Vikings rookies got it right when it mattered

The Vikings’ top two draft picks this year provided the big plays when needed most in a 19-13 overtime win.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drove 71 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown to give them a 13-10 lead with 2:02 to play in the game, the Vikings were looking at another potential heartbreaking loss. But a pair of rookies sparked a thrilling comeback as the Vikings won 19-13 and potentially came up with a season-changing turning point of the game.

As had been the problem late in games as the Vikings defense would get worn down, the Bucs took their first lead of the game on a 7-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but it would be the top two Vikings rookies who would change the momentum in a huge way over the next two minutes-plus of game time.

In the first half, Teddy Bridgewater led the Vikings on a scoring drive in the final 1:01 of the half to give the Vikings the first points of the game as time expired – completing two passes for 30 yards to tight end Chase Ford and an 8-yard pass to Cordarrelle Patterson. Bridgewater never got flustered and moved the team quickly in four plays – the last being a spike to stop the clock to set up a 46-yard Blair Walsh field goal to give the Vikings a 3-0 halftime lead.

Twenty-eight minutes of game time later, Bridgewater was asked to do the same thing, but this time there was considerably more at stake with the Vikings trailing 13-10. He remained cool under pressure.

Starting from his own 20-yard line, Bridgewater took over and calmly spread the ball around to four different receivers, completing passes of 12 yards to Patterson, 10 yards to Greg Jennings, 16 yards to Jarius Wright and 12 yards to Chase Ford – each of which converted first downs to keep the chains moving.

The last of those passes was critical because it moved the potential game-tying field goal from 50 yards to 38 yards. Although the ball had a funky spin on it, Blair Walsh nailed the field goal to send the game to overtime tied at 13.

With the overtime rules in play, barring a touchdown on the first possession, both teams would have the opportunity to touch the ball. But, as luck would have it, the Vikings would win without their offense touching the ball.

The Buccaneers won the coin toss to start overtime, but overtime wouldn’t last long. On the first play from scrimmage in overtime, Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon threw a short sideline route to Seferian-Jenkins.

In what looked to be a short gain of about 8 yards, Vikings rookie linebacker Anthony Barr stripped the ball loose as safety Harrison Smith delivered a big hit and the ball popped loose and fell at Barr’s feet. He alertly scooped up the ball and raced into the end zone for a touchdown to give the Vikings an improbable finish to a bizarre game.

There were a lot of players who contributed to the victory, but it was the two first-round rookies that made the biggest impact at crunch time and gave the Vikings a potential season-saving turning point.

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