EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Teddy Bridgewater moved the sticks with a designed run on fourth down against Denver.
He also scrambled when nothing else was available for gains of 11 on third-and-10 to set up a field goal in the second quarter and for 10 more to convert another third-and-10 in the fourth quarter during the Vikings final possession. The plays counted as three of the five first downs obtained by rushing for Minnesota.
View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the Oct. 4 game against Denver.
While incredibly helpful to the offense and a stressor to defense, it's likely safe to say Bridgewater won't be looking to boost his run totals too much on the other side of this week's bye.
"I try not to think about running. That's why we have the guy — what's his name? — Adrian Peterson in the backfield," Bridgewater joked before adding, "He's able to make those runs for us."
After a protracted preseason, a disappointing road opener, a pair of convincing home wins and a valiant effort in Sunday's 23-20 win by the Broncos, the Vikings are 2-2, along with 10 other teams in the NFL (five per conference). Four AFC and four NFC teams are above .500.
Through four games a season ago, the Vikings were also 2-2 but preparing to start their third quarterback in as many weeks. They also didn't know the status of Peterson, who missed all but the 2014 season opener.
Peterson has returned and is leading the NFL with 372 yards on 75 carries (5.0 average). He's rushed for three touchdowns in the past two weeks, including back-to-back games with a score from more than 40 yards out.
Bridgewater has added 59 yards on 13 plays that have counted as runs. He is 77-of-115 passing (67 percent) for 774 yards with two touchdown passes, two interceptions and a passer rating of 84.5. Bridgewater has taken 13 sacks and eluded pressure other times, either to find a receiver breaking free, room to roam or just to get rid of it, which is occasionally the best thing to do.
"Teams are going to play some coverage, watch some film and play perfect coverages for some of the passing concepts we run," Bridgewater said. "If the check-down isn't there, and I see an escape lane, I'll make sure I take advantage of it but be smart about it and avoid some of those hits."
Despite all the hype every February about times in the 40-yard dash, an NFL season isn't a sprint. There are much fewer contests than baseball, basketball or hockey, which places football maybe as a middle-distance run that requires consistency week to week.
Vikings coaches began self-scouting Monday to identify what has been successful and what can be improved when the team returns for the final 12. Bridgewater and Peterson have had four games together, and coaches want to optimize the impact of both players going forward.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman told media members Tuesday that the running back has "shown through these first four games is that he looks like Adrian Peterson."
"That [48-yard touchdown] run he had in this Denver game, once he hit that crease, I didn't see any less speed than I saw before," Spielman said. "In just watching him practice, he's Adrian Peterson, and he's a unique player and we're fortunate to have him."
Adjusting in game
Head Coach Mike Zimmer mentioned that Denver blitzed a little more than they had shown in previous games this season.
Kyle Rudolph said players need to be able to adjust when unexpected situations occur in the game.
"For us, it's about maturing in that aspect, too," Rudolph said. "When we have those few instances throughout the course of the game where they do something that we hadn't practiced, we just let our rules take over because when we do things right, we're pretty good."
Not picky about pick
Anthony Barr picked a good time for his first career interception because his 32-yard return of the ball led to a Vikings touchdown before the half. While it occurred against a five-time NFL MVP in Peyton Manning, Barr said he wasn't picky.
"It's about being at the right spot at the right time," Barr said. "I think he thought I was carrying the vertical route and I came off on it. I don't think (the quarterback) really matters. Obviously it's Peyton Manning so people are going to make a bigger deal out of it, but I was just happy to make a play that put the team in position to score points before the half."
Barr said he has felt more comfortable dropping into coverage in his second pro season.
During his meeting with reporters, Spielman announced a trade to acquire rookie center Nick Easton and a sixth-round pick from the 49ers in exchange for Gerald Hodges.
Easton, is running a reverse of Matt Birk, the Harvard grad and sixth-round selection by Minnesota in 1998 who played 11 seasons for the Vikings before joining the Ravens. Birk recently visited his high school, Cretin-Derham Hall, for the school's recognition on the Super Bowl High School Honor Roll.
Easton drew interest from the Vikings after this year's draft but opted to sign with the Ravens as a free agent. He was traded to San Francisco a month ago as teams made their final roster reductions.
Click here to read Spielman's take on the deal.