn’t robbed Zimmer of his sense of humor.
It was mentioned to him that the timing of Rudolph’s twin daughters being born on Tuesday night couldn’t have been more perfect.
The births came on the players’ off day and the Vikings practiced later than normal on Wednesday.
“Yeah,” Zimmer said, “everything has been nice and smooth this year.”
Tight end Brian Leonhardt, the Blaine native who played high school ball at Spring Lake Park, was re-signed to the practice squad. He replaces cornerback Tre Roberson, who was released.