The Vikings improved to 5-0 with a 31-13 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday at US Bank Stadium. Here are some of the Berserker Viking’s takeaways from the win as Minnesota heads into its bye week.
- Things are getting awkward in the quarterback room: Let’s face it—we all know the elephant in the Vikings’ locker room is the quarterback situation. Teddy Bridgewater has been anointed as the ‘guy’ but right now Sam Bradford is the ‘man’. Bradford did nothing to quiet the rumblings that Bridgewater’s days in purple and gold might be numbered. No. 8 was once again efficient in leading the Minnesota offense, throwing a pair of touchdowns to Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson—avoiding turnovers in the process.
Bradford hung in the pocket in the face of pressure, taking big shots against the Texans while delivering passes with accuracy. He once again showed the ability to push it down field with a pair of deep completions to Thielen, thriving without No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs and a sub-par performances from Kyle Rudolph (not an indictment on Big Country) and left tackle C.J. Clemmings.
There have clearly been some schematic changes with Bradford under center and without Adrian Peterson. Minnesota is running a lot more shotgun sets (all six of Bradford’s touchdown passes have come from the gun, according to Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune), opting for the quick pass over offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s preferred seven-step drops. This isn’t to say Bridgewater wouldn’t be having the same success with similar tweaks.
Granted it has only been four games with Bradford at the helm and personally I think the organization loves Bridgewater too much to ditch him even if Bradford’s standout season continues. But with every 100+ quarterback rating the chatter will get a little louder that maybe Rick Spielman and crew should think about trading Bridgewater while his value is still high.
- Defensive line will not be silenced again: How much of high we were all on following the eight-sack performance against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers? Up in the clouds high—Snoop Dogg high. Things came crashing down to earth a bit against the Giants when the defense failed to register a sack. Well pump the panic brakes because the front seven balled out on Sunday. Brian Robison (2), Everson Griffin, er Griffen (1) and Danielle Hunter (1) reeked havoc on Brock Osweiler and the Houston offensive line. Filed under obvious: the Viking defense remains the team’s biggest strength, and if head coach Mike Zimmer can create pressure without blitzing, watch out NFC.
- We all got that good Thielen: When it was announced late in the week that Diggs was doubtful, raise your hand if you guessed Thielen would be the guy to catch a team-high seven passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Don’t worry—I’ll wait. I, like most us, was expecting this to be the game where we finally saw Laquon Treadwell. Well, not so much (but he is great a recovering onside/squib kicks). We got more Patterson (fist pump!), nothing from last week’s hero Charles Johnson (eye roll) and even some production from Jarius Wright (we’ve met before, right?). But it was Thielen’s career day that stole the show. Maybe opposing teams are still thinking this guy is just your run-of-the-mill white, practice-squad receiver and let’s hope they keep underestimating him because the boy can flat out play. Thielen smoked Jonathan Joseph on a double move for his first-quarter score and chemistry he has with Bradford is growing more evident on a weekly basis. If Thielen keeps taking advantage of opportunities like he did on Sunday, it could be awhile longer before fans get their first real glimpse of Treadwell.
- Marcus ‘Freaking’ Sherels: I proposed this question on Twitter (follow your boy @Berserker_Viking) after the game: who is the best punt returner in Viking history? The only name I could come up with rivaling Sherels is David Palmer. Who am I forgetting? The list is that short and Sherels is probably on the top of it. Nothing says football season is upon us like the annual fan begging for Minnesota to cut its native son. But every year somehow Sherels makes the roster and somehow finds ways to make an impact. Sunday, it was a 79-yard punt return touchdown, his second of the season. Whether you think the roster spot can be used in a wiser way or not, there is no denying Sherels’ elite ability in the return game. What message has Zimmer sent in his tenure to his players—he needs to trust who he puts on the field. No one is more reliable fielding punts than Sherels. Sure he may not break one every time (he gets pretty damn close) but rarely does he misfield a kick or make a mental mistake. The pitchforks will be out again next August, but I’ll be waiting (metaphorically) for him in the end zone.
- Patterson taking Treadwell’s reps: Vikings fans have been patiently waiting for their first-round wide receiver to see the field and help the offense. Well the fans are getting what they’ve been waiting for—just not from the first-round pick they expected. Patterson was on the field for 45 of the team’s 74 offensive snaps, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune while Treadwell saw just eight. Patterson’s second-half touchdown, a red-zone jump ball, is the type of play most envisioned Treadwell hauling in. It is still way too early to call Treadwell a bust—especially considering Zimmer’s track record of easing rookies into the mix, but it seems pretty clear that even without Diggs, Treadwell is firmly behind Thielen, Patterson, Wright and Johnson on the depth chart.