Biggest Takeaways from Minnesota Vikings' Week 3 Win
Running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns, the Minnesota defense roughed up quarterback Philip Rivers and linebacker Chad Greenway returned an interception 91 yards for a score. The Vikings scored in every quarter and never trailed.
"It was a really, really good team victory today," head coach Mike Zimmer said, per the team's official site. "I'm proud of the way our guys worked, the way they competed. We've got some fighters on this football team."
In the following slides, we'll highlight the five biggest takeaways from Minnesota's Week 3 win over the Chargers.
Vikings Can Rush the Passer
Sunday's beating of Philip Rivers has to come with a caveat, as injuries forced the Chargers into making a handful of significant mid-game changes along the offensive line. But for the second week in a row, the Vikings put a serious hurting on the opposing quarterback.
As was the case with Matthew Stafford a week earlier, Zimmer's attacking defense kept Rivers under siege all afternoon. Minnesota blitzed San Diego's shuffling line with a barrage of A-gap pressures, mostly with linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. The two had a field day on Rivers, who endured hit after hit (12 total) behind an overwhelmed front five.
After Barr's one big whack in the second half, the Chargers needed to call timeout to give Rivers a chance to stay in the game.
By the fourth quarter, head coach Mike McCoy had seen enough of his franchise quarterback getting pummeled. One series after Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd combined for a sack on fourth down, McCoy pulled Rivers in favor of backup Kellen Clemens.
Rivers will still be sore on Monday. And it's not likely he'll be the last quarterback roughed up by the Vikings defense in 2015. Zimmer's pass rush is officially alive.
Adrian Peterson Is All the Way Back
He was singing a different tune Sunday.
"My legs felt lighter today and just the preparation throughout the week helped with that, but I felt good,” Peterson said (via Craig Peters of the team's official site). "The body felt good. My mind was in a great place, and yeah, I think I’m back."
Peterson thrashed the Chargers for 126 yards and two touchdowns, his first two scores since November 2013. He plunged in from four yards out to snap his scoreless streak during the first half.
His second touchdown went 43 yards. The scamper included Peterson's trademark burst to the outside, a violent stiff arm to defensive back Jimmy Wilson and a hard cut to avoid the tackle attempt of All-Pro safety Eric Weddle. The score gave the Vikings a 17-7 lead early in the third quarter.
A possession later, Peterson set up Zach Line's short touchdown with an 11-yard rumble to the San Diego 1-yard line.
After an opening dud to start the season, Peterson now has 260 rushing yards and 318 total yards over the last two weeks. He's on pace to rush for over 1,500 yards. AD is back.
Vikings Can Win Without Terrific Teddy
Despite a quiet afternoon from Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings still managed to score 31 points—the team's highest output of the 2015 season—and comfortably win the game.
Minnesota's second-year quarterback completed just 13 passes for 121 yards and no touchdowns against the Chargers. He threw an interception in the end zone in the first half and rushed one time for minus-one yards. Yet the contest never felt out of the Vikings' hands.
The bad news is that Bridgewater was inconsistent throwing the football for the second time in three games. He's now averaging a little over 168 passing yards per game to start 2015, and he's already been held without a touchdown pass twice—matching his total from all of last season.
The good news is the Vikings can win games without superlative play from the quarterback position.
Peterson's return has taken a huge load off Bridgewater's shoulders, and when the Vikings defense plays as well as it has the last two weeks, Minnesota doesn't need its quarterback to produce big play after big play.
A young player at the most difficult position in sports is going through some ups and downs as he develops in the pro game. That's normal. The Vikings have the pieces around Bridgewater to win games during his various development stages.
Anthony Barr Is a Legitimate Star
So often a high draft pick busts in the NFL because he lands with the wrong coach and wrong scheme. The opposite has happened for Anthony Barr, who is thriving in his role within Zimmer's defense.
The Vikings' first-round pick from a season ago was a monster once again Sunday. He tallied six tackles, two official quarterback hits and a strip-sack of Philip Rivers.
After the game, Zimmer said Barr "continues to do everything well," per KFAN.
Zimmer blitzed his linebacker relentlessly against the Chargers. He featured Barr in his signature pressure look, using him to overload the A-gap and cause immediate interior disruption. The blitz created free runners at Rivers all day, and even faking the look caused confusion up front for San Diego. Barr was the leading man on a half-dozen or more pressures.
One sack through three games doesn't scream "star," but Barr is providing star impact. Landing with Zimmer has maximized his value.
Trae Waynes Can Play
As the old saying goes, don't judge a rookie by his preseason cover.
Vikings first-round pick Trae Waynes—who suffered through a miserable exhibition schedule—saw his first extensive action of the 2015 season on Sunday after Xavier Rhodes left with a scary-looking injury. The young cornerback handled himself just fine.
“I thought he did good, made some good plays,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “They went at him early, the first play of the half and threw a stop route on him. He made the tackle.”
Waynes made five tackles total, including four solo. He also defended one pass on a deep post. The rookie probably should have intercepted the attempt, but a positive play is still a positive play for a cornerback so harshly critiqued this preseason.