View images from the week 15 matchup at Ford Field between the Vikings and Lions.
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Do you feel the Vikings went into extra-conservative mode after the two interceptions Bridgewater threw? I don't want the staff to lose confidence in him after mistakes because we need him to be a quarterback who makes deep throws. -- Keith A. Houston, TX
I did not notice a change in play calling following the two interceptions Bridgewater threw at the end of the first half. The Vikings were productive throwing the ball all game and Bridgewater finished with over 300 passing yards for the second consecutive game. But even before the interceptions, the Vikings weren't getting that production with a bunch of deep passes. The Lions pass rush is such that you're better off focusing on protection and making short and intermediate throws, particularly on the road, so that you aren't taking sacks to get you behind the chains. The Vikings called three pass plays on their first drive of the second half and on the second drive of the second half the Vikings threw passes on the first three snaps, so there wasn't a pull-back in terms of aggressiveness in the passing game following the two turnovers.
Since Cordarrelle Patterson is struggling so much as a traditional wide receiver, but he's a playmaker with the ball in his hands, why not transition him to running back? He's got the size and the skills for it. -- Clinton V.
There have been enough transitions in Patterson's career and I don't think another one – moving from receiver to running back – is what he needs. Patterson is a young player who played just one season of Division I football and who is on his third different offense in as many seasons. It's hard enough to come into the NFL and learn the wide receiver position while working within the same offense, but to learn the position while learning your third offense in as many seasons makes it even tougher. I understand Patterson's offensive production has fallen short of expectations this season and that is disappointing, but I am also not discouraged about what the future holds for Patterson in the Vikings offense. Our quest for instant gratification results makes this difficult, but time and perhaps another offseason is what Patterson needs, not a position change.
Why isn't more blame being shoved on the offensive line for their performance? Once again, we couldn't run the ball and Teddy was sacked four times. -- Larry C. Minneapolis, MN
Blame isn't being placed on the offensive line after this game because the offensive line played well. Keep in mind, this is a Lions defense that entered the game ranked No. 1 against the run, allowing just 62.8 yards per game, and the Vikings managed to surpass that average and rush for 76 yards and one touchdown. Also, I know at least two of the sacks weren't the fault of the offensive line because the first sack was allowed by the a tight end and running back in protection and another sack was the fault of Bridgewater for holding the ball too long in the pocket. Another thing to remember is that the Lions defensive line is about as good as it gets in the NFL, and the Vikings offensive line battled all day with three non-starters in the lineup. Overall, I'd credit the offensive line for their play, not throw blame at them.
More of a concern: the missed field goals by Walsh or the two picks by Teddy? -- Trenton W. @twsta1
Neither is good and the goal should be for both players to eliminate those kinds of mistakes from their performance. I also would not characterize either as long-term issues because I know each player realizes the gravity of the mistakes and will work to clean them up. But of the two, the missed field goal and blocked field goal are harder to explain than the interceptions. The good news with the field goal issues are that I know those involved have the work ethic and pride in their work to make corrections, and I anticipate we'll see a very sharp field goal unit next week in Miami.
Will (Joe) Berger have a shot at (starting) left guard next year? -- Brady R. @rbabrady
Berger's value to the Vikings is that he can be a backup at all three interior offensive line positions (left guard, center and right guard), and the Vikings have realized that value this season because he's stepped into the starting lineup with Brandon Fusco lost for the season. Berger's ability to play multiple positions and step in to be a multi-game starter leads me to believe he'll be on the roster entering this offseason, and with Zimmer we know that if you're on the roster you have a chance to start.
After tough loss against the divisional foe, what was Coach Zimmer's message to the team for the remaining two games? -- Raj. B.
Zimmer's message to the team is never a two-game message. It's always a "what's in front of us right now" message. All season, he has preached to the team that their focus should be on the next game or the next play or the next practice, and not on the play that just happened or the game two weeks from now or the 2015 season. He demands his players have a laser focus on the task at hand, and I think that mentality will serve them well down the road, especially when they are in the midst of a playoff chase or a playoff run.
I tip my hat to Matt Cassel. Seems like a great guy. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he appears to be Teddy Bridgewater's biggest fan, often mentoring him between series. It's nice to have another "coach" on the sideline. I assume he will be back next year? Lord knows we need a quality second option, and support is what all young QBs need. -- Chris U.
It's no surprise Cassel has handled his injury situation well this season. He's been in a lot of different positions during his 10-year career. He came into the League as a seventh-round draft choice and a backup to Tom Brady, he's replaced an injured starter, he's been replaced because of injury, he's entered the season as the starter and he's replaced the starter mid-season. Cassel has seen a lot and those experiences have equipped him to handle a lot of different scenarios well, including the situation he's in this season as an injured quarterback who is taking time to help a rookie starter as he rehabs from injury. I don't know what the future holds for Cassel, but Chris is correct in stating it's important to have multiple quarterbacks on the roster with the ability to step in and play.