The Minnesota Vikings have a quarterback problem. . .again. Only this time around, the problem is that they have two quarterbacks that are playing some really, really good football.
Both Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater were impressive on Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium, but it was the youngster that keyed an exciting comeback victory over the Arizona Cardinals, as his last-second touchdown pass game the team a 30-28 victory.
After Minnesota was forced to punt on their opening possession, the Cardinals sliced through the Minnesota defense on a nine-play, 93 yards drive that featured a couple of big completions, one to Larry Fitzgerald and one to Jaron Brown. The drive concluded with a 1-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Dwyer, and the Cardinals found themselves ahead 7-0.
The Vikings attempted to answer back, putting together a drive that featured a nice pass from Cassel to Jerome Simpson to keep the drive alive and a 23-yard run from Cassel himself. . .a guy that isn't exactly known for his running skills. The Vikings got all the way down to the 3, but were forced to settle for three from number three, as Blair Walsh hit a 21-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.
Minnesota took the lead on their next possession, following a nice punt return by Marcus Sherels to set Minnesota up at their own 38. On the second play of the drive, Cassel took a shotgun snap and fired an impressive pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph made one guy miss, got a nice block from rookie Jerick McKinnon, and went the rest of the way for a 51-yard touchdown to make the score 10-7.
Arizona was forced to punt on their next possession, and Blair Walsh missed a 51-yard field goal when the Vikings got the ball back. Given good field position, the Cardinals put together another nice scoring drive, moving 59 yards in 11 plays, the big hit being a 35-yard pass from backup Drew Stanton to Brown to take the ball down to the Minnesota 3. The Vikings defense held, and the Cardinals chose to go for it on fourth down, with Stanton finding Darren Fells on a 1-yard scoring pass to give Arizona the lead back at 14-10.
The Vikings got another Blair Walsh field goal before halftime, and the Cardinals' final drive of the first quarter was snuffed out on a strip-sack by rookie Anthony Barr to make the halftime number 14-13 in favor of the visitors. Cassel finished his night having completed 12-of-16 passes for 153 yards and the touchdown pass to Rudolph.
The Cardinals' offense picked up where they left off in the second half, as they embarked on a huge 19-play, 80-yard drive that ate up over ten minutes of game time to start the third quarter. Robert Hughes scored on a 2-yard run for the Cardinals to put them back up 21-13.
Then, it was Teddy time.
Bridgewater took over at quarterback and led the Vikings down the field. He found Adam Thielen on a couple of nice throws, and Joe Banyard rambled 56 yards to take the ball down to the Arizona 5-yard line, setting up a first and goal. Unfortunately, that drive only led to another 21-yard field goal by Blair Walsh, and the deficit was cut to 21-16.
The Cardinals went three-and-out on their next drive, and Bridgewater took over again. He again found Thielen twice for thirty yards to move the Vikings into Cardinals territory, and after pass interference penalty against Arizona put the ball on the Arizona 4, Bridgewater found Allen Reisner two plays later on a 3-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion to Jarius Wright made the score 24-21.
The teams then exchanged punts, and third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley led Arizona down to the Minnesota 6-yard line. The Cardinals faced a fourth down with time winding down, and things got a little strange. Lindley mishandled a shotgun snap, and as the ball bounced around, an offensive lineman for Arizona batted the ball away from the pile-up. . .a move that probably should have been penalized. No flag was thrown, however, and Zach Bauman picked up the loose ball and went into the end zone to put the Cardinals back up on top 28-24.
The Vikings started their final drive from their own 17, and Bridgewater was spectacular. He found Rodney Smith twice to get the ball to the Minnesota 33, and hit Wright for 12 more yards before the Vikings burned their first time out with 47 seconds left. He then hit Smith again for 37 yards down to the Arizona 18. Next, he found Kain Colter on an 8-yard completion down to the Arizona 10, and a roughing the passer penalty moved it down to the Arizona 5. After a defensive holding penalty on the Cardinals and Bridgewater's lone incompletion of the drive, he found Smith on a sweet 2-yard fade for the go-ahead touchdown. Blair Walsh missed the extra point. . .strange. . .but the Vikings still had their final margin of victory as they held on, 30-28.
Bridgewater finished his night completing sixteen of twenty attempts for 177 yards and two scores, a significantly better performance than the one he fashioned against the Oakland Raiders in the team's pre-season opener.
The Vikings finish the home portion of their pre-season schedule with a 2-0 mark. Next week, they will travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs (who will play their second pre-season game on Sunday night against the Carolina Panthers) before a trip to take on the Tennessee Titans to finish the pre-season schedule.