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.
Before rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater made his NFL debut, he received a quick word from quarterbacks coach Scott Turner.
“This is your time,” Bridgewater said Turner told him. “Take advantage of it. This is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Just relax, have fun and play football.”
Bridgewater went 12 of 20 for 150 yards and six rushing attempts for 27 yards replacing Matt Cassel, who suffered a foot injury during the second quarter. Head coach Mike Zimmer said the team will prepare now with Bridgewater at quarterback after Cassel fractured several bones in his foot.
“I think I did pretty good for the most part,” Bridgewater said. “Missed a couple of throws, couple easy throws, but overall I thought it was a good performance. I’ve got some areas to improve on.”
It’s a similar situation that gave Bridgewater his first opportunity at Louisville as a freshman. He replaced Will Stein during the third game of the season against Kentucky. Bridgewater went on to start during the rest of his freshman season and throughout his sophomore and junior years.
When asked if he was nervous, Bridgewater immediately replied, “Not at all. No, I wasn’t nervous because this is where I always wanted to be. Unfortunately the way that it happened wasn’t the way that I expected it to, but I was just able to go out there, relax; the guys put their trust in and me and said, ‘Hey, nothing changes. The game plan isn’t going to change. We’re just going to go out there and continue playing football.”
Zimmer said once Bridgewater did enter the game, the playbook was altered a bit to fit the rookie’s strengths, such as a 30-yard catch by wide receiver Greg Jennings on a play action, rollout pass.
“I thought he was very composed with everything,” Zimmer said. “There were some issues with the headsets on both sides of the ball today, but he handled it well. I believe that he’s going to be very good.”
The biggest moment in the Vikings’ 20-9 loss to the Saints at the Superdome on Sunday was a controversial penalty that killed the second half momentum the Vikings built.
Down 13-9 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Robert Blanton sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees on 3rd and 13. Munnerlyn lifted Brees up off the ground and threw him down viciously, prompting Brees to jump up and shove Blanton in frustration.
Munnerlyn was called for unnecessary roughness, extending the drive that ended on an 18-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Marques Colston seven plays later.
“I tried to get an answer from the referees, but they really wouldn’t talk to me,” Munnerlyn said. “I know coach will turn the play in and he’ll let me know what they say. I feel like I let my teammates down because it changed the game. At the end of the day, they called the penalty. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with the penalty, but they called it.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer said he spoke to referee Walt Anderson after the play, and he felt Munnerlyn threw Brees down with force. Anderson also said he blew the whistle once Munnerlyn and Blanton wrapped up Brees.
They Vikings had held the Saints scoreless since the first quarter and reeled off three field goals to draw within four points before Colston scored.
“I thought we had good momentum going on,” Zimmer said. “We were frustrating them a little bit offensively. I think we would’ve had good field position. Who knows, but they were a lot better than we were today.”
I’ll give you three reasons to be encouraged and three reasons to be discouraged. Take your pick. Here goes:
Three reasons to be encouraged:
1, There couldn’t have been a more difficult situation for Teddy Bridgewater to make his NFL debut. But the kid did some really good things, and that’s saying something when he’s thrown into a game cold when a veteran, Matt Cassel, breaks his foot. The game not only was on the road, but it was in New Orleans against a Rob Ryan defense in the Saints’ home opener. Bridgewater showed some strong awareness in the red zone, pulling the ball down and taking a loss to avoid the turnover and then running for a first down on a delayed draw to set up a field goal and make the game a one-possession contest. Bridgewater posted an 83.3 passer rating, didn’t turn the ball over and ran six times for a 4.5-yard average. Overall, he looked pretty good for his NFL debut.
2, The Vikings’ defense finally showed it can stop the run again. After five quarters of being pushed around by the Patriots last week and the Saints in the first quarter today, the run defense stiffened and the Vikings were able to put Drew Brees in some long third-down situations, which made the pass rush effective again. The reason the Vikings stayed in this game after being down 13-0 in the first quarter is because the run defense got its act together.
3, The special teams were a strength again with coordinator Mike Priefer back from his suspension. Cordarrelle Patterson averaged 30 yards on four kickoff returns, punter Jeff Locke averaged 45.3 yards with an even greater net average of 46.0. He had a long of 57 and three punts downed inside the 20. The Saints didn’t have kickoff return and they had minus-3 yards on punt returns.
Three reasons to be discouraged:
1, Injuries this severe in Week 3 tear down seasons. Cassel’s broken foot, coupled with Adrian Peterson’s indefinite leave, means it’s officially a rebuilding year. And rebuilding years have a lot of growing pains, particularly when there’s a rookie QB involved. And the likelihood that Bridgewater stays healthy behind this offensive line at its current level of play is slim. Christian Ponder will play a game before the season is over. Throw in a possible serious groin injury to tight end Kyle Rudolph and a shoulder injury to right guard Brandon Fusco and, well, this season appears to be collapsing quickly.
2, The offensive line was a disappointment for the second straight week. The rushing average last week was 2.8. This week, it was 2.7. There just aren’t enough quality holes being made. And there are too many defenders coming free on pass rushes.
3, The way the defense started was a major concern. Brees completed his first nine passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. He was pressured only one time, and on that play, all he had to do was take a slide step to his left. The Saints had 54 yards on just nine rushes in the first quarter. That enabled Brees to feel comfortable. By the time the Vikings corrected that situation, the Saints had the points they would need.
Coming home will help this team. But it better hope Josh Robinson’s hamstring injury isn’t serious because the opponent is a Falcons team that can stretch the field with multiple elite receivers.
Viking head coach Mike Zimmer said after today’s 20-9 loss to the Saints that starting quarterback Matt Cassel broke multiple bones in one of his feet while scrambling out of the pocket in the second quarter. Cassel is out indefinitely and his broken foot could threaten to sideline him for the season.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater made his NFL debut after Cassel limped off the field and was carted to the locker room. He completed 12 of his 20 attempts for 150 yards and no turnovers.
“I thought he was very composed. I didn’t see any panic,” Zimmer said. “I believe that he’s going to be pretty good.”
Three other Vikings starters and a key reserve left with injuries, a couple of them potentially major.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph has a groin injury and will undergo more tests tomorrow. Right guard Brandon Fusco has a shoulder injury that also has the team concerned.
Outside linebacker Chad Greenway started despite a broken hand, but it was his existing rib injury that shut him down early today. Cornerback Josh Robinson left the game with a hamstring injury. Not sure if it’s the same one from the preseason or how serious the injury is.
Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel has been ruled out with a toe injury he suffered in the second quarter. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater replaced Cassel with 12:15 left in the first half.
The injury occurred on a five-yard scramble with 14:47 left in the first half where Cassel was slow to get up. He was later carted into the locker room. Cassel finished the game 5 of 10 for 53 yards.
Bridgewater went 3 of 5 for 46 yards in the first half, leading the Vikings to a field goal on his first drive. Most of his yards in the first half came on a 41-yard dump off to running back Matt Asiata to put the Vikings in field goal range. Bridgewater also had five rushes for 23 yards.
|Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison||2||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka||5|
|Washington - WP: S. Strasburg||2||FINAL|
|Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi||1|
|NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom||10||FINAL|
|Atlanta - LP: E. Santana||2|
|Boston - WP: J. Kelly||3||FINAL|
|Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez||2|
|Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta||0||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley||1|
|Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks||10||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns||5|
|Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber||7||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak||2|
|Detroit - LP: R. Porcello||2||FINAL|
|Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie||5|
|Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma||3||FINAL|
|Houston - WP: C. McHugh||8|
|Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez||8||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner||5|
|Texas||1||Top 9th Inning|
|Philadelphia||6||Bottom 6th Inning|
|San Francisco||0||Top 7th Inning|
|Arizona||2||Top 8th Inning|
|Cincinnati - A. Simon||7:05 PM|
|St. Louis - L. Lynn|
|San Francisco||14||4th Qtr 13:18|
|Denver||3||3rd Qtr 6:16|
|Kansas City||21||3rd Qtr 4:12|
|Chicago||9/22/14 7:30 PM|
|NY Giants||9/25/14 7:25 PM|
|Buffalo||0||2nd Prd 1:27|
|St. Louis||5:30 PM|
|(9) Michigan State||73|
|(23) East Carolina||70|
|(6) Texas A&M||58||FINAL|
|San Jose St||7||FINAL|
|(14) Miss State||34||FINAL|
|(13) So Carolina||48||FINAL|
|New Mexico St||35|
|(1) Florida State||23|
|San Diego St||7||FINAL|
|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|