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.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— The Bills scored with one second left to hand the Vikings another loss.
— DE Everson Griffen tied a career high with three sacks in the loss.
— QB Teddy Bridgewater stabilized after a shaky start yesterday.
— OT Matt Kalil squandered an opportunity to fly under the radar.
— How much pain can head coach Mike Zimmer take in his first season?
— Zimmer focused on the positive after the stomach-punch ending.
— S Harrison Smith has loved to hit something ever since he was a kid.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Respect to Peyton manning I got to b on the same team as his for a short time but I learned what it was like to b a professional from GOAT!!
— jerome felton (@jfelton45) October 20, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Bills QB Kyle Orton was cool and collected on the game-winning drive.
— The Bills lost their top two running backs in the win over the Vikings.
— The Vikings defense frustrated the Bills with their pass rush yesterday.
— Despite the thrilling win, the Bills have the mark of a middling team.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings are back at Winter Park today to attend team meetings and review the tape from yesterday’s loss. Head coach Mike Zimmer will have his weekly press conference at 2 p.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Yesterday’s 17-16 loss was the first Vikings game this season that was decided by single digits and only the team’s second in its past 10 games dating back to 2013. OLB Chad Greenway remarked that the loss was eerily similar to some of the ones from last season. But the Vikings were better in close games than it might have seemed. They were 4-4-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen tied a career-high three sacks and a forced fumble in the 17-16 loss to the Bills on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and he didn’t feel any personal satisfaction for his individual performance.
“No man, we want the victory,” Griffen said. “It feels better if you get the victory. Three sacks doesn’t mean anything when you lose. We just have to keep going out there, grind next week, get back to the basics and finish better.”
The Vikings defense recorded six sacks and eight quarterback hits, applying pressure on Bills quarterback Kyle Orton for the entire game. The unit played well up until the final drive when the Bills scored on a two-yard touchdown catch by Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins with one second left to take the lead.
“It all starts with the team,” Griffen said. “We run together as a team, we lose together as a team. We just have to go back to the basics and finish. We’re of the mindset that you’re not going to score if you don’t get the sack, if you don’t get the turnover and if you don’t finish the play. I think that’s going to work out for us. We just have to bounce back from this tough loss. We played our tails off today.
Many questioned why the Vikings re-signed Griffen to a five-year deal worth up to $42.5 million in the offseason, but he’s currently tied for an NFL-high seven sacks this year.
“Without my team, I wouldn’t be able to get three sacks,” Griffen said. “I’m just very happy to be playing with these guys, and we just have to bounce back and win the game. That’s all we have to do.”
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said he was overthinking in the first half, which resulted in the two interceptions thrown during the 17-16 loss to the Bills on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The rookie finished 15 of 26 for 157 passing yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Bridgewater, who has started three career games, has thrown five interceptions in the last two games.
“That was just me trying to be perfect,” Bridgewater said on his first half performance. “I think I went back to the old training camp days of trying to be perfect in every area instead of just trusting my God given ability, trusting this offense and trusting the system. I am going to continue to get better, just get a rhythm.”
Both interceptions occurred in the second quarter. Bridgewater had a pass deflected off the back of a Bills defender and into Leodis McKelvin’s hands with 12:24 left in the first half. On the next offensive series, Bridgewater was picked off by McKelvin again on the first play. The Bills took the lead on the following possession on Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ 26-yard touchdown catch.
After the second interception, Bridgewater felt he settled down after a conversation with wide receiver Greg Jennings.
“Greg came up to me and he told me, ‘Hey, you know whatever is going on up in that head, up in that computer of yours, just reboot it,’” Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater followed it up with his best drive this season, driving the Vikings down the field for his first career touchdown pass. On the five-play, 60-yard drive, Bridgewater was 3 for 3 for 57 yards and hit wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for a four-yard touchdown pass.
“I feel I played all right,” Bridgewater said. “It could have been better. There were some times where I had to fight back, and I did a great job of fighting back and the guys showed their support, and they are willing to stand behind me no matter how my play is going.”
It was another learning lesson for Bridgewater, who likely will have plenty more before the season ends.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was upbeat despite a heartbreaking 17-16 loss to the Bills on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins scored on a two-yard touchdown with one second left to hand the Vikings their third consecutive defeat. Zimmer felt the defense played well up until the final series – a 15-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 3:06.
“Obviously you’re going to second guess a lot of calls you made throughout the course of the ballgame,” Zimmer said. “I’m still going to take away that I’m proud of our effort. There was a lot of negativism going on all over the place about how we are and what we do. By no means were we perfect today, but I do feel like this football team improved today. We didn’t improve enough to win, but I felt like we improved. So we’ve just got to keep going. We keep putting ourselves in these situations, and we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.”
Last week, Zimmer was very critical about his team’s performance after losing to the Lions. He was the exact opposite during his press conference after the game. Zimmer felt there were a lot of positives to take away. He mentioned how rookie running back Jerick McKinnon had 103 rushing yards against the top rushing defense in the NFL and how the defense forced four turnovers and recorded six sacks.
None of that will show in the win-loss column, however, as the Vikings dropped to 2-5.
“‘Ifs’ and “buts’ are candies and nuts,” Zimmer said. “But if we knock that last ball down then we’re all happy in here today.
“You never, ever, ever want to lose, and I don’t ever want to either. But I have to keep reminding myself about where we are, and where we have to continue to go.”
My initial reaction from Buffalo, where the Vikings lost 17-16 on a 2-yard pass from Kyle Orton to Sammy Watkins with two seconds left?
When did I wake up in 2013?
The four-minute offense and the two-minute defense collapsed late in the same game and the Vikings walked off the field shaking their heads following a game-losing touchdown. Sounds like Chicago, Cleveland and Dallas from last season. And sort of like Baltimore, although that was the wildest scoring exhibition by both teams at the end of a game in the history of the NFL.
Because the Vikings couldn’t close the deal, a lot of good performances get lost as the team falls to 2-5. For instance:
. Outside linebacker Anthony Barr took an even bigger step toward proving he’s going to be one of the better linebackers in the league. His pass defense on Watkins on second-and-goal in the red zone was the kind of play that an instinctive, quick player with really long arms can make.
. Never have I seen two offensive linemen leave the game for good on the same play until center John Sullivan and right guard Vladimir Ducasse did so in the first half. That put second-string center Joe Berger and third-string guard Mike Harris in the game. They actually played pretty well, which helped Jerick McKinnon rush for 103 yards against the league’s No. 1-ranked run defense. The Bills hadn’t allowed a 20-yard rush all season until McKinnon broke two tackles during a 29-yard run.
. Teddy Bridgewater did a nice job bouncing back from two interceptions. But I fear that he is starting to sense pressure even when it’s not there. I saw that on a deep incomplete pass to Cordarrelle Patterson in the first half. But who can blame him. The offensive line played better today that last week, when Bridgewater was sacked eight times. But back-to-back sacks after getting that first-and-goal at the 7 tells you the line — particularly the tacklwes — still has a long way to go to live up to expectations.
So where do the Vikings go from here now that they’re 2-5. Well, the played well enough for most of today’s game to make you believe they can win the next two games at Tampa Bay and home to Washington. If they can get to the bye at 4-5, they will have stabilized the sting that people are feeling after they botched a game they should have won today.
|San Diego||10/23/14 7:25 PM|
|Detroit||10/26/14 8:30 AM|
|(22) West Virginia||41|
|(11) Kansas State||31||FINAL|
|(13) Ohio State||56|
|(8) Michigan State||56||FINAL|
|San Jose St||27||FINAL|
|New Mexico St||17||FINAL|
|(3) Ole Miss||34|
|(7) Notre Dame||27||FINAL|
|(2) Florida State||31|
|(14) Arizona State||26|
|San Diego St||20|
|Arkansas State||10/21/14 7:00 PM|
|Connecticut||10/23/14 6:00 PM|
|(18) East Carolina|
|Miami-Florida||10/23/14 7:00 PM|
|So Florida||10/24/14 6:00 PM|
|Troy||10/24/14 6:30 PM|
|BYU||10/24/14 8:00 PM|
|(6) Oregon||10/24/14 9:00 PM|
|North Texas||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|UAB||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Rutgers||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Maryland||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Texas||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|(11) Kansas State|
|Minnesota||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Memphis||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|North Carolina||10/25/14 11:30 AM|
|San Jose St||10/25/14 12:00 PM|
|Northern Ill||10/25/14 12:00 PM|
|(25) UCLA||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Akron||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Massachusetts||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Ohio U||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Ga Southern||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Kent State||10/25/14 1:30 PM|
|Oregon State||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Miss State||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Georgia Tech||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|(22) West Virginia||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Michigan||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Boston College||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Central Mich||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Vanderbilt||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|Old Dominion||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|UNLV||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|Temple||10/25/14 4:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona||10/25/14 5:00 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|Wyoming||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|Syracuse||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|Texas State||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|(3) Ole Miss||10/25/14 6:15 PM|
|(4) Alabama||10/25/14 6:30 PM|
|So Carolina||10/25/14 6:30 PM|
|(13) Ohio State||10/25/14 7:00 PM|
|(20) USC||10/25/14 9:00 PM|
|(14) Arizona State||10/25/14 9:45 PM|
|Nevada||10/25/14 10:59 PM|
|Red Bull New York||1|