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.
Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but at 4-7 and residing in the NFC North, the Vikings sure have a lot less to play for than the 3-7-1 Panthers do in the NFC
So we asked Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to name the No. 1 thing he’s looking to improve on during what presumably won’t be a playoff push, regardless of how many games the Vikings win the rest of this season.
Here’s what Bridgewater said:
“Just take advantage of those easy completions when they present themselves,” Bridgewater said. “There are times in the game when there could be a five-yard out route or just something that gives you consistency, something that gives you rhythm. Taking every completion and not try to force throws and be smart with the football.”
At first, it seemed odd that he would mention improving on the “easy” throws and the “five-yard outs” as his No. 1 goal. Seems like he might have picked the deep balls he hasn’t been able to hit consistently or the throws outside the numbers that have given him some fits and caused some to question his arm strength and ability to be a starter in the NFL.
But, upon further thought, the “rhythm” he’s searching for would, presumably in his mind, lead to more consistency on deeper throws, more third-and-short situations and some more time on the field instead of standing on the sideline. And, of course, Bridgewater also has been missing a lot of those easy throws. Throws he says he “completes nine out of 10 times in practice.”
Slow starts followed by strong second-half play have been the consistent theme for Bridgewater as he’s compiled a 3-4 record as a starter.
Asked again today about the slow starts, Bridgewater said, “When we were at halftime [of Sunday's 24-21 loss to the Packers], coach Norv Turner came into the locker room and told us that for some reason for the first 10 minutes of the game we were trying to feel our way through. We’re trying to see if we can play with our opponents. That’s been the issue, like coach Turner says, that we’re trying to feel our way through those first couple of possessions. But we just have to bring it to our opponents right away.
“We have to have that mindset and go into each game with confidence and know that it’s going to be a long day for our opponents.”
After Bridgewater spoke, coach Mike Zimmer joked that he needed to find a way to convince Bridgewater that the Vikings are trailing at the opening kickoff.
In other news, Zimmer:
Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt spoke for the first time since the Vikings placed him on injured reserve with a torn pectoral in the 24-21 loss against the Packers on Sunday.
Loadholt said it occurred on a pass play during the Vikings’ final drive in the game. He attempted to block a defender rushing inside and extended his arm too far, causing the tear.
“I wouldn’t have wanted anything more than to help my team out these last five games, but I’m going to do what I can to stay involved in meetings, help Mike [Harris] and the guys prepare as much as possible,” Loadholt said. “Hopefully we can continue to build and win these last five games.”
He’ll remain around the facilities like right guard Brandon Fusco, who was also placed on injured reserve earlier this season with the same injury. Loadholt will have surgery on Friday and expects to be fully healthy for training camp in July.
Harris will likely start at right tackle on Sunday against the Panthers, but the Vikings signed offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb off the street to fill the team’s open spot on the roster. Webb spent last season with the Vikings but hasn’t been on an active roster this season. He spent training camp with the Chiefs but was one of the final roster cuts after the preseason.
“It’s always good to be back with a team that you’re loyal with and have fun playing with,” Webb said. “I just got to think positive, learn everything I need to quickly and as fast as I can to help this team out as quick as possible.”
Webb, in his fifth season, was asked if he thought his career was over as he sat in Austin, Texas waiting for a team to call.
“Nah, I didn’t think I was done,” Webb said. “I just turned 26 years old (in August) and I’m still a big boy and ready to rock and roll. That thought never crossed my mind.”
The situation: Tied at 7, the Packers face a 1st and goal at the 1 with 5:30 left in the first half.
The context: Vikings rookie quarterback had just thrown an interception on the previous drive to give Green Bay great field position. The Packers complied 53 yards on four plays in 2:19 to set up a scoring opportunity.
The result: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected with tight end Richard Rodgers for a one-yard touchdown to take the lead.
How it happened:
The Vikings were in their goal line package, countering a three-tight end, “I” formation look from the Packers. The Vikings had five down linemen, with nose tackle defensive tackles Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen lined up at the three-technique spots outside the offensive guards.
The Packers sent rookie tight end Justin Perillo (circled in red) in motion to the left side of the formation. Safety Harrison Smith (circled in blue) followed Perillo, which my seem insignificant now but played a part in the result.
It was a play action pass, with Rodgers selling the run play with running back Eddie Lacy but instead rolled out to his right. The run, particularly with the down and distance and the formation, was the obviously call in this situation. But as Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said last week, the Packers’ playcalling can be unpredictable and difficult to stop. Note where Smith (circled in red) was positioned at this point of the play.
Smith and linebacker Gerald Hodges both covered Perillo (circled in yellow) as he cut across to his right following Rodgers. There was miscommunication between Hodges and Smith that caused this situation, which given how the play appeared to be designed, the assumption would be that Rodgers will throw the ball either in the middle or right portion of the end zone.
That breakdown led to this, a wide open Richard Rodgers on the other side of the field. There’s really nothing else to gain from this snapshot other than how ridiculously wide open he was on this play. It’s astonishing.
“It’s a tough play and a good design by them and sometimes you just get beat,” rookie linebacker Anthony Barr said.
What’s even more impressive was the throw. Rodgers had pressure from defensive end Brian Robison and Barr, yet somehow threw a dime while fading away on the throw.
“I don’t know how he saw the guy in the corner of the end zone with pressure in his face,” Barr said. “He just kind of snuck out, unnoticed and was able to make a play.”
It was a perfect, and incredible, throw to give the Packers the lead.
“To me, it was very impressive,” Zimmer said. “He was rolling out to his right, the play was designed to go to his right, the route was designed to go to his right and for him to be able to see the guy standing in the far corner of the end zone is pretty good vision and a heck of a throw — the way he threw it, too.”
My initial instinct during the game was to blame Hodges because Smith tracked Perillo while in motion, signaling man coverage. But Zimmer said on Monday, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a linebacker that messed up.”
That’s where it gets tricky trying to assess “blame” on a player for a blown assignment when there could be multiple dimensions of that assignment after Perillo went in motion. Perhaps Smith was supposed to play off Hodges, who appeared in good position prior to Smith jamming Perillo in the end zone.
Zimmer comment lead me to believe it wasn’t as simple as just blaming Hodges. However, it appeared both were at fault for allowing the easy touchdown and failing to communicate on the play.
Either way, kudos to Rodgers. And that other Rodgers.
The Vikings officially announced the signing of offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, placing right tackle Phil Loadholt on injured reserve as a corresponding move
Webb tweeted out the news Tuesday night.
He made eight appearances and one start last season with the Vikings but was not re-signed during the offseason. The 7th round pick in 2010 by the Bears spent training camp with the Chiefs but hasn’t been on a 53-man roster this season.
Webb has made 45 starts and 54 appearances in four seasons.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— Get to know the man who is behind the Vikings’ community efforts.
— Free-agent OT J’Marcus Webb says that he is joining the Vikings.
— If the NFL draft was today, the Vikings would have the ninth pick.
— An ESPN analyst thinks QB Teddy Bridgewater is a career backup.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 25, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Crazy as it sounds, the 3-7-1 Panthers control their destiny.
—It could be Amini Silatolu’s turn at tackle for the Panthers.
— Panthers C Ryan Kalil stood up for his brother, LT Matt Kalil.
— Sunday’s game could be one of the coldest in Panthers history.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings get back to work with morning meetings and the walkthrough then practice at 12:50 p.m. Bridgewater and head coach Mike Zimmer will be at the podium before the practice.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
At 4-7, the Vikings are in last place in the NFC North and trail the first-place Packers by four games. If they were in the NFC South, they would be tied with the Falcons and Saints for the division lead.
|Chicago||11/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Philadelphia||11/27/14 3:30 PM|
|Seattle||11/27/14 7:30 PM|
|Cleveland||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Washington||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|San Diego||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Giants||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Oakland||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|New Orleans||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Carolina||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Arizona||11/30/14 3:05 PM|
|New England||11/30/14 3:25 PM|
|Denver||11/30/14 7:30 PM|
|Miami||12/1/14 7:30 PM|
|Golden State||6:00 PM|
|LA Clippers||6:30 PM|
|New York||6:30 PM|
|NY Rangers||6:30 PM|
|Los Angeles||7:00 PM|
|Robert Morris||11:00 AM|
|Rochester College||11:00 AM|
|American Univ||1:00 PM|
|Sacred Heart||1:00 PM|
|North Florida||3:00 PM|
|Oral Roberts||3:00 PM|
|Chicago State||3:30 PM|
|San Francisco||5:00 PM|
|Delaware State||6:00 PM|
|Trinity Baptist||6:00 PM|
|Cleveland State||6:00 PM|
|St Johns||6:00 PM|
|Grambling St||6:00 PM|
|Georgia State||6:00 PM|
|Mount St Marys||6:00 PM|
|Kansas State||6:30 PM|
|Va Military||6:30 PM|
|UC Riverside||7:00 PM|
|Morehead State||7:00 PM|
|Miss Valley St||7:00 PM|
|Tenn Tech||7:00 PM|
|Texas Southern||7:00 PM|
|TX-Pan American||7:00 PM|
|Wayne St-NE||7:00 PM|
|Northern Ill||7:30 PM|
|Fla Gulf Coast||7:30 PM|
|Carroll (MT)||8:00 PM|
|Florida A&M||8:00 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|Eastern Ky||8:00 PM|
|Northern Ky||8:05 PM|
|Utah Valley U||8:05 PM|
|Cal Poly||9:00 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Utah State||9:00 PM|
|Alabama State||9:30 PM|
|Portland State||10:00 PM|
|Missouri State||11/27/14 1:00 AM|
|LSU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|(6) TCU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Northern Ill||11/28/14 10:00 AM|
|Nebraska||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Ky||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|UCF||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Houston||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Akron||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Ball State||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Buffalo||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Toledo||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Arkansas||11/28/14 1:30 PM|
|Navy||11/28/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Arizona State||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|Stanford||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|(21) Colorado State||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|Virginia||11/28/14 7:00 PM|
|East Carolina||11/28/14 7:30 PM|
|North Texas||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Old Dominion||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|(16) Georgia Tech||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Kentucky||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|So Carolina||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|West Virginia||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Rice||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Michigan||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) Ohio State|
|Purdue||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Illinois||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Cincinnati||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|NC State||11/29/14 11:30 AM|
|Syracuse||11/29/14 11:30 AM|
|Louisiana||11/29/14 11:30 AM|
|Utah||11/29/14 12:00 PM|
|Texas State||11/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Idaho||11/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Wyoming||11/29/14 2:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||11/29/14 2:00 PM|
|UAB||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(4) Miss State||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(18) Ole Miss|
|Notre Dame||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(10) Michigan State||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(22) Minnesota||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(5) Baylor||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|Florida||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|Rutgers||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|San Jose St||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Tennessee||11/29/14 3:00 PM|
|Kansas||11/29/14 3:00 PM|
|(11) Kansas State|
|Connecticut||11/29/14 3:00 PM|
|BYU||11/29/14 3:30 PM|
|ULM||11/29/14 5:00 PM|
|Middle Tennessee||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|Hawaii||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|Wake Forest||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|Pittsburgh||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|(15) Auburn||11/29/14 6:45 PM|
|(3) Oregon||11/29/14 7:00 PM|
|Utah State||11/29/14 9:15 PM|
|(25) Boise State|
|Washington||11/29/14 9:30 PM|
|Nevada||11/29/14 9:30 PM|
|Hamilton||11/30/14 5:00 PM|
|Kennesaw St||11:00 AM|
|Northern Ill||12:00 PM|
|UT Martin||12:30 PM|
|East Tenn St||1:00 PM|
|North Dakota||2:00 PM|
|Kansas State||5:00 PM|
|Oral Roberts||5:00 PM|
|Boise State||5:30 PM|
|(22) West Virginia|
|(4) Tennessee||6:00 PM|
|Delaware State||6:00 PM|
|Mount St Marys|
|VA Commonwealth||6:00 PM|
|William & Mary|
|Alabama A&M||6:00 PM|
|(16) Michigan State|
|Utah Valley U||6:45 PM|
|TX-Pan American||7:00 PM|
|McNeese State||7:00 PM|
|(7) Texas A&M|
|Northern Ariz||7:00 PM|
|Jackson State||7:05 PM|
|Indiana State||7:05 PM|
|Long Beach St||8:00 PM|
|Fresno Pacific||9:00 PM|
Poll: Which NFL game do you most want to sneak away to watch on Thanksgiving?