One of the questions about Teddy Bridgewater in his short career with the Minnesota Vikings is that he hasn’t shown the consistent ability to come back from a double-digit deficit and lead his team to wins.
In Sunday’s 28-19 win, Bridgewater and his teammates found themselves in a 14-3 hole early to the Detroit Lions, but Bridgewater rallied the offense, completing 25 of 35 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns in erasing an 11-point deficit and giving the Vikings a hard-fought NFC North road win, which have become few and far between over the last five years and non-existent since 2012.
Bridgewater credited the Vikings defense and head coach Mike Zimmer for not allowing the team to get down on themselves when things weren’t going their way early, setting up a comeback in which Minnesota dominated Detroit over the final three quarters.
“We knew coming into this game that it wasn’t going to be easy,” Bridgewater said. “Detroit came out firing away and scored those two touchdowns. Our defense did a great job of just responding and holding them to a field goal for the rest of the game. That speaks volumes for those guys. They buckled down and took care of business.”
It didn’t come easy for the Vikings or Bridgewater. The team scored just two touchdowns, needing five field goals to open up a double-digit lead of their own. The Lions were coming after Bridgewater all day long, dialing up run blitzes to stuff Adrian Peterson and pound Bridgewater to the turf early and often during the game.
“The thing that probably impressed me the most with Teddy today was he got rocked a couple of times – I wasn’t sure he was going to finish (the game) – and he got up and made some great throws,” Zimmer said.
For the second straight week, an opponent stuffed Adrian Peterson. His numbers didn’t tell the entire story. He finished with 19 carries for 98 yards, but 75 of those yards came on one carry and the other 18 rushes accounted for just 23 yards.
It was up to Bridgewater to lead the Vikings offense and he did so by spreading the ball around. Once again, rookie Stefon Diggs was the primary receiver, catching six passes for 108 yards and a 36-yard touchdown. Mike Wallace added four catches, Jarius Wright caught three and Kyle Rudolph caught a one-handed touchdown, but it was a trio of one-hit wonders that made as a big a difference as any.
Three players caught just one pass, but all of them were huge. Down 16-7 in the second quarter, fullback Zach Line leaked out of the backfield for a catch and run of 49 yards that set up the Vikings’ first touchdown. Charles Johnson had just one catch, but it was a 21-yarder on a third-and-9 play inside the Vikings 20-yard line that kept a drive alive. Adam Thielen caught just one pass, but it was a 30-yarder that led to the field goal that put the Vikings up by two scores at 28-17.
“It was great as an offense to get going – having 11 different guys touch the football,” Bridgewater said. “It just shows that in this offense, everybody has a role. We’re excited and it was definitely important. The difference between being 4-2 and 3-3, we all know how important that was.”
For a player whose biggest criticism has been that he is more of a game manager than a quarterback who can carry the offense on his shoulders, for the second straight week, an opponent effectively shut down Peterson and told Bridgewater to beat them.
For the second straight week, he did that and the Vikings are now at 4-2 and looking forward to keeping their current momentum rolling.
GAME DAY NOTES
- Wright left the game late in the third quarter after reaching for a ball and slamming his helmet on the Ford Field turf. Wright is going through the concussion protocol.
- Thielen was also injured late in the game. On the punt play in the final minute where Jeff Locke ran out of the end zone for a safety to keep the lead at a two-possession game, Thielen went down in agony grabbing at his ankle. Zimmer did not address the injury at his press conference.
- When Peterson broke off his 75-yard run, it looked as though he had his ninth 100-yard rushing game in 14 career meetings with Detroit. After breaking off a 15-yard run late in the third quarter, Peterson was at 101 rushing yards. On the next carry, he lost two yards and never made it back up. The rest of the game he had five carries for minus-3 yards and finished with 98 yards on 19 carries for the day.
- Diggs became the first Vikings rookie since Randy Moss in 1998 to have three consecutive games with more than 80 receiving yards. In just three games, Diggs has 19 catches for 324 yards and took over the team lead in receiving yards from Mike Wallace.
- Diggs also caught his first career NFL touchdown on a diving catch that was a thing of beauty in the third quarter and will likely end up on his career highlight reel years from now as he looks to win the Pepsi Rookie of the Week for the second straight week.
- Kicker Blair Walsh, who missed field goal, a blocked field and a desperation 68-yarder come up short in last year’s loss at Ford Field, missed an extra point Sunday, but finished with 16 points after making all five of his field goal attempts, including a pair from beyond 50 yards.
- In his last two games, Walsh has scored 26 points. In his first four games combined, he scored 26 points.
- Because the Vikings scored seven times, the team didn’t have its first punt until less than nine minutes remained in the game.
- The Vikings sacked Matthew Stafford seven times, the most sacks in a game of his NFL career. Rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks had two, Everson Griffen had 1½, Chad Greenway, Harrison Smith and Tom Johnson each had one and Anthony Barr was credited with a half sack.
- The Lions sacked Bridgewater four times and knocked him to the turf on seven other occasions as they dialed up blitz pressure throughout the game.
- The Vikings outgained the Lions 425-274, which really didn’t tell the entire story. In the second and third quarters, Minnesota outgained Detroit 334-7 and the Lions gained 110 of their yards in the final 3:21 of the game going up against a prevent defense.
- The Vikings defense allowed the Lions to convert just one of 10 third-down plays. Minnesota converted five of 13 third downs on offense.
- The Vikings ran 74 offensive plays, as opposed to just 50 for Detroit.
- Detroit was effective when it ran the ball, averaging 4.5 yards a carry, but the Lions ran the ball just 17 times for 77 yards, while the Vikings ran 35 times for 140 yards.
- The Vikings came into the game as the least penalized team in the NFL and did nothing to hurt that number. The Vikings were flagged for just three penalties, two of them coming from Xavier Rhodes, who drew the assignment of shadowing Calvin Johnson across the field.
- The Vikings dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 36:27 of the game’s 60 minutes, as opposed to just 23:33 for Detroit.
- The possession dominance was most pronounced in the second and third quarters, as the Viking held the ball for 20:23 to just 9:37 for Detroit.
- Coming into the game, the Vikings had allowed just three points in the first quarter before allowing the Lions to put up 14 points. It was the first time in nine games that the Vikings allowed a first-quarter touchdown.
- With their win, the Vikings have won as many games on the road against the NFC North this season (1-0) as they have in the previous five years combined (1-13-1).
- At the start of his postgame press conference, Zimmer acknowledged the passing of Minnesota Timberwolves coach/general manager Flip Saunders. All of us at Viking Update extend our condolences to the Saunders family.