Vikings go from bad to worse
By Chris TomassonSt. Paul Pioneer Press NEW ORLEANS -- First, Adrian Peterson was banished. Then Jerome Simpson was released. Now, Matt Cassel has gone down in a heap. More bad news hit the Vikings on Sunday when their starting quarterback was lo...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
NEW ORLEANS - First, Adrian Peterson was banished. Then Jerome Simpson was released. Now, Matt Cassel has gone down in a heap.
More bad news hit the Vikings on Sunday when their starting quarterback was lost due to a broken left foot in a 20-9 defeat to New Orleans at the Superdome. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater took over in the second quarter, and he’s now Minnesota’s starter.
There haven’t been many tougher weeks in Vikings history than the past one.
Peterson, a star running back indicted Sept. 12 in Texas on a charge of child abuse, was put on the NFL’s except list last Wednesday and is probably done for the season.
Simpson, a wide receiver, was let go the next day after yet another incident surfaced on him, this one for being ticketed for having marijuana and an open bottle of alcohol in his car while driving on a restricted driver’s license.
“We finally get out there and get all the turmoil this week behind us,’’ fullback Jerome Felton said of taking the field Sunday.
Well, not exactly. Early in the second quarter, with the Vikings trailing 13-0, Cassel scrambled for a 5-yard gain.
Cassel hurt his left foot and X-rays soon showed it was broken. The Vikings aren’t sure yet if he’ll need surgery and whether it’s a season-ending injury, but is known Bridgewater will make his first NFL start next Sunday against Atlanta at TCF Bank Stadium.
“No one is going to feel sorry for us,’’ Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said of all the team’s recent problems.. “No one is going to cry that we don’t have this guy or that guy. And we’re certainly not going to make excuses about it.’’
It certainly helps the Vikings’ outlook that Cassel, who tied his career high with four interceptions Sept. 14 in a 30-7 loss to New England, looked as if he was soon to be replaced anyway by Bridgewater. And Bridgewater was solid in his NFL debut.
Bridgewater completed 12 of 20 passes for 150 yards. He led the Vikings to a pair of field goals, although he couldn’t get them in the end zone.
“I think I did pretty well for the most part,’’ Bridgewater said. “I missed a couple of easy throws, but overall I thought it was a good performance. But there are areas where I need to improve.’’
Had it not been for one controversial play, Bridgewater might have had a chance to lead the Vikings on a game-wining touchdown drive. On the last play of the third quarter, with the Saints leading 13-9, quarterback Drew Brees was sacked by Minnesota cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Robert Blanton at the New Orleans 23, apparently setting up a punt.
But Munnerlyn, who threw Brees to the turf, was called for unnecessary roughness, a 15-yard penalty. That led to Brees throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston with 12:28 remaining for what turned out to be an insurmountable 20-9 lead.
“We’ll look at the tape, but you can’t throw the quarterback down,’’ Zimmer said. “I thought we had good momentum going on (before the penalty). We were frustrating them a little bit offensively.’’
After Brees led the Saints to touchdowns on their first two drives, the Vikings did frustrate him for a bit. But he got going again after Munnerlyn’s penalty and finished the day 27 of 35 for 293 yards with two touchdowns.
“That just happened to be the catalyst,’’ said Brees, who was angry about the penalty.
The Vikings, meanwhile, couldn’t score other than field goals of 25, 30 and 40 yards by Blair Walsh. It marked the first time they failed to score a touchdown since a 21-3 loss to the New York Giants on Dec. 13, 2010, a span of 53 games.
“That’s the story of the game,’’ said Vikings guard Brandon Fusco. “Drove the ball nice a couple of drives and just couldn’t finish. That’s the difference, three field goals (for Minnesota) to three touchdowns (for New Orleans); 21-20 would have won the game.’’
Another story line was the Vikings’ inability to run the ball. With Matt Asiata, Peterson’s replacement, gaining just 35 yards on 12 carries, Minnesota had just 59 on 22 totes as a team, a paltry average of 2.7 yards per carry.
When Peterson was inactive for the loss to the Patriots, the Vikings gained just 54 yards rushing. That’s 113 in two games, which is sometimes what Peterson gains by himself in a half.
“That’s something we got to get done to help our team, so we need to run the football better,’’ Felton said.
The quest will continue against the Falcons when the Vikings will have to make do without both the starting quarterback and running back they had to begin the season.
The Pioneer Press is in a media partnership with Forum News Service.