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Bridgewater Leads Vikings In Preseason Win Over Cardinals

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Based on Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s performance in his first Preseason game against the Oakland Raiders last Friday, it was pretty clear that quarterback Matt Cassel would start the first game of the regular season on September 7th against the St. Louis Rams. After Saturday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, Bridgewater’s case for Minnesota’s number 1 quarterback spot got much stronger.

Bridgewater finished Saturday night going 16/20 with 177 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Rodney Smith with 22 seconds left in the game. After looking flustered and overwhelmed against the Raiders, Bridgewater took control of the Vikings offense from the second he entered the game.

Cassel maintained his number 1 spot on Minnesota’s quarterback depth chart with his play against Arizona as well Saturday night. He threw a touchdown of his own to tight end Kyle Rudolph and finished 12/16 with 153 yards passing.

Bridgewater’s play against the Cardinals definitely has increased the pressure on Cassel to continue his consistent play in the regular season. The Vikings know that as soon as Cassel makes a mistake, the fans chants for Teddy will only get louder.

Rudolph is likely to be a more important part of Minnesota’s offense in 2014, and he gave Vikings fans a little preview against Arizona. Rudolph caught 4 passes for 89 yards which included a 51 yard touchdown catch on the second play of the 2nd quarter. 

For the second straight week, Minnesota did not turn the ball over. Even though the Cardinals fumbled twice, the Vikings were not able to recover either of those. However, not turning the ball on offense for 2 straight games is one thing Minnesota’s coaches can be proud of when reviewing the film from this game.

While the offense performed in spectacular fashion against the Cardinals, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer cannot be happy with the performance his defense put on the field Saturday night. After giving up 6 points to the Raiders in their first preseason game, the Vikings defense gave up 28 points (all touchdowns) to an Arizona offense that ranked 16th in the NFL in points per game in 2013.

 The Cardinals went 4/4 on 4th down and scored on all 4 times they were in the red zone. Minnesota was also flagged for 5 more penalties than against Oakland and ended the game with 10 penalties for a total of 102 yards. These are all aspects of the Vikings that need to be improved upon if they want to be successful in the regular season.

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One of the few bright spots on Minnesota’s defense against Arizona was rookie linebacker Anthony Barr. Barr all but secured a starting spot on the Vikings roster when he sacked Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton and forced a fumble in the 2nd quarter.

It won’t get any easier for the Vikings defense next week when they head to Kansas City to face a Chiefs team that was the 6th best scoring offense in 2013. Hopefully Zimmer and his staff can make enough adjustments in the upcoming week to produce a better performance from Minnesota’s defense when it takes the field in Kansas City.

On the other hand, the Vikings offense looks in mid-season form and an official starting quarterback announcement should come shortly after the conclusion of next week’s game. Saturday night’s game against Arizona proved that both Cassel and Bridgewater are more than capable of leading the Vikings offense and that’s all their fans can ask for.

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Rookies Shine As Vikings Defeat Raiders

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The Mike Zimmer era in Minnesota really could not have gotten off to a better start than it did on Friday night at TCF Bank Stadium. An opening drive touchdown and a Blair Walsh field goal proved to be all the VIkings needed as they won their first preseason game of 2014 by a score of 10-6 over the Oakland Raiders.

Quarterback Matt Cassel led the Vikings 1st team offense on a 10 play, 70 yard opening drive that ended with running back Matt Asiata rushing for a 1 yard touchdown and put Minnesota in front 7-0 early in the 1st quarter. Cassel looked impressive in the Vikings new offense, completing 5 of his 6 passes for 62 yards.

Two of those passes were to Minnesota wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who showed flashes (no pun intended, but maybe a little) of the big play ability in which VIkings fans became accustomed to at the end of last season. Tight end Kyle Rudolph also gave Minnesota fans a glimpse into what his role will be in the offense this season. Rudolph caught a pass from Cassel (who remained in the pocket and did not roll left) that turned into a 22 yard gain and put the Vikings on the Oakland 1 yard line.

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Cassel only played for one series which allowed rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to get a few snaps with Minnesota’s 1st team offense. Bridgewater finished the night going 6/13, 49 yards, and 0 touchdowns.

Vikings fans and coaches got to see what Bridgewater is capable of when he was able to use his athleticism and avoid the Raiders pass rush more than once on Friday night. He led Minnesota on a 10 play drive that ended with a 30 yard Blair Walsh FG and put the Vikings ahead 10-0. However, Minnesota’s fans also were reminded that Bridgewater is still a rookie and he is going to have his fair share of mistakes which happened to be in the form of a 1st quarter fumble and an 11 yard loss.

Bridgewater was not the only rookie that played with the Vikings 1st team against the Raiders. Running back Jerick McKinnon showed his blazing speed and elusiveness which was reminiscent of current Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush. McKinnon’s 45 yards on 12 carries was enough to lead Minnesota in rushing for the night. 

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Besides Bridgewater and the new offense, many Vikings fans were eager to see how their team’s new defense would look against the Raiders. Like the offense, the defense got off to a tremendous start and forced Oakland into two 3 and outs.

Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr registered his first sack as a Viking when he was able to bring down Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub to end the 1st quarter. Like Bridgewater, Barr also reminded Minnesota fans that he also is a rookie when he over-pursued Oakland running back Darren McFadden in the 1st quarter which led to a 23 yard gain by McFadden.

The overall scheme of the Vikings defense is completely different than what fans are used to seeing in Minnesota in recent seasons. There is more man coverage, more aggressive play-calling, and coverages are being disguised to confuse the opposing offenses. The scheme proved to work on Friday as the Vikings defense registered 2 sacks, and interception and only allowed one touchdown to the Raiders.

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Minnesota wide receiver Adam Thielen is one of the many looking to use these preseason games to make the Vikings final roster. Thielen, a Minnesota native, returned a punt 26 yards in the 1st quarter and later, while on the punt coverage team, made a tackle on Raiders punt returner Denarius Moore for a 4 yard loss at the end of the 2nd quarter.

Although the Vikings only finished with 10 total points the bottom line is that they won the game. It may have only been a preseason game, but to fans of this team, it was a sign of hope and a possible glimpse into what could be a bright future under head coach Mike Zimmer.   

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