Bridgewater, Secondary Star in US Bank Stadium Christening

In the first half of football ever played in the Minnesota Vikings’ new home, a crowd of over 66,000 bellowed as their beloved Purple cruised to a 23-10 victory.

Harrison Smith got them roaring with an interception on the team’s fourth defensive play, Teddy Bridgewater pushed decibel levels over 100 with an ankle-breaking gallop, then brought it to its feet with an uber-efficient two-minute drive that gave the Vikings a halftime lead and sent the starters out of the game on a brilliant note.

“It was way louder [than the Metrodome] I thought,” said left guard Alex Boone, who played there in 2012 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

“It’s awesome, man,” said defensive end Justin Trattou, who recorded two sacks. “I’ve played in pretty much almost every stadium in the league. This thing is by far the best one I’ve ever played in.”

After not playing in the team’s second preseason game with a sore shoulder, Bridgewater shined in his first rendezvous inside the new domed stadium. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown. He was in perfect sync with Stefon Diggs, who caught five passes for 71 yards, mostly on crossing patterns that gave him the ability to catch balls in stride and tack on yards after catch.

Bridgewater’s finest sequence occurred in the hurry-up offense immediately after the two-minute warning. Bridgewater found Charles Johnson for 19 yards over the middle to move the chains, led Stefon Diggs on a toss near the sideline for 22 yards and capped off the drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, who hauled it in over college teammate Manti Te’o.

Three plays, three completions, 68 yards, touchdown.

“Coach Zim does a good job stressing in practice situational football,” said Johnson after the game. “We do two-minute a lot. When I saw the time winding down I was like, ‘We might get the ball back for two-minute.’ That was a situation that, as a team going into the game, we knew we wanted to work on.”

“We hadn’t had a two-minute situation in the preseason,” said Rudolph, who finished the day with three grabs and 56 yards despite losing a fumble in the second quarter. “We do it all the time in practice, but to get some live action out of it was good for us, and I don’t think we could have executed any better starting with Teddy back in the pocket. … I don’t think it’s possible for Teddy to get more calm.”

It was tough to tell which play created more buzz: Bridgewater’s touchdown toss or his 22-yard run in the first quarter where he juked safety Adrian Phillips. “When you have a guy like Adrian Peterson who you’re handing the ball off to in practice and he’s making moves, you take notes,” quipped Bridgewater.

It was nearly a mistake-free day for the quarterback. Only a pair of missed red zone opportunities were stuck in his craw, particularly an errantly-thrown fade to Charles Johnson on a second-down play from the 5-yard line. Bridgewater also had a pass knocked down by Kyle Emanuel that likely would have been caught by Zach Line for a touchdown on the following drive.

“We need to get better at it for sure,” said Zimmer. “I thought we did a great job getting down there, but we gotta come away with touchdowns. We’re going to reevaluate again. We’re going to keep working at it just like we did with the running game. We gotta do better.”

On the other side of the ball, the Vikings made up for a sloppy second quarter in which they allowed 10 points by intercepting San Diego three times. Smith, the veteran safety, along with two rookies, Jayron Kearse and Mackensie Alexander, contributed to a four-turnover day that kept San Diego from scoring after halftime.

Alexander’s may have been the most impressive. After dropping an easy interception two plays earlier, the former Clemson Tiger reached over a Chargers wide receiver, tipped the ball up and came down with it in the back of the end zone. “I read it and jumped and made the play,” said Alexander. “It was harder actually. The first one was easier; I caught the harder ball.”

“I love this kid,” Zimmer said of his second-round pick. “He’s a competitor, he works, he studies, he fights, he’s made some interceptions here in the offseason.”

Slippery Turf?

It appeared like some players had issues with their footing on the new US Bank Stadium turf. This wouldn’t be the first time a new stadium had turf issues. Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco hosted the Super Bowl last year and got scathed for its bad playing conditions. On Sunday, three Vikings looked like they slipped during kick returns near the south end zone, including Cordarrelle Patterson.

“The turf, it was a little slick to me,” said Patterson. “Just because it’s so new and it was our first time really running on it. We ain’t really got our feet right and stuff. Gotta get used to the cleats you’ve been wearing. I slipped one time on a kickoff return. I feel like it was the turf.”

Other reports around the locker room were generally positive concerning the turf. Boone called it “bouncy.” Smith believed it was consistent with other turf fields across the league. Zimmer said, “I think it’s fine. There might have been a couple slips.”

Injury Report

The Vikings had three players suffer injuries on Sunday. Safety Michael Griffin’s back flared up, causing him to exit early. Antone Exum, Jr., was carted off with a leg injury and received an MRI. MyCole Pruitt also hurt his knee diving for the end zone in the third quarter and received an MRI as well.


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