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Notebook: Stats High for Young Players

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The ages of Teddy Bridgewater and Jerick McKinnon are comparatively small, but the statistics weren't Sunday.

Bridgewater, 21, passed for 317 yards, and McKinnon, 22, rushed for 135 yards in helping Minnesota defeat Atlanta 41-28 at TCF Bank Stadium.

It was the first time in franchise history that the Vikings had a 300-yard passing performance and a 100-yard rushing performance by rookies in the same game, and the most passing and rushing yards in an NFL game by rookies in 2014.

Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer told reporters Monday that age isn't a determining factor of readiness.

"Honestly, I look at football players. I don't look at how old they are," Zimmer said Monday. "I know we've got a lot of young guys but I just look at players — when they're out there and how they perform. In today's day and age in the NFL, young guys play. You have to get them on the right page number one, make sure they understand what they're doing, keep working with their technique, so I don't think it's unusual for anywhere in the league for young guys to come in and have to play. Actually, that's a good thing. You go out and you draft these guys and (Vikings GM) Rick (Spielman) and those guys draft them for a reason. We get them in here as soon as we can and get them playing."

Bridgewater's first career start was accelerated by a season-ending injury to veteran Matt Cassel, but coaches and players have said the QB has consistently demonstrated an ability to handle one of the most challenging positions in all of sports.

Bridgewater's debut marked the first time in Vikings history for a rookie QB to lead a comeback victory in his first start. He also had the most passing yards, highest passer rating (98.9) and most completions (19) by a Vikings QB in his first start. 

Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery, told his father over the weekend that he anticipated a good performance from Bridgewater.

"I said, 'The kid just has it. You know he's going to go out there and things are going to go well. He's going to be calm and going to play well,' " Rudolph said. "Sure enough, he went out there and threw the ball around and managed the huddle. Talking to some of the guys this morning when he came in, just the presence he had, calling the plays, he did exactly what we expected."

RUDOLPH UPDATE: Rudolph is expected to be sidelined a few more weeks as he recovers, but he provided an update to reporters Monday.

The 2012 Pro Bowl MVP said his injury happened in early August and he tried to work through it, but it reached a point where surgery and recovery would put him in the best position for the latter months of the season.

"I know I'm better today than I was yesterday and I'm a lot better than I was earlier last week, so I'm just making sure that when they do give me the green light, I'm ready to go and I don't go out there and try to come back too early and mess this up again," Rudolph said. "There's nothing worse than being hurt. When you're not able to be out there with your teammates, it's hard. At the same time, I know it's necessary. We tried everything we could to avoid (surgery), but I had to get it fixed. I think the bright side is that these guys are going to do great over the next six weeks, and when I come back, we have two months to make a run at the playoffs."

QUICK TURNAROUND: The Vikings (2-2) and Packers (2-2) will renew their rivalry at 7:25 p.m. (CT) Thursday on CBS and NFL Network, creating a quick turnaround for both teams.

Each NFL team is playing at least one Thursday game this season. Green Bay also opened the 2014 slate at Seattle on a Thursday, and Dallas and Chicago will play each other the Thursday after separate games (Bears at Lions and Eagles at Cowboys) on Thanksgiving.

Zimmer, who coached DBs in Dallas from 1994-99 and was defensive coordinator for the Cowboys from 2000-06, is no stranger to Thursday games (Dallas went 7-6 on Thursdays in that span). The Vikings' first-year head coach went from Sunday's game to Winter Park to begin the new week without going home. He said the approach changes, and it is important to have players as refreshed as possible.

"One of the big things is that we have to make sure we get all of our bumps and bruises taken care of," Zimmer said. "I've got to be smart with the players. I've got to take care of them, but we still have to prepare. I think seeing the looks that we need to see, without obviously banging people and getting them feeling like they're refreshed. I told the team last week I've been in 18 of these Thursday games throughout my career. So, I've done it a lot of times. I've seen it done a lot of different ways."

Jarius Wright, who led Vikings receivers with a career-high 132 yards on eight catches Sunday, said the therapeutic cold tub would be more valuable for players this week.

"I'm sure Coach will take care of us," Wright said. "He's been in the league a long time so he knows how to handle this, and we'll just go with whatever he says."

DEFENDING THE RUN: The Vikings were generally successful in defending the run against the Falcons but allowed a 48-yard touchdown for Antone Smith that gave Atlanta one-point lead late in the third quarter. Aside from Smith's run, Minnesota held Atlanta to 75 rushing yards on 21 carries (3.6 yards per attempt) and limited Steven Jackson to 49 yards on 13 carries (3.9 per rush).

Green Bay is averaging 73 rushing yards per game this season.

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