Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
The dates will be the determined in the spring, but the Vikings officially know who they will play next season.
The majority of the schedule is based on a rotation with the exception for two NFC foes that are determined by where the Vikings finish in the standings. The Vikings concluded this season with a 7-9 record, good for third in the NFC North. That means they’ll face the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants, who also finished third in the NFC South and East.
The Vikings will travel to Atlanta next year, while they’ll host the Giants. With the 13-9 victory over the Bears on Sunday, the Vikings and the University of Minnesota avoided a situation where they would’ve finished last in the NFC North. That would’ve meant the Washington Redskins, who finished last in the NFC East, would’ve traveled back to TCF Bank Stadium next season. The Week 9 matchup this year made the university home to the largest protest against the team’s nickname before the game.
The schedule will also feature games against the NFC West and AFC West. It’s a pretty nice travel schedule, might I selfishly add, but here are the 2015 opponents:
HOME: Rams, Seahawks, Chiefs, Chargers, Giants, Lions, Packers, Bears
AWAY: Cardinals, 49ers, Broncos, Raiders, Falcons, Lions, Packers, Bears
Cordarrelle Patterson’s disappointing second season ended on another low note.
In the third quarter, Patterson was called into action on offense after fellow wide receiver Jarius Wright was knocked out of the game with a back injury. It didn’t take long for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to target Patterson on a slant. His pass was a little behind Patterson but still catchable. But the ball caromed off Patterson’s hands directly to Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, who nearly returned the interception for a score.
That was the last we saw of Patterson on offense. He was replaced on the next drive by Adam Thielen, who scored the first receiving touchdown of his young career.
Early in the opening comments of his post-game news conference, head coach Mike Zimmer took a subtle jab at Patterson, saying that Bridgewater’s passer rating “would have been over 100 if the ball wouldn’t have hit our guy in the chest and bounce out.” He later acknowledged that the play led to Thielen’s insertion into the offense.
Later, Zimmer was asked about the confidence level of Patterson, who was held without a catch and finished the season with just 33 catches for 384 yards and one touchdown.
“I’ve got a plan for this offseason for him, and hopefully it works,” Zimmer said after taking several seconds to choose his words. “But it’s going to be up to Cordarrelle. I’ll leave it at that.”
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen caught his first career touchdown pass in the 13-9 victory over the Bears on Sunday, but it wasn’t even the best catch on the play.
After Thielen reached the endzone, he raced over the sidelined and toss the ball into the stands to his fiancé, Caitlin. Thielen had to throw it up a few rows in the section but later found out she did retrieve the football.
“She’s got better hands than I do,” said Thielen, after he found out she posted a picture of the football on Twitter.
Thielen finished with three catches for a team-high 68 yards, while scoring the only touchdown in the game. He was wide open on the Bears’ busted coverage. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw an accurate pass as Thielen went untouched for the score.
“It was awesome,” Thielen said. “It feels a lot better since we got the win on the last game of the season. We didn’t care how we won, we just wanted to get that ‘W.’”
It’s Thielen’s second career touchdown. He scored his first on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown in Week 14 against the Jets.
It wasn’t difficult spotting linebacker Audie Cole in his sixth career start. All you had to do was follow the ball, and No. 57 was within the vicinity in the season finale.
Cole recorded a career high 14 tackles in the 13-9 victory over the Bears at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday. He filled in for Chad Greenway, who was inactive with a knee injury, as the Vikings dressed just four linebackers due to injuries.
“I want to make every tackle I can make,” Cole said. “I want 30 every game, but obviously that’s never going to happen. It’s fun.”
Cole had four tackles and a tackle for loss on the Bears’ opening drive and continued his aggressive play throughout the game. He also relayed the defensive calls to his teammates, donning the green dot communicator with Greenway out.
“It means a lot going forward,” Cole said. “I know today it couldn’t have done anything for the rest of the season for us, but we wanted to go out there and play the way we know we can play. I think we did that, and we’re ready to come back in next year and hopefully pick up where we left off and keep building.
The Vikings defense didn’t allow a touchdown for just the second time this season. They gave up two field goals to the Rams during the season opener.
“I don’t know in my lifetime if I’ve been on a defense that gave up zero touchdowns, but I don’t know off the top of my head,” Cole said. “That’s the goal, I mean we don’t want them to score touchdowns, kick field goals and we did that.”
Some thoughts following today’s 13-9 win over the Bears at TCF Bank Stadium …
For once, let’s not think about how a win hurt an NFL team’s draft status. The win today meant much more from a mental health standpoint for everyone involved on the football side of the Vikings’ operation. A loss would have ended this season with a three-game losing streak, a double-digit loss total for the fourth time in five years and an 0-6 division record capped off by a loss to a Bears team that will be blown to smithereens on Black Monday.
The win might not carry over to next year, but it helps solidify the confidence and belief in this coaching staff among the players and, in some cases, vice versa.
Offensively, Teddy Bridgewater followed up four consecutive games of completing 70.4 percent of his passes or better by completing 68 percent in another cool-headed performance. His passer rating was 90.2 and his only interception bounced off of Cordarrelle Patterson’s hands. Bridgewater finished 6-6 as a starter this year. After the game, he said his next 12 games will be better than his first 12 games. He’s the kind of guy you believe when he says that because the sense is he works very hard to better himself.
Maybe the Vikings should assign him to teach whatever makes him that way to Patterson. Patterson was the biggest disappointment of the season and, make no doubt about it, he has been put on the clock to put in the work or else.
After today’s game, Zimmer was asked about Patterson’s future. He paused a long time before saying, “I have a plan for him for the offseason. But it’s up to Cordarrelle.” Clearly, it’s time for Patterson to find whatever it takes to help him learn what he’s supposed to know to play receiver at this level.
Defensively, the Vikings held a team without a touchdown for the first time since the season opener. What that does is erase the negative vibe from the second half of last week’s loss at Miami, when the defense gave up four touchdown drives, three of them 80-yarders.
In a week where the storyline was the lack of healthy bodies at linebacker, Audie Cole took advantage of another situation when he got the start in place of weak-side linebacker Chad Greenway, who was inactive with a knee injury. Cole had a game-high 14 tackles, 11 solo, a tackle for loss and a pass defense. He also threw his name into consideration to replace the 31-year-old Greenway as a starter heading into next season. Greenway’s six-year run as the team’s leader in tackles ended. His career with the Vikings could have as well, although it will be a difficult decision to get rid of a guy who still can play when healthy and also carries himself the way the franchise wants its players to carry themselves.
|Carolina||27||3rd Qtr 5:59|
|Detroit||14||3rd Qtr 6:35|
|Oakland||14||3rd Qtr 7:34|
|Arizona||17||3rd Qtr 7:05|
|St. Louis||6||3rd Qtr 4:45|
|TBA||1/3/15 2:00 AM|
|TBA||1/3/15 2:00 AM|
|TBA||1/4/15 2:00 AM|
|TBA||1/4/15 2:00 AM|
|Detroit||90||4th Qtr 7:27|
|Oklahoma City||6:30 PM|
|New York||8:00 PM|
|Toronto||1||2nd Prd 9:58|
|Central Conn St||48||FINAL|
|Long Beach State||67||FINAL|
|South Dakota St||63||FINAL|
|Central Penn College||69||FINAL|
|SE Missouri St||94|
|North Dakota St||83|
|Fla Gulf Coast||57||FINAL|
|Ill-Chicago||28||2nd Half 15:49|
|Loyola-Maryland||33||2nd Half 12:02|
|Miss Valley St||41||2nd Half 14:08|
|Lehigh||37||2nd Half 13:50|
|Delaware State||40||2nd Half 10:13|
|Belmont||19||1st Half 11:50|
|Howard||8||1st Half 12:35|
|NW Christian||7||1st Half 11:37|
|UC Davis||8||1st Half 9:01|
|Abilene Christian||10||1st Half 15:36|
|Stony Brook||7:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona State||36||FINAL|
|Texas A&M||12/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Oklahoma||12/29/14 4:30 PM|
|Arkansas||12/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Notre Dame||12/30/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Georgia||12/30/14 5:45 PM|
|Maryland||12/30/14 9:00 PM|
|(9) Ole Miss||12/31/14 11:30 AM|
|(21) Boise State||12/31/14 3:00 PM|
|(8) Miss State||12/31/14 7:00 PM|
|(10) Georgia Tech|
|(19) Auburn||1/1/15 11:00 AM|
|(7) Michigan State||1/1/15 11:30 AM|
|(16) Missouri||1/1/15 12:00 PM|
|(2) Florida State||1/1/15 4:00 PM|
|(5) Ohio State||1/1/15 7:30 PM|
|Houston||1/2/15 11:00 AM|
|Iowa||1/2/15 2:20 PM|
|(11) Kansas State||1/2/15 5:45 PM|
|Washington||1/2/15 9:15 PM|
|East Carolina||1/3/15 11:00 AM|
|Toledo||1/4/15 8:00 PM|
|(10) Oregon State||63||FINAL|
|William & Mary||56|
|(20) Michigan State||57|
|(24) Green Bay||66||FINAL|
|Miss Valley St||40||FINAL|
|Sam Houston St||46||FINAL|
|(4) Notre Dame||82||FINAL|
|Coll of Charleston||51||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||73||FINAL|
|Colgate||64||2nd Half 1:06|
|(25) Arizona State||69|
|UC Santa Barbara||27||2nd Half 5:49|
|Long Island||51||2nd Half 11:54|
|Long Beach St||43|
|Jackson State||32||2nd Half 15:51|
|Eureka||29||2nd Half 20:00|
|Cornell||23||1st Half 7:07|