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Lunch Break 9/17: "Keep Teddy Clean" is OL's Rallying Cry vs. Detroit

When you think Detroit Lions, you may think Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson. The duo has caused nightmares for many defenses over the years and they'll be a focal point for the Vikings defense this Sunday.

But the Vikings will also think pass rush when they think about the Lions. After all, the Lions sacked QB Teddy Bridgewater 12 times last year, including eight times in a 17-3 win in Minnesota last October. After giving up five sacks to the San Francisco 49ers last week, the Vikings offense will make pass protection a priority in their preparation for Week 2, writes the Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson.

It might not be posted on the wall in the locker room, but the Vikings' offensive line has come up with a motto for Sunday's game against Detroit.

"Keep Teddy clean," tackle Mike Harris said Wednesday.

The Vikings don't want to see much grime on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's jersey. They've seen enough of that already.

Tomasson also pointed out that while Bridgewater was sacked five times on Monday night, head coach Mike Zimmer declined to pin the blame exclusively on the offensive line. It's a valid point because avoiding sacks is a responsibility that falls on RBs and TEs in protection, the QB getting the ball out on time, and receivers getting open.

The bottom line, though, is the passing game needs to get off the ground, and in order to get off the ground the Vikings must keep Bridgewater on his feet. Tarkenton: Dominated Vikings need to learn from loss

Vikings legend Fran Tarkenton watched Monday night's season-opening loss, and he says he saw a Vikings team that got dominated along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. But he also says Monday night's loss is more of a learning experience than a reason for the team – or its fans – to worry.

*Monday night was a tough loss for the Vikings, but it's just one week. The team needs to play better in its next game against Detroit, but the high expectations I (and many others) had for them have not changed after as the result of one game. All the things that the Vikings had going for them -- talented defensive playmakers, a young, ascending quarterback and the return of an MVP running back -- are still there.

*

Tarkenton also said he was stunned at what he saw Monday night, that he learned more from his losses than from his wins during his playing days, and that he believes Mike Zimmer and other Vikings leaders will also learn a lot from the loss to San Francisco.

Griffen vows redemption vs. Detroit

DE Everson Griffen is as animated a Vikings player as there is, and on Wednesday while speaking with reporters at his locker he was even more animated than usual. But his message was a good one, the Star Tribune's Matt Vensel writes.

Still steaming about how the Vikings played in Monday night's 20-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Griffen let reporters — and any teammates who happened to be within earshot — know that such a performance would not be acceptable this Sunday.

"We are a good team. We practice like a good team each and every day. I don't know what that showing was," he said. "We got Detroit coming up this week Sunday. That's our focus now. San Fran, it was a blow to us. … They're more of a team than we were."

As Griffen continued to speak with reporters, his voice grew faster and louder.

"As a team we prepared too hard to go out there and put a performance like that in," Griffen said. "I feel as a team we're going to come together and we're going to go out there and beat Detroit. I'm very angry right now as you can see, because we prepared way too hard. But we're going to go out there and get it."

That kind of leadership represents tremendous growth from Griffen, a player who has risen from a fourth-round pick in 2010 to a team leader in 2015. Zimmer spoke about Griffen's growth on Wednesday.

"The players voted him a captain, and he's a guy I'm extremely proud of in the maturation that he's had and the way that he's grown up in a little ways," Zimmer said. "He cares an awful lot about the Vikings." Bridgewater: Coach's criticism "just put a chip on my shoulder"

The Vikings believe in Teddy Bridgewater. But that doesn't mean he's immune from criticism if his performance warrants it. Coach Zimmer has demonstrated that this week in the aftermath of the team's season-opening loss.

*Mike Zimmer didn't shovel the blame onto his offensive line for five sacks on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, he pointed the finger at his young cadence caller.

*

*That "tough coaching," Bridgewater said, put a chip on his shoulder after he completed 72 percent of his passes in the 20-3 loss on Monday night in San Francisco, which was about the only positive taken away from what Zimmer called a "clunker" of a season opener for Bridgewater. *

It's no surprise that Bridgewater, mature beyond his years, is taking the criticism in a constructive manner. Every step of the way during his Vikings career, the moment has never been too big for Bridgewater, plus he's demonstrated constant improvement in his game and was 6-6 in 12 games as the team's starter during his rookie season.

"You can point the finger at me," Bridgewater said. "I could've done a better job...redirected the protections and things like that...Just little things like that that will hurt us over the course of a year."

While the loss was ugly and the head coach pointed a finger at the QB, there is clearly no sense of panic within the Vikings camp. Even after all the honest talk, Zimmer remains steadfast in his confidence in Bridgewater.

"I do not think that Teddy is going to throw another clunker," Zimmer said. "I have never seen that side of him. I think it's probably just an enigma that this happened." Quick Hitters

The Vikings dropped 8 spots in SI.com's Power Rankings.

There are two players from this week's Vikings-Lions matchup ranked in NFL.com's Top 25 fantasy football players for Week 2.

Who is under consideration to be a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016? Take a look here.

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