Teddy Bridgewater pulled a play out of Aaron Rodgers’ post-game presser playbook yesterday, letting the world know his Minnesota Vikings are more than ready to take on the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North title. Like Rodgers chugging a Grape Crush last season, Bridgewater enjoyed his own form of understated trolling after his team beat the Oakland Raiders in dominating 30-14 fashion.
With their win, the Vikings are not only 7-2, but one game clear of the Packers in the division. Next week’s Week 11 matchup, which was flexed to Fox’s marquee time slot, has taken on all new importance. What was just another divisional game before the season has become Minnesota’s biggest opportunity to claim supremacy in the NFC North. A win would put them two games ahead of Green Bay and firmly in the discussion for one of the NFC’s top seeds.
Bridgewater — and the rest of his Vikings teammates — aren’t listening to the hype, though. They’ve won five straight, but those wins won’t matter unless the Vikings reach the playoffs. Head coach Mike Zimmer continues to instill that mentality in his players, and it’s paying off:
“(Zimmer’s) favorite line is, ‘Don’t take the cheese,’ so we have to continue to stay motivated and continue to play with that chip on their shoulders,” Bridgewater said. “Don’t believe everything you hear, don’t believe everything you see. What matters most is the people who are around our facility every day, our coaching staff, personnel, decisions that they’re making, that’s what matters the most. We can’t buy into the newspaper clippings and things like that. We have to continue to stay grounded and continue to work hard.”
Do you think Zimmer’s favorite line coincidentally includes the word “cheese?” Or, has he been drilling home the importance of beating Green Bay since he arrived in Minnesota last year? Remember, his first game against Aaron Rodgers and Co. was a 42-10 embarrassment, and Zimmer isn’t the type to forget such losses quickly. Like his quarterback, who dropped to the bottom of the first round in the 2014 NFL Draft, Zimmer’s been dismissed, and it’s time to prove the naysayers wrong.
Bridgewater touched on that point after the game, telling media members that the Vikings are a team facing “new challenges” each week. “Every week when we come to work, there’s a stat,” he said. “Something we haven’t done — haven’t won on the West Coast, haven’t won after a bye, haven’t won three in a row.”
Check all three boxes. A win against the Raiders, a west coast team? Check. A win over the Kansas City Chiefs after their Week 5 bye? Check. And three straight wins over potential playoff contenders? Check. More than just their record, the Vikings are checking boxes in a number of different statistical categories.
Adrian Peterson looks like his 2012-self and leads the league with 961 yards rushing. His 80-yard touchdown scamper sealed the game for the Vikings on Sunday and punctuated what’s been arguably, an MVP-type season for the running back. Take this stat, for example — through nine games in 2012, Peterson had 957 yards rushing and finished the season a 2,000-yard rusher. At his current pace, Peterson would eclipse 1,700 yards and most likely become the first 30-year-old back to win the rushing title.
His return-to-form is helping the Vikings close out games late and control the time of possession. Minnesota is a top-four team when it comes to holding the football, averaging 32:52 minutes per game. Their dominance in that category is also leading to dominance on defense. The Vikings are the league’s best scoring defense, allowing just over 17 points per game. They’re also the only team to hold each of their opponents to 23 points or less — a testament to Mike Zimmer’s coaching and discipline on that side of the football.
Across the board, though, this is a well-coached and complete football team. The offense is loaded with young weapons, and though Teddy Bridgewater can’t always get them the football, they’re making plays in the game’s most critical moments (like Diggs’s 37-yard catch late in yesterday’s game). On defense, role players like Linval Joseph and newcomers like Terence Newman continue to make an impact. And on special teams, Marcus Sherels and Cordarrelle Patterson continue to prove their value as return men.
The cheese is there for the taking, but Mike Zimmer’s Vikings won’t steal it just yet. They’ve got their own Cheeseheads to deal with this Sunday.
Happy #PackersWeek, Vikings fans!