Week Four Player Of The Game: Cast Your Vote!
The Minnesota Vikings are currently 2-2 headed into an early bye week and firmly behind the Green Bay Packers in the great race for the NFC North crown. Still, the latest road loss provided some hope that this team isn’t too far behind the truly great ones, and this segment is all about focusing on the positive individual performances of the week.
Last week, in one of the closest votes in the history of this heralded (by me) award, safety Harrison Smith edged out running back Adrian Peterson for the weekly honors. Peterson won the honors in Week Two and linebacker Anthony Barr got it in the debacle that took place in Week One. You can always keep tabs on the weekly results by bookmarking our Schedule Page.
The 23-20 loss didn’t yield an enormous amount of dominating performances on the part of the Vikings, but there were enough standouts to make this week’s poll another interesting one. Read about the nominees and then cast your vote below.
This first nomination seems a bit forced considering a number of negatives from Sunday’s passing attack, but there is no denying Bridgewater the credit he deserves for standing strong during a tough afternoon. Some previous Vikings quarterbacks would have folded like a lawn chair after that initial drive, but Teddy kept leading that offense as best as he could despite the onslaught of pass rushers consistently breathing down his neck.
Bridgewater ended up throwing the ball 41 times (completing 27) for 269 yards and a touchdown against an incredibly stingy Denver defense. He lost 57 yards on seven sacks while also running on three occasions for 23 yards. Behind a better line, I think it is fair to wonder if Bridgewater wouldn’t have had the best game of his young career.
He did cough up the football to end the game, however.
Mike Wallace showed some nice route running ability, his trademark speed, and some feisty toughness after the catch. He hauled in eight of Bridgewater’s passes which led the team and was able to convert it into 83 yards. He also snagged the only touchdown to a wide out for this team so far in 2015.
Last week, I gave rookie cornerback Trae Waynes a nomination for stepping in when called upon and performing admirably. This week, it was Stefon Diggs that saw his first meaningful action and turned some heads with limited opportunities.
Diggs caught six balls for a team-leading 87 yards. He displayed some playmaking ability and Bridgewater is clearly comfortable throwing him the ball, making it likely that Diggs sees an expanding role in the offense as time wears on.
He did cough up the football twice, however, but neither resulted in turnovers.
If there was a Viking that was playing in a dominating fashion this week, it was nose tackle Linval Joseph whose presence was felt in both the running and passing game. Joseph had three tackles on the running back, one for a loss, and got his hands up to disrupt a Peyton Manning pass at one point. He was also a source of pressure for Manning on early-down passing plays.
Not to tilt the scales, but I’m going to have a tough time voting for anyone other than Joseph this week.
Anthony Barr probably isn’t a household name outside of Minnesota yet, but I think that time is coming.
Once again, Barr used his impressive measurables and superior instincts to impact a game in multiple ways… big ways. He ended up with a team-leading six tackles and an interception. The pick was only one (maybe two) tackles away from being taken to the house, but the turnover turned the tide in this one and gave the Vikings a fighting chance when they most needed it.
The second interception Peyton Manning threw on Sunday went to Harrison Smith, who seems like a big-play-every-game type of player as he enters the prime of his career. Smith otherwise had a noticeably low total of two tackles on Sunday, but he was his usual self and was flying around the field like the predator he is.
A week after rattling Philip Rivers with a big hit, Smith caused wide out Demaryius Thomas to exit the game after a big (and probably not legal) hit. If Smith isn’t already, he is on pace to be the NFL’s most feared tackler by the end of this season.