The battle between Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater is not over yet, but in playing well while his rookie counterpart struggled a bit, the veteran has likely tightened his grip on the starting gig.
Cassel played just one series in tonight’s 10-6 win, but he made a statement against the Raiders by completing five of his six attempts for 62 yards while leading the Vikings’ first-team offense — sans starting back Adrian Peterson — on a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. That included a 17-yard pass to Cordarrelle Patterson, a 13-yarder to Greg Jennings and a 22-yarder to Kyle Rudolph.
Afterward, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer praised Cassel, saying he played like the veteran he is.
“I thought he did a great job,” Zimmer said. “He hit the seven route. He made a couple of big throws, I believe, on third down. He played like a veteran. He had control in the huddle. The communication between Norv and Scott and him was very good. And if we get Adrian back in there, that helps out.”
Bridgewater, meanwhile, looked shaky at times. He completed just six of his 13 attempts for 49 yards, was sacked twice and fumbled once after hitting the snooze button on his internal clock. Left tackle Matt Kalil recovered the red-zone fumble, but the play pretty much took the possibility of a touchdown off the board. Still, despite some struggles, Bridgewater was upbeat after the games.
“I feel like it went pretty good,” said Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick in May’s NFL draft. “There were some missed opportunities, but I’ll be able to come back next week and play more aggressive. You know, just watch the game and continue to study and get better from here.”
Zimmer said that Bridgewater will be someone Vikings fans will cheer “for a long, long time,” but he conceded that Bridgewater had a couple of rookie moments in his unofficial NFL debut.
“There were a couple of times in the game where he didn’t act like a veteran,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer made no declarations about the competition and who his Week 1 starter will be. But given the two quarterbacks’ performances, one can assume Cassel will continue to get the majority of the first-team reps in practice. He certainly sounds like a guy who expects to start the opener.
“The more reps I can get, the more comfortable I’ll be come Week 1,” Cassel said politely.