Mike Zimmer stepped to the podium after the 30-28 preseason win over the Cardinals, and after not mentioning the Vikings’ quarterback situation in nearly two minutes of introductory remarks, the first question fired at the head coach was whether he has made any decisions at that position.
“No. Not yet,” Zimmer said.
Veteran Matt Cassel built off a sharp training camp and a strong preseason debut and once again seemingly did everything he needed to do to secure the starting job. He led the Vikings on three scoring drives, did not turn the ball over and finished the night 12-for-16 for 152 yards and one TD.
“I felt comfortable tonight,” Cassel said. “I thought guys did a tremendous job all night making plays. The offensive line did a great job against a great front. Obviously we are going to have some corrections to make. But all in all, I thought it was a strong performance by us.”
But just when it seemed as if Cassel was on the verge of locking down the starting job, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater responded with a stellar second-half performance. He completed 16 of his 20 attempts for 177 yards and two touchdowns and twice led the Vikings from behind in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rodney Smith with 18 seconds left.
“I’m very pleased,” Bridgewater said. “I’m just going to try and continue to get better. Last week was a learning experience, getting a feel for the game. And today I was able to go out there and I knew what it took to game plan and go into an NFL game and play football. The guys around me did a great job of assisting me and making transitions.”
So what did Bridgewater’s teammates think of his performance?
“It’s Teddy’s world,” yelled veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings on his way out of the locker room.
Jennings was being a little playful, but he wasn’t the only wide receiver to praise Bridgewater.
“It was unbelievable,” Smith said of Bridgewater’s late-game heroics. “He’s a big-time player. They drafted him in the first round for a reason and he just showed them that he was well worth it.”
Added wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson: “I told Teddy, I think that drive made him the man of the city. I told him I used to be the man, but he just came and took over all my little shine that I had.”
But when talking about Cassel, Patterson said, “He’s the starting quarterback. You can’t take that from him.”
Of course, the opinions that really matter belong to Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. And Zimmer had positive things to say about both the veteran and his young challenger. But he wouldn’t say when he plans to pick a quarterback, though he still has a certain date in mind.
“I still like to compete and we still have to keep competing,” Zimmer said.