Matt Cassel was polished. Teddy Bridgewater was poised.
The Minnesota Vikings have yet to pick a starting quarterback, but their passing game has sure been productive in the preseason.
Bridgewater gave the giddy fans chanting his first name a pair of go-ahead touchdown throws to cheer for in the fourth quarter, propelling the Vikings past the Arizona Cardinals 30-28 on Saturday night.
Wide receiver Greg Jennings shouted, “Teddy’s world!” as he walked out of the locker room.
“It’s not. I’m still the young guy here. I still have a lot to prove,” Bridgewater said.
Cassel has taken the majority of the turns with the first-team offense, and the veteran has done nothing but solidify his status.
Coach Mike Zimmer said he hasn’t reached the date he’s had in mind for a decision. Bridgewater at least gave him more to think about with his second-half performance, albeit against backups and guys bound to be cut in a couple of weeks.
“I’m very pleased. I’m just going to continue to try and get better from here,” said Bridgewater, who finished 16 for 20 for 177 yards, much better than his debut.
Less than a minute after the Cardinals had gone ahead on a bizarre fourth-down score off a loose ball, Bridgewater floated a back-shoulder fade pass from 2 yards to Rodney Smith with 18 seconds remaining for the lead.
“Teddy was calm. He was smart. That whole series was a lot of blitzes,” Zimmer said.
On that final drive, Bridgewater completed six of seven passes for 77 yards.
“I give Teddy a lot of credit. He was impressive. It was a very nice drive he put together,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
Bridgewater found Allen Reisner for a short touchdown and Jarius Wright for the 2-point conversion with 7:57 left, giving the Vikings a 24-21 edge.
“He does it every day in practice. I wasn’t surprised at all. He always puts the ball on the money,” Smith said.
Kyle Rudolph had four catches for 89 yards and a scoring toss from Cassel as the Vikings kept their first team in for the whole first half, and Bridgewater and the backups picked up where they left off.
Ryan Lindley, who played the whole second half at quarterback for the Cardinals, threw three straight incompletions after a 33-yard pass interference penalty on Derek Cox put the ball at the 6.
Lindley dropped the fourth-and-goal shotgun snap, and in the scrap for the ball, center John Estes got down on his knees and batted it behind him. Zach Bauman scooped it up and ran in for the score with 1:11 remaining.
The ruling was that because there was no possession by Lindley, advancement was allowable.
“I saw a play I hadn’t seen in 22 years, that touchdown,” Arians said, deadpanning. “It was designed.”
For the first time since training camp started, the Cardinals actually breathed some fresh air while they tuned up for the regular season.
After playing their exhibition opener and holding every practice inside at their covered home stadium just outside of sultry Phoenix, they finally left the air conditioning.
The temperature at kickoff was 85 degrees, steamy for Minnesota, but practically a cold front for the Arizona desert in August.
Drew Stanton threw a scoring pass to basketball-player-turned-tight-end Darren Fells for the Cardinals in the second quarter.
Carson Palmer led the Cardinals on a 93-yard drive to start the game, and Jonathan Dwyer ran around left end untouched for the score. Palmer played two series and finished 4 for 8 for 91 yards.
Cassel was sharp in his only series last week against Oakland, and this time over a bigger sample size he was just as good, going 12 for 16 for 153 yards with one touchdown and no turnovers. Cassel even ran three times for 30 yards when nobody was open, but the middle of the field.
His go-to target was Rudolph, the tight end who has returned for his fourth year much richer, a little slimmer and poised for a breakout season in the new scheme under offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
After failing to hang on to a high throw in the back corner of the end zone on third-and-goal at the end of the first drive, Rudolph finished the second possession with a 51-yard catch and run into the end zone.
“I want to have a big role in this offense, especially in the passing game. For me, it’s why you put in all the work,” Rudolph said.
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Bridgewater rallies Vikings to 30-28 win
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