The Detroit Lions traveled to Minneapolis and TCF Bank Stadium last Sunday and soundly beat the Minnesota Vikings. On a day in which the Vikings continued to play without beleaguered running back Adrian Peterson and sat tight end Kyle Rudolph, and the Detroit Lions were without Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, neither offense was potent. The Lions were able to ride their league-best defense to a win over the Vikings. Here are a few thoughts from the game.
The Teddy Bridgewater Hype Stalled
Coming into the game on Sunday, Minnesota Vikings fans were hanging now-and-future hopes on first year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater was very impressive in his first start against the Atlanta Falcons. However, while the Falcons are among the league’s worst defensive teams, the Lions are among the best. Bridgewater was under duress all day, playing from behind, and not getting much help from the running game. On a day when he was sacked eight times and hit another 12, Bridgewater was only able to complete 23 of 37 passes for 188 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions. On the plus side, he kept his eyes downfield and worked to find open receivers. As rushed as Bridgewater was, he did not lose poise.
While it is hard to place too much blame on Bridgewater for the performance, it is also impossible not to notice how disappointed fans in his play. On numerous occasions TCF Stadium buzzed with chants of “Teddy, Teddy, Teddy.” It is obviously still early in Bridgewater’s career. Here is what we know so far: he can play good against bad defenses, and was not ready for a defense that, again, is currently the top-rated unit in the league. That meets expectations for a rookie quarterback who has some talent.
Viking Playmakers need to do Better
If Bridgewater is to succeed, he needs more help from playmakers on the Vikings’ offense. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was reportedly bothered by a hip injury during the game, and caught just two balls for 15 yards. Jarius Wright and Greg Jennings were each targeted six times, and caught 4 and 3 passes respectively. Neither was able to gain even 35 yards, with Wright only tallying 17. Each of those receivers was credited with a drop, and the Vikings have the second-most drops in the league this year, per ESPN.
Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon was almost a bright spot for Minnesota, having rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries against a stout Detroit front seven. He also caught 6 balls for another 42 yards. However, his backfield mate, Matt Asiata, also had a drop, letting a ball slide through his hands for an easy Lions interception. Asiata also had just two carries for -5 yards.
The Defense Held its Own
On a more positive note, on a day when the offense helped very little, the Vikings defense gave up just 17 points. It is true that the Lions’ kicking woes continued, and the Lions left 6 points on the field with missed field goals. Nevertheless, the defense was on the field for 32 minutes and continually faced a Lions team that, particularly in the second half, had good starting field position. Overall it was a very solid effort.
Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr continued to play well, showing good range in the running game, and at times covering well downfield. The Vikings totaled four sacks of quarterback Matt Stafford, and hit him another five times. Josh Robinson and Xavier Rhodes were both good covering Detroit’s wide receivers on the edge. If the defense can put in similar performances in the future, the Vikings should have a better opportunity to win most games.
The Vikings travel to Buffalo and Tampa Bay to close the month of October, before hosting the Washington Racaialists on November 2. The following week is their bye. They should be able to win at least two of those games and be hovering around .500 a little past the midway point of the season.