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.
We’ve counted the points. Let’s count the snaps and see what there is to learn from Sunday’s 20-9 loss at New Orleans:
Defensive snaps: 71. 100 percent: Free safety Harrison Smith, strong safety Robert Blanton, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
Offensive snaps: 56. 100 percent: Left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Charlie Johnson, center John Sullivan, right tackle Phil Loadholt.
Team-high snaps: Tie: Blanton (78, including seven on special teams), Smith (78, including seven on special teams).
Defensive line: Seven defensive linemen played between 25 percent (Corey Wootton, 18 snaps) and 87 percent (Everson Griffen, 62). Brian Robison (61 snaps/86 percent), Linval Joseph (52/73), Shamar Stephen (36/51), Sharrif Floyd (28/39) and Tom Johnson (23/32) followed. The Vikings started the game in the nickel, so Johnson got the start over Floyd. Floyd’s season-low snap total shows that the shoulder he banged up in the opener could be bothering him. His snap counts have fallen from 63 percent to 57 percent to 39 percent. Meanwhile, Stephen’s snap count was a season-high by far. Stephen is growing into a role that has him able to play either the nose or the three-technique.
Linebackers: Rookie Anthony Barr played 69 snaps (98 percent) and has missed only 10 of 204 snaps this season. That’s a testament to his versatility and where he ranks when coach Mike Zimmer is drawing up game plans. Chad Greenway played 57 snaps, which is incredible because some of them came with not only the broken hand that he already had, but also a broken rib that he suffered in the game. Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley continues to hover right around 50 percent with 34 snaps on Sunday. Gerald Hodges (18 snaps/25 percent) and Audie Cole (3/4) followed. If Greenway doesn’t practice this week, which seems like a probability, his streak of 90 consecutive starts — the active leader among NFL linebackers — seems to be in danger.
Defensive backs: The Vikings have had 204 defensive snaps in three games. Strong safety Robert Blanton has played all of them. Harrison Smith and Captain Munnerlyn also played all 71 snaps on Sunday. Cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes (70 snaps/99 percent), Josh Robinson (33/46) and Jabari Price (4/6) followed. Robinson, the No. 3 corner, played 58 percent of the snaps in the season opener at St. Louis and had the best game of his career. He played 38 percent last week when the Patriots stuck with their running game. Sunday, he was bothered another hamstring issue. With Atlanta, Green Bay and the Lions coming up the next three weeks, now is not the time to lose one of the top three corners.
Offensive line: Right guard Brandon Fusco (46 snaps/82 percent) was the only starter not to play every snap. A pectoral injury knocked him out of the game. His backup, Vladamir Ducasse, played 10 snaps (18 percent) and was flagged twice. His first snap drew a holding call. Later, he false started. In other words, Fusco would be a big loss even though the offensive line as a unit has underachieved the past two games.
Quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater played 40 snaps (71) percent after Matt Cassel (16/29) left with a broken left foot. No. 3 quarterback Christian Ponder was inactive. Ponder, obviously, will be the No. 2 for quite some time. The Vikings will be searching for a new No. 3.
Running backs/fullbacks: Matt Asiata played 40 snaps (71) percent while offensive coordinator Norv Turner continued to take it slow with rookie third-round draft pick Jerick McKinnon, who played only 16 snaps (29 percent). Fullback Jerome Felton also continues to see little action. He played 13 snaps (23 percent). Of the team’s 181 offensive snaps this year, Felton has played only 36 snaps (19.8 percent).
Receivers/tight ends: We’ve deduced that Turner understands that Cordarrelle Patterson is a special player worthy of considerable playing time. (Hey, don’t smirk. That was a problem this time a year ago). Patterson played 50 snaps (89 percent) and has now played 76 percent, 91 percent and 89 percent of the snaps in the first three games. Greg Jennings (47 snaps/84 percent), Kyle Rudolph (46/82), Rhett Ellison (23/41), Jarius Wright (23/41), Adam Thielen (11/20) and MarQuies Gray (11/20) followed. Rudolph could be missing a significant portion of the season for the second straight year if it’s determined that he needs surgery for a sports hernia. Last year, he missed eight games because of a broken foot. Ellison is a workmanlike tight end and special teamer, but not who you think of when people say No. 1 tight end. Gray at least knows the offense from having played in it in Cleveland last season.
Special teams: Five players tied with a team-high 16 special teams snaps: Price, Cole, safety Andrew Sendejo, safety Antone Exum and linebacker Michael Mauti.
The Vikings are switching to a rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater for Sunday’s game against Atlanta, but coach Mike Zimmer’s primary concern is his team’s injury situation.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph has a “core” injury and will fly to Philadelphia to see Dr. William Meyers, a specialist on such injuries, Zimmer said Monday. An NFL source told the Star Tribune’s Matt Vensel that Rudolph will need surgery for a sports hernia and will miss at least six weeks. Meyers, of the Vincera Institute, has operated on Adrian Peterson twice after Peterson had abdominal injuries.
The Vikings lost at New Orleans 20-9 on Sunday, and Bridgewater came into the game after starter Matt Cassel left because of broken bones in his left foot.
Starting right guard Brandon Fusco left Sunday’s game because of a pectoral injury, and is still being evaluated, Zimmer said.
Zimmer said linebacker Chad Greenway, who played despite a broken left hand, also has a broken rib. Greenway tried to play Sunday, but eventually left the game.
“He had a hard game,” Zimmer said. “That’s my fault. He didn’t practice all week, I thought he could go … my mistake.”
Rudolph, who missed part of last season because of a broken foot, got a five-year, $36.5 million contract extension before the season started. Fusco got a five-year, $24.5 million deal on the eve of the opening game.
Zimmer said the team is ready to go with Bridgewater at the helm.
“Nothing really flusters him,” Zimmer said. “Obviously it’s a difficult situation to go in when you’re down 13 on the road. I’m looking forward to getting him in at home in front of our fans.
“The kid has all the talent in the world.”
Zimmer said the team would consider signing a quarterback once it is determined how long Cassel will be sidelined. Cassel will see a foot specialist on Thursday.
Teddy Bridgewater takes over as Vikings quarterback this week, and his teammates issued their support for him on Monday as they filtered through the locker room.
“We’re confident in Teddy — he’s a good quarterback, and we’ll keep improving,” said tight end Rhett Ellison.
Christian Ponder now moves to the backup position, with starter Matt Cassel sidelined because of a broken left foot. When Cassel left Sunday’s game in New Orleans, Ponder was inactive, so the Vikings had no backup.
“It’s scary when you’re not dressed,” Ponder said. “It’s like, ‘Who’s going to be the emergency quarterback?’ I guess put MarQueis [Gray] back there.”
“It’s tough what Matt is going through, but we’re hoping he’ll have a full recovery, and that it won’t take too long. But I’ll be ready to be the No. 2 guy.”
Ponder was impressed by Bridgewater.
“He played well. I remember the first preseason game I asked Teddy if he was nervous or not. And, of course, he said no. And I thought, he’s just a liar. But the guy doesn’t get nervous. The guy has a ton of poise and played extremely well. And I expect that to continue next game.”
ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported the Vikings were looking into adding McLeod Bethel-Thompson to their practice squad. Bethel-Thompson was on the team last year before being claimed by San Francisco.
Vikings fans who were upset about the roughing-the-passer penalty to Captain Munnerlyn at the end of the third quarter on Sunday have someone who agrees with them: Munnerlyn himself.
The Vikings cornerback said Monday that he’s still upset about the call, which came after he sacked Brees on 3rd-and-13 with the Saints leading 13-9. Given a first down, the Saints rolled down for a touchdown and won the game 20-9.
Munnerlyn said he watched the play twice on film, and said “You can have a guy wrapped up and he can still throw the ball away or try to find an open guy. It’s tough to make that decision … I don’t think it was a great call at all.
“They made the call, I gotta live with it. I’m sure I’ll be hearing [about a fine] from the league.”
Munnerlyn added the call was made because Brees is one of the league’s top quarterbacks: “Him and Peyton Manning and Tom Brady they like the face of the NFL, but it happened, they called the flag, and I feel like it changed the game for my team.”
Brees thought the hit was made by safety Robert Blanton, and got up and pushed Blanton.
“And on that note, man, they can’t allow a quarterback to just get up and get in people’s faces without throwing a flag or nothing on them either,” said Munnerlyn, “so at least it should have been offset, a penalty on them, too.”
“Like I said, I believe that penalty really changed the game.”
Munnerlyn talked to Brees after the game and said, “I wasn’t trying to throw him on his head, and I told him, ‘Drew, you really sold that penalty, because you didn’t land on your head, you landed on your back.’”
Coach Mike Zimmer will meet the media at Winter Park at 2 p.m. He’ll update the team’s injury situation. NFL Network’s Albert Breer, citing sources, reported that tight end Kyle Rudolph has a sports hernia that will require surgery and keep him out at least six weeks.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— The Teddy Bridgewater era began in yesterday’s loss to the Saints.
— Is Bridgewater now the face of the Vikings franchise?
— QB Matt Cassel wasn’t the only starter to get injured yesterday.
— CB Captain Munnerlyn’s penalty was a turning point in the loss.
— The Vikings were caught off guard by the Saints early in the game.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
— Carlos Gonzalez (@CarlosGphoto) September 21, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Munnerlyn’s hit on QB Drew Brees awoke the sleeping Saints.
— The Saints defense slammed the door against the Vikings.
— A win over the Vikings doesn’t mean the Saints defense is back.
— Bridgewater was impressive in relief against the Saints.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings are back at Winter Park today to figure out what went wrong against the Saints. We’ll have access to players in the locker room and head coach Mike Zimmer has his usual presser.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
There was chatter before May’s NFL draft from analysts that none of the quarterback prospects were pro-ready and more chatter afterward from NFL teams saying they wouldn’t rush their quarterbacks into action. But here we are, on the verge of Week 4, and three of the four QBs selected in the top 40 picks are starters. Derek Carr, a second-round pick, was the Week 1 starter for the Raiders. Blake Bortles, the No. 3 overall pick, was named Jacksonville’s starter yesterday. And now Bridgewater has been thrust into the lineup, with Cassel out. The only top quarterback prospect who isn’t starting? That would be Johnny Football himself out in Cleveland.
|Cleveland - WP: C. Allen||4||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: G. Holland||3|
|Baltimore - LP: W. Chen||0||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda||5|
|Kansas City - WP: D. Duffy||2||FINAL|
|Cleveland - LP: C. Carrasco||0|
|Seattle - LP: J. Paxton||4||FINAL|
|Toronto - WP: J. Happ||14|
|Chicago WSox - WP: C. Bassitt||2||FINAL|
|Detroit - LP: K. Lobstein||0|
|Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano||1||FINAL|
|Atlanta - LP: A. Harang||0|
|Houston - LP: N. Tropeano||3||FINAL|
|Texas - WP: D. Holland||4|
|St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright||8||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood||0|
|Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter||6||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco||2|
|LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson||4||FINAL|
|Oakland - WP: J. Samardzija||8|
|San Francisco - WP: S. Casilla||5||FINAL|
|Los Angeles - LP: K. Correia||2|
|Colorado - LP: T. Matzek||0||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: E. Stults||1|
|NY Giants||9/25/14 7:25 PM|
|Buffalo||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Carolina||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Tampa Bay||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Miami||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||9/28/14 3:05 PM|
|Atlanta||9/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Philadelphia||9/28/14 3:25 PM|
|New Orleans||9/28/14 7:30 PM|
|Ottawa||9/22/14 5:00 PM|
|Texas Tech||9/25/14 6:30 PM|
|(24) Oklahoma State|
|Appalachian St||9/25/14 6:30 PM|
|(11) UCLA||9/25/14 9:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Middle Tennessee||9/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Fresno State||9/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|(25) Kansas State|
|Tennessee||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Vanderbilt||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Wyoming||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|(9) Michigan State|
|Northwestern||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|TCU||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Iowa||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Tulane||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|So Florida||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Colorado State||9/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Western Mich||9/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Maryland||9/27/14 12:30 PM|
|Akron||9/27/14 12:30 PM|
|Bowling Green||9/27/14 2:00 PM|
|Arkansas||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|(6) Texas A&M|
|Kent State||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Western Ky||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Minnesota||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Wake Forest||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|FIU||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Miami-Ohio||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Colorado||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Texas||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Temple||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|(16) Stanford||9/27/14 3:15 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||9/27/14 4:00 PM|
|South Alabama||9/27/14 4:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||9/27/14 5:00 PM|
|(22) Ohio State|
|Rice||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|Missouri||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|(13) So Carolina|
|Boise State||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|North Carolina||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|Central Mich||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|Troy||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||9/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Memphis||9/27/14 6:30 PM|
|(10) Ole Miss|
|Duke||9/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Texas State||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|Washington St||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(8) Notre Dame||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(7) Baylor||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|UNLV||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Illinois||9/27/14 8:00 PM|
|Oregon State||9/27/14 9:30 PM|
|Nevada||9/27/14 9:30 PM|
|San Jose St|
|Montreal||9/26/14 6:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||9/26/14 9:00 PM|
|Hamilton||9/27/14 5:30 PM|
|Brt Columbia||9/27/14 8:30 PM|