The game itself was meaningless, but the energy at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday before the Minnesota Vikings hosted the San Diego Chargers in preseason football couldn’t be ignored.
It was the last real live action for most starters until the season begins at Tennessee in two weeks. But it was also the football debut for the Vikings’ new home. For many fans, it was their first time being there. Most of the players got introduced to the stadium for the first time Friday.
While the first-team players mostly had good days, the Vikings got devastating news Tuesday after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending non-contact injury in practice. While dropping back to pass during a team drill, he dislocated a knee and suffered a complete tear of his ACL.
Coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday the team will continue to fight and it would be a bad idea to count them out. Despite Bridgewater being out, here are six takeaways from Sunday’s game that show they can still compete.
With Bridgewater Out, Who Takes Over At QB?
We know this much, Teddy Bridgewater won’t play this season. It’s terrible news for a promising player and a better person. He was 12 of 16 passing Sunday for 161 yards and a touchdown. So what now? Shaun Hill is the current back-up and will likely start the opener at Tennessee. Joel Stave becomes the No. 2 behind him. But the Vikings have to bring in somebody else, right?
The potential candidates for that aren’t great, and they may not be much better than what the team already has. Some free agent names include Michael Vick and Zach Mettenberger. Could they try to trade for Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez? Look for the Vikings to see how Shaun Hill plays before they make any major changes. But they need to bring somebody in, heaven forbid, if Hill gets hurt.
Kyle Rudolph Catches First Touchdown
Kyle Rudolph has been outspoken about wanting to earn a bigger role in the Vikings passing offense. Though it didn’t count for anything Sunday, Rudolph has to feel good about his game Sunday. He caught three passes for 56 yards and a touchdown over the middle on a beautiful pass by Bridgewater lobbed over a linebacker looking for an interception.
Rudolph will be looked at to step up and make plays even more with Bridgewater out.
Defense Shines Again
Other than a 39-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon, the Vikings’ defense had another solid effort Sunday across the board. Harrison Smith got an interception on a pass deflected by Trae Waynes. Jayron Kearse and Mackensie Alexander also had interceptions. Justin Trattou added two sacks. Sunday was another positive step if the Vikings are hoping their defense will take their team to another level.
If the Vikings have any playoff aspirations, they’ll need an elite defense.
Blair Walsh Perfect In New Stadium
We all know the two words associated with Blair Walsh: Wide left. That will stay until he makes a winning kick in the playoffs. But he was a perfect 3-for-3 on Sunday indoors, making field goals from 23 and 33 yards in the first quarter. He was also good from 23 yards in the fourth quarter. One of the big adjustments to make in the new stadium is in the kicking game, especially when the large glass doors are open. We won’t know more until games count, but Walsh is off to a good start at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Berger Wins Battle Over Sullivan For Starting Center Spot
Joe Berger and John Sullivan said during training camp and preseason to not read into anything, but there was clearly a battle ongoing for the starting center spot on the offensive line. Berger got the first-team reps on Sunday while Sullivan was held out. Mike Zimmer said at the time it was largely because he knows what he has in Sullivan and wanted to get another look at Berger playing center. Berger played there most of last season while Sullivan was out with a back injury. Berger did enough to win the job as Sullivan was released on Tuesday after nine seasons in Minnesota. The offensive line will have to be at the top of its game all year now that there is uncertainty with the quarterback situation.
Several Key Players Don’t See Field
For the most part, the key players that didn’t play Sunday were either for rest or as a precaution. We know Adrian Peterson won’t see the field until Week 1, he said as much last week. Players that didn’t dress Sunday included Everson Griffen, Matt Kalil, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Harris, Rhett Ellison and Scott Crichton. If it were a regular season game, Griffen, Kalil and Rhodes would’ve played. Ellison is still recovering from offseason knee surgery but should be on the field soon. Harris is fighting for a roster spot, and Crichton was waived on Tuesday.
The last preseason game is Thursday night and most projected regular season starters won’t play. It’s a game meant to determine the last few spots on the 53-man roster and the practice squad. Despite Bridgewater’s injury, the Vikings believe they can still win a lot of games and compete. It’s up to everyone across the board to help out, now it’s just a matter of acting on those words.