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Stock Market Report: Falcons

Teddy Bridgewater had a coming out party, and it was a ball

Adam Bettcher

Like Chris said in his 'Peace In Our Time' piece (and yes, invoking Neville Chamberlain does warrant a head slap but we'll talk about that off line) it's been a couple of the most trying weeks for our favorite franchise, both on and off the field.

And because of that, we needed a reason to buy in on this team again. Was that fair to Mike Zimmer? No, it wasn't, and what happened wasn't his fault, but this season was on the verge of becoming a lost one. So as a fan base, we had done a dangerous thing--and I was just as guilty as the next fan, mind you--but we had put all our chips on the table with Teddy Bridgewater. We went all in on this kid, based on, largely, three things:

1) Rick Spielman's trade on draft night that fired us up and got us one of the two biggest QB names in the draft

2) An impressive pre-season

3) A relief appearance that gave us a lot of reasons to be hopeful, but was by no means eye popping

That was it. If you were an outsider, you would've thought us mad, by and large. And to be honest, most non-fans thought we were. I'm not a guy that makes wagers on the regular, but letting it all ride on an unproven rookie quarterback and no discernible running game was a bet not even the most seasoned gambler would make.

But we did, and it paid off, big time. And while I was watching Teddy Bridgewater become The Franchise Quarterback and The Face of the Franchise over the course of about three hours yesterday, we had the time of our life, didn't we Mr. Green Day?

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos and memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth it was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

Your SMR that rolls up over 550 yards of offense and saves the season follows. GUYS GUYS OVER 550 YARDS!!

Blue Chip Stocks:

Tedddy Bridgewater, QB: Most of you who read this never saw Reggie Jackson play baseball, or might not even know who he is. Back in the '70's he famously said that he was the 'straw that stirs the drink' for the New York Yankees. Bridgewater is not a 'me first' guy like Reggie was, but it became clear to anyone who watched this offense go from a Vespa to a 'Vette that Bridgewater is now The Chief Bartender in Minnesota. His performance against Atlanta was beyond his years, and the Vikings are no longer bringing up the rear in the NFC North Arms race. I first sat up and took notice his third play, when he audibled out of the called play and checked into a bubble screen to Jarius Wright. Wright's blocker's set up a wall, and 52 yards later the Vikings were in business. Numbers aside, and they were impressive enough, Bridgewater is real deal. Finally, it appears, the Vikings have a guy that can run an offense.

And his detractors can say it was a fluke, or that the Falcons are a bad defense (they are), but consider: the Vikings had 558 yards of offense on Sunday, a total they hadn't put up since 2004. They also had a 300 yard passer, a 100 yard rusher, and 100 yard receiver for the first time, I would guess, since 2009 (someone tweeted it but I was pretty deep into some good German beer and didn't save it). This was the first time in a long time that the Vikings got an elite performance from a quarterback, and you get the feeling that this will be the rule, not the exception. His pocket presence, ability to avoid the rush and step up in the pocket, and his running of the offense made me think I was watching a guy who had been in the NFL for five or six years, just entering his prime.

But it was his first start. And he's 21 years old. Giggity.

Jerick McKinnon, RB: It was funny to me earlier in the week when the Vikings said they were going to use the pass to set up the run. No, really, they said that, and from what we had seen over the course of the last few years it seemed almost comical. But then Jerick McKinnon had a monster game, including a 55 yard run that got the Vikings out of the shadow of their own goal line. McKinnon, who ended up with 135 yards and a 7.5 yards per carry average, looked much better as a runner than in the first three games, and he looks to now be a great 1-2 combo with Matt Asiata.

Jarius Wright, WR: Jarius Wright came from Arkansas with a lot of potential, and had a breakout game on Sunday. It was his first career 100 yard receiving game, and he showed soft hands, a burst of speed, and disciplined route running. On a day when Cordarrelle Patterson was fairly quiet, having a receiving corps that can legitimately go three deep and make plays on the edge and downfield gives Bridgewater just another weapon that you have to gameplan for. And that's not something I thought I would be writing concerning this offense much this season.

Matt Kalil,T...and the rest of the offensive line: We've singled out Kalil a couple times already in a negative way, but he answered his critics in a big way on Sunday. The offensive line, lead by Kalil, simply dominated Atlanta's defense. There's no way 558 yards of offense happens without Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Vlad Ducasse, and Phil Loadholt. Ducasse also had a solid bounce back game, and SUllivan was simply dominating. Both McKinnon and Asiata had solid running lanes all day, and Bridgewater had the cleanest pocket I've seen for a Vikings quarterback in a long time.

Solid Investments:

Xavier Rhodes, CB: In his post game press conference, Mike Zimmer has said (and he's said this more than once) that Rhodes has the ability to be a special player in the NFL, and we saw a glimpse of that on Sunday. After getting flagged for several pass interference and defensive holding calls early on this year, Rhodes manned up and had a very good game Sunday. He did have a legit defensive holding call on him, and it was either him or Captain Munnerlyn that forgot to cover Roddy White on Atlanta's first TD, but he also had four passes defended, and his play, in large part, was a key reason no Falcons receiver went over 100 yards.

Harrison Smith, S: I don't know that there's a safety in the NFL that's playing better than Harrison Smith right now. He hits like a Mack truck, is solid in coverage, and had the game clinching interception. Smith, at times, seems to be everywhere at once, and has quickly become one of the core players of this young, aggressive defense.

Matt Asiata, RB: I've dogged Matt Asiata for his inability to run more than three yards per carry, but on Sunday he was the inside to McKinnon's outside, and had three rushing TD's, including the no-doubt on the 4th down call that put the Vikings up for good in the fourth quarter. Asiata's never going to win a lot of footraces with other NFL running backs, but he is proving to be a valuable between the tackles guy. And if needed, he proved yesterday he can get tough yards down on the goal line.

Junk Bonds:

Captain Munnerlyn, CB: Munnerlyn himself said he had his worst game of his career. He was late on coverage, and it seemed that every big play the Falcons had in the air, Munnerlyn was the back in coverage. He also whiffed on the Devin Hester scoring play that should have been a screen for little to no gain. Instead, it was a 36 yard TD. It sort of encapsulated Munnerlyn's game in a nutshell--he was in position to make a play, but he didn't.


Buy: This is a young, athletic defense that can make plays: I love the athleticism on this defense, from guys like Shariff Floyd and Everson Griffen on the line, Gerald Hodges and Anthony Barr at linebacker, and Harrison Smith in the secondary. They're young, fast, and there's no question there is more talent on that side of the ball than the Vikings have had in recent memory. Hodges made a couple of key stops, Barr had a big sack, and like we mentioned earlier Smith had the game clinching interception.

Sell: They make key third down stops and are a dominant defense. All that said, they make stupid, boneheaded mistakes that forced the Vikings offense to get into a shootout with Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Going into the game, that seemed like ritual seppuku, and had it not been Bridgewater playing, the Vikings probably lose that game. The Falcons finished 10-15 on third down efficiency, but that is an actual drop off, as they started 5-6, and then 8-10. Minnesota got lucky, in many ways, because if you had told me that the Falcons would go 10-15 in third down efficiency I would've said that the Vikings would've lost. You cannot...CANNOT...give up 3rd and 20 conversions and it not eventually catch up with you.

Buy: We've shucked out the jive, and brought in the love. It was nice to watch football and not have to worry about what was going on with Adrian Peterson, or what Jerome Simpson did, or what other player might have gotten hurt. It was a miserable two weeks, but you get the feeling that the worst might be over. This team is also 2-2, with a quarterback that's a legit NFL talent, and an opportunity to get above .500 and go 1-0 in the division on Thursday. Even if they don't win, and go 2-3, not a lot of people had the Vikings starting out that good. After Green Bay the schedule lightens up, and this team has a real shot to make a run towards the top of the division.

Sell: We're done shucking out the jive. Look, Peterson's case still needs to be resolved, and you get the feeling the team will bring him back when his situation is settled, assuming he does no jail time. He sent an 'inspirational' text to Mike Zimmer before the game, and Zimmer shared it with the rest of the team. This team wants Peterson back, and Peterson wants to come back. You kind of get the feeling that he will, in fact, return to the team when everything is all said and done, and it will bring a lot of press and scrutiny to Minnesota again.

Buy: The X and O moves of the coaching staff. I loved the chess match that Norv Turner played against the Falcons defense. He started out with quick stuff, which helped get Teddy in a rhythm, which opened up some downfield stuff, which opened up the running game. On defense, the Vikings made a lot of good plays, but gave up key third down conversions, like we mentioned. But when the Falcons were forced to play a tight end at right tackle due to injury, the Vikings stepped up the pressure, that lead to a big sack by Anthony Barr, and then the game winning Smith interception. Norv Turner called a fantastic game, and the defense made a play in crunch time when it was dialed up by the staff.

Sell: They will be this good every week. Not every week is going to be like this, as much as we'd love to see 558 yards of offense become the norm...or should I say NORV! The more Bridgewater plays and puts on film, the more defenses will come up with ways to counter him and stop the Vikings. The defense is still susceptible to giving up big plays, but the Vikings have a staff that can match wits with their counterparts on the other sideline. I've always said that the NFL is an 8-8 league. By that I mean that with the exception of the top one or two teams and the bottom one or two teams, the difference in talent is negligible, and the difference between 11-5 or 5-11 is coaching.

The Vikings don't have a 5-11 staff anymore.

BONUS BUY: Teddy Bridgewater over Johnny Manziel. Hey, as a former driver of the Manziel bandwagon bus, I'll freely admit I'm glad we have Bridgewater. My reasoning, if you guys recall, was that I never thought the Vikes had a realistic shot to draft Bridgewater. When that became a possibility, I would have been happy with both. I am ecstatic with Teddy, and when you see everything that's happened since the draft, it's becoming more apparent that the Vikings picked the right guy. By a mile.

BONUS SELL: Skinny knees and meh pro days. I think, years from now, 'skinny knees' will be the phrase that will haunt 31 NFL teams, and pro days might not be given the significance they are now. At least I hope so. Somewhere, I wonder if Mike Mayock still likes Jimmy Garappolo over Teddy Bridgewater.

So, we move on to an abbreviated Green Bay week. The game is Thursday night, and Teddy Bridgewater is iffy to play. I personally think he'll be out there, and he's going to give the Packers fits. But Aaron Rodgers is going to give the Vikings fits, too, so let's get cinch up the chin strap, boys. Thursday's going to be a wild one.