The Vikings in sole possession of first place in the NFC North on Nov. 15?
The truth of the matter is it doesn't matter to Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, and he's likely to communicate that effectively to his team going forward.
"It matters at the end of the year, that's the only time I care about it," Zimmer said. "Right now, we're just trying to compile as many wins together and add them up at the end of the year."
Minnesota claimed its fifth victory in a row, third straight win on the road and first enjoyable flight home from California since 2007. The Vikings defeated the Raiders 30-14 to improve to 7-2 on the season.
The Packers, however, fell for the third straight week, and will bring a 6-3 mark across the border next week.
Teddy Bridgewater, who improved to 13-8 as a starter and efficiently commanded the huddle in returning from a concussion suffered last week, said the Vikings "have to downplay" the standings "because it's only Week 10 of the regular season."
"(Zimmer's) favorite line is, 'Don't take the cheese,' so we have to continue to stay motivated and continue to play with that chip on their shoulders," Bridgewater said. "Don't believe everything you hear, don't believe everything you see. What matters most is the people who are around our facility every day, our coaching staff, personnel, decisions that they're making, that's what matters the most. We can't buy into the newspaper clippings and things like that. We have to continue to stay grounded and continue to work hard."
Bridgewater completed 14 of 22 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and no turnovers for a passer rating of 96.8 in his first game against fellow second-year QB Derek Carr, who was drafted four spots after the Vikings took Bridgewater with the 32nd overall pick of 2014.
Carr finished 29-of-43 passing for 302 yards with two touchdowns, but also **two interceptions** at the hands of 37-year-old Terence Newman.
The Vikings combined a stalwart defensive effort that shutout the Raiders in the second half by **blitzing less and covering more**, with a **93-yard kickoff return** by Cordarrelle Patterson that reclaimed momentum and an 80-yard breakaway from Adrian Peterson that sealed the deal and helped him **tie an NFL record**.
"I think that's how our team is built. We've played great on special teams all year long. We've played good on defense for the most part," Zimmer said. "Offensively, we've had our spurts, but I expect them to continue to get better. Towards the end of the year last year, we got better with everything. The team that plays the best on Sunday wins, not the most talented team. The team that plays the best. I think our team plays good in three phases. I'm not saying we're not talented, but that's always what it is. People always say you can't win on the road, you can't do this, but it's not about where you play, it's about how you play."
Bridgewater also scrambled for a gain of 18 on the final play of the third quarter to convert third-and-4 and help the Vikings keep the ball the first four-plus minutes of the final period. That drive stalled and ended with a block of Blair Walsh's 39-yard field goal, but the Vikings defense responded by forcing a quick three-and-punt.
In his past four road games, Bridgewater has 228 yards passing per game, a completion rate of 64.8, five TD passes against one interception and a passer rating of 95.6. The Vikings are 3-1 in that stretch, dating to Oct. 4 at Denver.
In new role: Chad Greenway started at middle linebacker for the first time in his career. It was Greenway's 131st start and 133rd career game. The Vikings were without Eric Kendricks for a second straight week. Minnesota lost his replacement, Audie Cole, to a season-ending ankle injury against St. Louis. Greenway filled in that day, and on Sunday, helped the Vikings limit Oakland RB Latavius Murray to 48 yards on 12 carries.
Sack pack: Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph each recorded sacks. Griffen has a team-high 5.5 on the year, and Joseph, the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week, has 1.5. The defensive line was helped by the return to the lineup by Sharrif Floyd, who was injured against Kansas City.
3 stats that stood out:
The Vikings outgained the Raiders 263 to 84 on the ground. Minnesota's rush average (7.97 yards per carry) definitely benefitted from Peterson's burst on the 80-yarder, but even without it, the Vikings averaged 5.72 on all other carries.
The Vikings ran 21 plays in the fourth quarter and had drives that covered 60, 63 and 80 yards and lasted 5:08, 5:41 and :13, respectively.
In addition to his pair of picks, Newman was credited with five passes defensed by press box statisticians.