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Vikings Answer Skeptics in Defeat

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December 11, 2015

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The Vikings and their fans can feel additional confidence after last night’s 23-20 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona.  Predictions earlier this week were the Vikings would not only lose but by a big score.

It was known during the week the Vikings would play without three of their best defensive players and that unit would be reshuffled with lesser personnel.  Teddy Bridgewater was coming off a disappointing performance last Sunday in a 38-7 loss against the Seahawks, and Seattle linebacker Bruce Ervin said the second-year quarterback played scared.

The Vikings showed a character check last night, playing the Cardinals to a 10-10 halftime tie before losing by a field goal in the fourth quarter.  With the win the Cardinals, now 11-2, further positioned themselves among elite teams in the NFL.  The Vikings, 8-5, are no longer in first place in the NFC North but still are having a season that is surprising critics who didn’t see them as a serious threat to unseat the Packers as division champions, and thought even less of Minnesota after an opening game 20-3 loss to the mediocre 49ers.

Teddy Bridgewater (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings.)

Teddy Bridgewater (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings.)

Bridgewater threw for a career high 335 yards and had a passer rating of 108 last night.  That kind of work will be needed the rest of the season when the Vikings play the Bears and Giants at home, before closing out at Green Bay.  No one, including critics, should be surprised if the Vikings win two or three of those games against the Bears and Giants, both with 5-7 records, and the 8-4 Packers.

If the Vikings follow the lead of head coach Mike Zimmer and his staff, good things should continue to develop in their march to the playoffs.  After last Sunday afternoon’s game in Minneapolis against the Seahawks, Zimmer let it be known he expected his players to prepare their bodies for a short week of practice and Thursday’s game in Arizona.  The majority of them headed for Winter Park before nightfall on Sunday.  “We followed suit,” said placekicker Blair Walsh on Tuesday.

Three days of rest and rehab is different than the typical Sunday to Sunday game schedule.  “You don’t come in Sunday after the game usually, unless you’re severely hurt or you need treatment,” Walsh said.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd arrived at about 4:30 p.m. and stayed for more than one hour.  Massages, foam rollers and cold tubs are used by players to revitalize worn bodies targeted since training camp last summer.

“It’s just hard work,” Floyd said about the rehab.  “You can’t complain about it, you just gotta do it…nowadays.”

Key defensive players Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith were unable to play last night because of injuries.  But Floyd said earlier in the week it does no good for the team to worry about the injured and absent.

“Never worry.  If you worry you’re setting yourself up for failure,” he said.  “No need to worry.  Just come in with a game plan and fight as hard as possible.  That’s all we ask for.  We’re not asking you to do something out of the ordinary, just come do your job and be prepared to play tough.”

Even the critics can’t knock the Vikings’ effort last night.

Worth Noting

Tom Moore, who turned 77 last month and was an assistant coach for the Gophers in the 1970s and Vikings in the 1990s, is assistant head coach of the Cardinals.  This is his 51st season of coaching, 37th in the NFL.  Moore attended high school in Rochester, Minnesota and played college football at Iowa.

The Cardinals have sold out every game at University of Phoenix Stadium since the retractable roof facility opened in 2006, and noisy crowds provide the team with a home field advantage.  Dating back to 2006 and going into last night’s game against the Vikings, Cardinals’ opponents had 132 false start penalties, the most in any NFL stadium during that period.

Both Sports Illustrated and the National Football League Players Association have ranked the playing surface at University of Phoenix Stadium best in the NFL.  The playing surface is natural grass that can be moved outside in one giant tray to grow and be effectively maintained, and then put in place for Cardinals games.

It’s an oddity having the Vikings last night, then the Wild tonight and the Timberwolves on Sunday all playing games in the Phoenix area over a four-day period.

Andy Dalton, the Bengals quarterback who the Vikings could have drafted, has thrown for 3,000 yards in all five of his first NFL seasons.  Only Peyton Manning has done that.  In the 2011 NFL Draft the Vikings chose Christian Ponder with the No. 12 selection in the first round.  The Bengals selected Dalton with the third pick in the second round.

Glenn Caruso

Glenn Caruso

More than half of the St. Thomas football roster could play Division II football, according to Tommies head coach Glenn Caruso.  The talented Tommies, 13-0, host 12-0 Linfield tomorrow in a 2:30 p.m. Division III semifinals game.  The Tommies have reached the semifinals for the third time in five years.

Caruso said Linfield has been a favorite since week one of the season to win the national title.  “They are supremely loaded with talent,” he said.

Linfield will need to not only match the Tommies’ talent but also Caruso’s willingness to take risks.  A trick play or surprise move like an onside kick is who the Tommies are.  Caruso believes too many coaches are “risk averse.”

Would Caruso welcome moving indoors to U.S. Bank Stadium if the Tommies are playing home December playoff games in future years?   “I don’t want to give away home field advantage (outdoors and on campus),” he said.

The Tommies, though, would consider a regular season game in the new Minneapolis stadium—perhaps against legendary rival Saint John’s.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has heard the rumors Prince and Jimmy Jam Harris have interest in buying the team but said no one representing them has approached him.

Among the highlights of the Minnesota prep basketball season will be tomorrow’s annual Breakdown Sports Tip Off Classics at Minnetonka High School involving boys and girls teams.  Class 4-A boys powers Apple Valley and Hopkins play at 3:45 p.m. in the most anticipated game.  The schedule of games throughout the day and into the evening will showcase nationally ranked prep players including two seniors who are Gophers recruits, Amir Coffey from Hopkins and Michael Hurt whose Rochester John Marshall team plays an 8 p.m. game against Shakopee.

Hurt’s brother and teammate Matthew is a Rivals.com five-star recruit in the class of 2019.  Other players in the tournament being followed nationally include Tre Jones and Gary Trent Jr. from Apple Valley, and Theo John and McKinley Wright from Champlin Park.  Class 4-A Champlin Park plays 3-A DeLaSalle at 7 p.m. in another anticipated game.

Two of the winningest college hockey coaches face each other tonight and tomorrow evening in Ann Arbor.  Michigan coach Red Berenson has won 818 games while the Gophers Don Lucia has 680 victories.  The two rank second and third for most wins, with Boston College’s Jerry York first with 997.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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