Bridgewater, Vikings eager to bounce back against Lions
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The first time Teddy Bridgewater faced Detroit’s defense, he spent too much of the afternoon flat on the turf in Minnesota.
After all the progress he made in the weeks following that rough performance against a daunting Lions defense, Bridgewater looked like a rookie again in the opener of his second season.
This weekend, then, can serve as some redemption.
“I was too excited to play and it showed,” Bridgewater said, reflecting on his erratic Monday night at San Francisco when the Vikings managed only three points and too many of his passes badly missed the mark.
Coach Mike Zimmer, an unhesitant supporter of Bridgewater from the day the Vikings drafted him in the first round, criticized his quarterback this week like no other time since taking over the team.
“That’s what I love, tough coaching,” Bridgewater said. “I try to be my worst critic, and to hear it from the head guy, it tells you, ‘Hey, you need to step up your game.’”
That won’t be automatic, with the Lions also trying to avoid the 0-2 start. Three-time All-Pro Ndamukong Suh has departed Detroit, but most of the lineup stayed the same from last fall when Bridgewater threw three interceptions and took eight sacks in a 17-3 loss in Minnesota. Bridgewater was picked off twice more in the rematch on the road.
Bridgewater’s dud of a 2015 debut aside, the Lions in turn will face a far more polished player. Over his last three home games of 2014, all Vikings victories, Bridgewater had a 70 percent completion rate with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
“Just watching him last year when we played him early and then we played him late, you could really see the development in terms of his decision making,” Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said.
Here are some other angles to know about the Lions-Vikings game on Sunday:
WELCOME HOME: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, strangely, will play at TCF Bank Stadium for the first time. He missed the team’s temporary move outside in 2014, while his child abuse case proceeded in court in Texas and the league office. Peterson hasn’t played in the preseason in years, and when the Metrodome collapse in 2010 steered a game to the University of Minnesota campus, he was out with injuries to his ankle and quadriceps.
“It will be different, but no matter if you play on dirt, it’s still football,” said Peterson, who had only 31 yards rushing on 10 carries against the 49ers, his first game in 372 days.
TARGETING MEGATRON: While the Vikings will be trying to get their veteran star going, the Lions have the same goal for wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who saw only four passes from Matthew Stafford come his way and finished with two catches for 39 yards at San Diego.
“You always feel like there’s something that you can do to help the team out. I’m sure it’ll be different coming up,” Johnson said.
Stafford, who threw two interceptions in the 33-28 loss to the Chargers that started with a 21-3 lead by the Lions in the second quarter, blamed the imbalanced time of possession; San Diego ran 74 plays to 47 snaps by Detroit.
“If we get 60, 70 plays, maybe his targets go way up and he has a big one in there and everybody’s OK,” Stafford said.
Is there an ideal number of passes for Stafford to send to the three-time All-Pro selection?
“As often as possible is really the answer to that,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said.
GROUND UP: The Vikings were gashed for 230 yards rushing by the 49ers, including 168 by new lead running back Carlos Hyde. Rookie Ameer Abdullah had a promising debut for the Lions, with a 24-yard touchdown on his first carry.
FAMILIAR FACES: Zach Zenner, the undrafted rookie out of South Dakota State who led the NFL with 183 yards rushing in the preseason for the Lions, will play in front of several family members and friends. Zenner went to Eagan High School, a Twin Cities suburb about 15 miles south of Minneapolis.
ROLE REVERSAL: The Vikings have dominated the Lions like no other opponent in their 55-year history, with a 69-36-2 record in the series. Over a stretch that started in 1999, the Vikings won 20 of 22 games against the Lions. Since then, the Lions have gone 6-3.