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.
Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.
15 — total pressures allowed by left tackle Matt Kalil through three games.
No offensive lineman in the league has allowed more pressures than Kalil. His struggles continued in Sunday’s 20-9 loss to the Saints. He gave up another sack and seven total pressures, keeping two different Vikings quarterbacks on the run. Kalil has now surrendered three sacks, two quarterback hits and 10 hurries in 2014, per Pro Football Focus. Other linemen have allowed more sacks or hits, but none have given up more total pressures. Head coach Mike Zimmer said yesterday that Kalil needs to move on from mistakes quickly instead of dwelling on them then getting beaten again.
75 — quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s accuracy percentage when pressured.
Speaking of pressure, Bridgewater handled it well after relieving Matt Cassel in the second quarter Sunday. The rookie quarterback was pressured on 12 of his 25 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus, and he completed five of his eight attempts when pressured for 49 yards (and one of those incompletions was a drop). Bridgewater was sacked twice and scrambled out of the pocket for positive yards on a couple of plays. His accuracy percentage under pressure (75 percent) this season is nearly 20 points higher than that of Cassel (58.3), who is sidelined with a broken foot.
five — touches per game for wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson this season.
After busting a 67-yard touchdown run in the season opener, his sixth straight game with a score, Patterson has been quiet. He had no carries and just four catches in Week 2. And on Sunday, he had one carry, on which he lost seven yards, and four catches for 61 receiving yards. The Vikings have been spreading the ball around; four players have between 14 and 18 targets this season. But with running back Adrian Peterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph out, perhaps they should try to get Patterson, who is averaging 15.9 yards per touch, even more involved offensively.
7.8 — yards per pass attempt allowed by the Vikings defense through three weeks.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees started Sunday’s game on a roll, completing his first nine passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. He finished the game with 293 yards and two scores on 27-for-35 passing, giving him an average of 8.4 yards per attempt. The numbers are inflated a little by Brees’ performance, but through three games, the Vikings are allowing 7.8 yards per attempt, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. The task is not going to get any easier with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Falcons, who lead the league at 8.9 yards per attempt, coming to TCF Bank Stadium this weekend.
115 — minutes (and 54 seconds) since the last time the Vikings scored a TD.
It may feel like forever ago, but remember when Cassel connected with running back Matt Asiata for a 25-yard touchdown with 10:54 left in the first quarter of the 30-7 loss to the Patriots? That was the team’s last touchdown. In their past 115 minutes and 54 seconds of play, the Vikings have not gotten in the end zone. Heck, they have only passed their opponent’s 20-yard line three times. Only four teams have scored fewer points than the Vikings, who have just 50 so far.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— The Vikings say they are confident in rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater.
— Christian Ponder, now the backup QB, says he is ready if needed.
— The Vikings could be without injured TE Kyle Rudolph for several weeks.
— CB Captain Munnerlyn is still salty about that roughing the passer penalty.
— Rookie DT Shamar Stephen played more snaps than Sharrif Floyd on Sunday.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
I will prove that my determination and dedication to this team, city, and most importantly, our fans, will carry me back to where I belong.
— Kyle Rudolph (@KyleRudolph82) September 23, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Falcons DT Ra’Shede Hageman is ready for his homecoming.
— Falcons WR Julio Jones leads the league in receiving yards.
— The Falcons hope they have found an identity on defense.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
Tuesday is an off day for Vikings players, but several of them, including CB Robert Blanton and OLB Gerald Hodges, will visit the Partnership Academy in celebration of NFL Hispanic Heritage Month.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Had Bridgewater been injured, too, on Sunday and joined Matt Cassel on the sideline, TE MarQueis Gray would have been the emergency quarterback followed by WR Cordarrelle Patterson, who at times lined up as a Wildcat QB in junior college. Hey, that’s one way to get him the ball.
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.
|NY Mets - B. Colon||6:05 PM|
|Washington - T. Roark|
|Baltimore - U. Jimenez||6:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - B. McCarthy|
|Kansas City - Y. Ventura||6:05 PM|
|Cleveland - D. Salazar|
|Seattle - F. Hernandez||6:07 PM|
|Toronto - R. Dickey|
|Chicago WSox - S. Carroll||6:08 PM|
|Detroit - D. Price|
|Philadelphia - C. Hamels||6:10 PM|
|Miami - H. Alvarez|
|Pittsburgh - G. Cole||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - A. Wood|
|Milwaukee - M. Fiers||6:10 PM|
|Cincinnati - J. Cueto|
|Tampa Bay - A. Cobb||6:10 PM|
|Boston - C. Buchholz|
|Houston - B. Oberholtzer||7:05 PM|
|Texas - N. Martinez|
|St. Louis - S. Miller||7:05 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks|
|Arizona - A. Chafin||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - K. Gibson|
|LA Angels - W. LeBlanc||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - S. Gray|
|San Francisco - M. Bumgarner||9:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke|
|Colorado - J. De La Rosa||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - R. Erlin|
|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|
|San Jose||8:00 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|