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 Vikings couldn’t close out the Dolphins yesterday, blowing another lead.
— OLB Chad Greenway played yesterday despite the death of his father Friday.
— Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater shined in front of his hometown fans.
— Costly penalties and poor defensive play had Zimmer steaming after the game.
— The special-teams unit experienced a high and a big low in the final minutes.
— The second-half failures of the Vikings defense fall on Zimmer.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Proven to be one of mentally toughest players, much respect to my bud Chad Greenway playing in wake of father’s passing on Friday. #Vikings
— Ben Leber (@nacholeber) December 21, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is proving he is a franchise quarterback.
— The Dolphins are sticking with coach Joe Philbin after yesterday’s win.
— Dolphins players say they are excited about Philbin coming back in 2015.
— The embattled Miami defensive line rose up in yesterday’s victory.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings report to Winter Park this morning for meetings and film review. The locker room will be open to media at 12:30 p.m. Zimmer will hold his usual Monday press conference at 2 p.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Players were frustrated yesterday after letting another win slip away. It was their second straight loss in which they blew a 14-0 lead and squandered late opportunities to redeem themselves. As I wrote in my game story, if the Vikings had been able to finish out a few more games — like, ahem, that loss in Buffalo — they could be in playoff contention right now. But in the spirit of Charlie Conway saying “quarter inch the other way and you would have missed the net completely,” if they hadn’t pulled out a couple of overtime wins, the Vikings could be 4-11 right now. So we’ll call it even.
Mike Zimmer was clearly irked when speaking with reporters immediately after today’s 37-35 loss to the Dolphins, and understandably so. His Vikings blew another double-digit lead, allowed nearly 500 yards of total offense and were flagged a bunch of times in a frustrating loss.
“I think it was a poor performance by us,” the first-year head coach said. “We did things that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
After a solid first half, Zimmer’s defense got ripped apart by the Dolphins, who scored touchdowns on all four of their second-half drives. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 396 passing yards, the most the Vikings have allowed this season, and four touchdowns. Led by running back Lamar Miller, the Dolphins became the latest team to eclipse 100 rushing yards against the Vikings.
“We couldn’t cover anybody,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t rush and we didn’t cover. So that’s a pretty hard combination.”
The Vikings also hurt themselves with some untimely penalties, including a couple after the whistle. Both defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and outside linebacker Gerald Hodges were flagged for personal fouls after plays had ended.
“Ridiculous. Ridiculous,” Zimmer said. “That’s how you get beat, doing stuff like that.”
All those miscues helped the Dolphins erase an early 14-0 deficit and then regain the lead after the Vikings got back ahead, 35-28, with only a few minutes left in the game. No wonder Zimmer was salty after the game, and he said the players got it much worse than we did.
“We made too many mistakes. We had penalties in crucial situations of the game,” Zimmer said. “All the things I’ve been trying to preach for 11 months, we didn’t do today — critical errors in the field, red zone, third downs. It just wasn’t a good day.”
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was the biggest bright spot in the 37-35 loss to the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.
In a game where the Vikings loss on a punt blocked for a safety, the Miami native had his fourth straight game completing more than 70 percent of his passes. Bridgewater went 19 of 26 for 259 yards and two touchdowns. His only interception was due to a pass deflected off running back Matt Asiata’s hands.
“I was happy to be able to play in front of my family and everyone who was able to get down here to some nice 70 degree weather,” Bridgewater said. “That was pretty cool, but we knew that it was going to be a challenge coming down here to play the Dolphins. …We played hard and the guys executed, but we just didn’t do enough to win the game.”
Bridgewater led the Vikings down the field to tie the game at 28 with 4:46 left in the game on a five-play, 60 yard drive in less than two minutes. He connected with wide receiver Jarius Wright in what was one of many impressive throws by the rookie quarterback.
Bridgewater had a quarterback rating of 114.1, marking the third time in the last four games Bridgewater’s had a rating over 100.
“Four or five years ago, I was a senior at Miami Northwestern watching Dolphins games and attending Dolphins games,” Bridgewater said. “To be able to play against those guys today was a great feeling, being able to play against your home town team. At the end of the day, we didn’t do what we came down here to do so it won’t be such a great feeling.”
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway decided to suit up in the 37-35 loss to the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, two days after his father passed away, but he couldn’t finish the game.
Greenway missed most of the second half to a knee injury. He said he heard a pop in his knee as it was bent backwards. Greenway finished with three tackles and ½ a sack.
“That’s not what I had in mind flying to Miami and playing this football game,” Greenway said. “It just makes matters worse.”
Greenway was excused from Friday’s practice to be with his father, Alan, in South Dakota before he died that night. Alan had been batting leukemia for more than two years.
“It’s a tough week obviously for my family,” Greenway said. “It just came down on trying to make a decision on what’s the right thing to do. I talked with my family and everybody thought they’d be good handling the stuff back home if I came and played the game then met up with them when I got home and took care of business. It was a tough decision but the right decision.”
Greenway said it was a temporary distraction, but he’s looking forward to returning home to be with his family. He was very appreciative of the Vikings organization for allowing him to be with his family during the difficult situation.
“It’s really a blessing to be around the team and the guys,” Greenway said. “Really the whole organization is real supportive of my family, myself and they always have been from Day 1 when my dad got ill. It’s been such a blessing to be with this organization. They’ve been there for me every step of the way and continue to be there now. It’s all about us and the time we needed.”
Initial thoughts following Sunday’s 37-35 loss at Miami …
Like last week’s low-scoring two-point loss at Detroit, there were a lot of good things to come out of this high-scoring two-point loss to the Dolphins. But there also were some more alarming things, particularly in the second half.
First, the good.
Teddy Bridgewater played an outstanding game on the road and continues to prove this level isn’t too big for him. He completed 19 of 26 passes 259 yards, two touchdowns, an interception that wasn’t his fault and a 114.1 passer rating. On third downs, he was 6 of 7 for 97 yards, a touchdown and three first downs.
He made some difficult throws on corner routes outside the numbers. The 24-yarder to Greg Jennings on third-and-long was especially impressive.
Now, the more alarming part.
The Dolphins’ offense touched the ball four times in the second half. It scored four touchdowns. Three of the drives were 80-yarders. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn had a particularly bad game, giving up two catches of 40 and 41 yards.
This was the worst the defense has played under Zimmer. A 30-point second half with 28 coming against the defense was unacceptable, of course.
As for the special teams, they tooketh away (recovering a fumble off a kickoff at the Dolphins’ 5-yard line) and gaveth away (a blocked punt out of the end zone for a game-winning safety) in the final five minutes.
At 6-9, the Vikings will have a losing season for the fourth time in five years. But perhaps the best news about this season is they have the quarterback to build around.
|North Dakota St||52||FINAL|
|San Jose St||53||FINAL|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|Illinois||12/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Rutgers||12/26/14 3:30 PM|
|NC State||12/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/27/14 12:00 PM|
|Duke||12/27/14 1:10 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Miami-Florida||12/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Boston College||12/27/14 3:30 PM|
|(25) Nebraska||12/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) South Carolina||84|
|Mount St Marys||49|
|William & Mary||51|
|South Dakota St||64||FINAL|
|(5) Notre Dame||64|
|(4) Texas A&M||65|
|Sam Houston St||55||FINAL|
|Coll of Charleston||72|
|(19) Oklahoma St||66||FINAL|
|(6) North Carolina||85|
|SE Missouri St||73|
|No Dakota State||54||FINAL|
|Cal State Fullerton||49|
|(18) Michigan State||89||FINAL|
|(21) Miss State||68|