The Sunday night prime-time game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers came down to the last minute, with either team able to claim victory until Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes secured an interception of an Aaron Rogers pass to shut down Green Bay’s final drive and allow the Vikings to run out the clock to seal the win.
Newly acquired starting quarterback Sam Bradford quieted a lot of concerns with his performance in the game:
For a guy best known for his injury history when he arrived here 15 days ago, Sam Bradford sure earned a lot of points for not backing down from a beating in his Minnesota Vikings debut Sunday night.
“That dude is one tough (expletive),” Vikings guard Alex Boone told USA TODAY Sports after Bradford completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns (and officially took 10 hits) in a 17-14 triumph over the rival Green Bay Packers.
“There was a couple times he got hit – I thought he was dead. He wasn’t moving, so I had to pick him up. I’m like, ‘Sam, don’t be dead.’ Next play: bullet. You’re going, ‘Jesus, this guy’s a beast!’”
The Vikings needed that production and resiliency from their new quarterback on a night they again struggled to get star running back Adrian Peterson going before he was carried to the locker room in the third quarter with a right knee injury.
Peterson had minimal swelling and could extend his leg after the game, providing optimism he avoided a season-ending ACL tear – an injury Bradford is familiar with, since two of them are responsible for 25 of the 35 starts he missed because of health in his first six NFL seasons.
Bradford, 28, did go briefly to the locker room Sunday for an X-ray after taking a helmet to his left (non-throwing) hand on the Vikings’ first touchdown drive, causing nasty swelling from his wrist to his pinkie that was captured by NBC’s cameras.
“It was nice and fat,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said of Bradford’s hand. “But he’s gutsy. Just to stand in there and take hit after hit – it speaks volume of him as a player and a person.”
Equally impressive: Bradford outplayed two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers with all of two weeks to learn Norv Turner’s offense and about a half-dozen practices under his belt, including three last week getting most of the reps after veteran backup Shaun Hill started the opener.
Before his injury, Peterson was still struggling to find space to run, as the run blocking wasn’t opening up lanes for him and he was ending up with zero or negative yards on several attempts.
For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers didn’t have one of his better games: at one point, there were more pass interference penalty yards than offensive yards. Veteran cornerback Terence Newman was the goat on back-to-back PI penalties that moved the Packers down to the goal line, and Trae Waynes (starting for the injured Xavier Rhodes) was flagged multiple times (and as the TV commentators pointed out, usually he was in good position but being too obviously “grabby” and the officials were watching).
The accolades awarded to Stefon Diggs after his game last week will be redoubled after he put up career-high numbers last night:
After his 182-yard performance on Sunday Night Football, Stefon Diggs was quick to point out that N’Sync is just a band and not how he would describe the first time he and Sam Bradford. His game said otherwise.
In the Minnesota Vikings’ 17-14 win over the Green Bay Packers, Diggs proved to be the best wide receiver Bradford has ever had. He also showed the national TV audience that – for the first time since Randy Moss – a wide receiver is now the centerpiece of the Vikings’ offense.
“I wouldn’t say ‘in sync’ I don’t know too much about N’Sync [except] the band, but [Bradford] does everything the right way,” Diggs said. “He works hard, he comes in every day an we communicate. To get on the same page, you have to communicate. Throughout practice and games, he tells me what he sees, I tell him what I see and we try to make it work.”
Not only did he make a spectacular touchdown catch that turned out to be the game-winning score, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner called for a pass play toward Diggs on third down with 1:40 seconds remaining and the Packers out of timeouts. A pass interference call on Green Bay essentially ended the game. There is no bigger sign of confidence than that.
Diggs got open in every way possible against the Packers, finding holes in zones, turning short passes into long gains and going deep. He caught a 44-yard pass from Bradford on the team’s final drive of the first half that led to a Blair Walsh field goal.
Indicative of his mentality, Diggs’ first comment after the game was not about his nine catches on 11 targets, it was about an unsportsmanlike penalty he took in the fourth quarter.
“That won’t happen again,” he said.