EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — As Vikings defenders have watched film to study the best ways to limit the success rate of Aaron Rodgers, Minnesota rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has spent some time surveying the strengths of the Packers veteran QB.
"He's in total command of his team, and he's in total command of his offense," Bridgewater said. "Those guys gravitate towards him, and they go as he goes. He's been playing great football this year. I believe 28 passing touchdowns and only three interceptions, that's pretty outstanding. A passer rating of 120, he's playing great football and his team is playing great football, also."
Bridgewater is preparing for his first action in the Border Battle between Minnesota (4-6) and Green Bay (7-3), who play at noon (CT) Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Bridgewater missed the Oct. 2 meeting because of an ankle injury he suffered in his first NFL start, a win over Atlanta the previous week. He is 3-3 as a starter and is learning more with each week on the job.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who is in his first season at the helm, said the rookie has continued to impress with his approach to becoming the leader of an offense that has encountered multiple changes in personnel this season.
"He's getting a lot of different things thrown at him in a short period of time but there are probably some intangible things that (the media) don't see on game day that I see during the week in practice," Zimmer said. "Other parts of the game, of helping other guys get lined up now, helping other guys get in the right place, getting the backs in the right position, changing the protections. There are a lot of other things involved other than just throwing the ball and what that looks like. All of these things have been improvements that I see each week."
As for Rodgers' success, Zimmer said it's a combination of arm strength that can beat good coverage, the rapport between the QB and receivers that allows him to quickly deliver the ball and his ability to scramble but be accurate with the ball when he's on the move. Zimmer recalled Rodgers throwing "about a 40-yard dart to the sideline" on such a play in a preseason matchup with Green Bay when Zimmer was defensive coordinator at Cincinnati.
"They're explosive," Zimmer said. "Hopefully the second time you play somebody I think you have a better idea. This is the first time in my go through in this division a little bit. Hopefully it shows."
The Packers have won their past two games 55-14 against Chicago and 53-20 against Philadelphia, and Rodgers was a combined 40-of-63 passing for 655 yards with nine touchdown passes in those games. He threw for 418 yards against the Saints, but New Orleans limited him to one TD pass and recorded two interceptions on Oct. 26.
Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said Rodgers is "always playing the best ball," and linebacker Jasper Brinkley called him "one of those masterminds of the game." Both said bad things can happened to a defense when Rodgers is in or out of the pocket.
"I think when you talk about mobility, there's a lot of guys you can talk about in the league, but Aaron Rodgers seems to be one of the guys that's the most dangerous and the reason for that is he's not always using his mobility to run the ball and extend the chains. A lot of times he's using his mobility to get outside the pocket and create more time where he can look downfield for those guys like Jordy (Nelson) and (Randall) Cobb and those guys really become deep threats for him. That makes him super dangerous because of the fact he's still looking downfield and can throw a 50-yard bomb and have a touchdown scored off it. We've just got to make sure we're smart with our rush lanes this week. We've got to stop the run first and foremost, but if we get into a situation where we have to rush, we've got to make sure we're smart, we keep him in the pocket and collapse the pocket on him."
RERUN: Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon said he wants to apply what he learned in his first game against the Packers to Sunday's game.
"They're a physical defense with a fast flow (to the ball), too, so I think already playing them once and kind of having a heads up on what they do will help us out," McKinnon said. "I'm definitely looking forward to a different outcome this time."
McKinnon had seven carries for 24 yards and three catches for 22 yards at Green Bay in a game where a lead by the Packers limited the role of the Vikings running game. He started the following week against Detroit and is continuing to build on his experiences.
"I've seen a lot, learned a lot, been able to pick up on different things and better myself as a player," McKinnon said. "I feel like I've been playing confident since I've been starting. I've gained more and more reps and been getting more comfortable and use to the schemes that (offensive coordinator) Norv (Turner) is running and things like that has been allowing me to play loose and play fast."
View images of new Vikings RB Ben Tate from his days in Houston and Cleveland.
VIKINGS CLAIM TATE: McKinnon (lower back) and RB Matt Asiata (concussion) did not practice Wednesday, and the **Vikings announced they claimed*** *RB Ben Tate off waivers a day after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Adrian Peterson would be suspended until April 2015.
Tate, a second round draft pick of Houston out of Auburn in 2010, was with the Texans until signing with Cleveland during free agency this year. He had 106 carries for 333 yards with four rushing TDs in eight games with the Browns before being placed on waivers this week.
PARTICIPATION: For Minnesota: In addition to Asiata and McKinnon, Greg Jennings (rib), Jarius Wright (hamstring) and Mike Harris (ankle) did not participate. Anthony Barr (knee), Sharrif Floyd (knee), Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and Everson Griffen (neck) were limited. Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) and Scott Crichton (hip) fully participated Wednesday.
For Green Bay: Brandon Bostick (hip), Jarrett Bush (groin), T.J. Lang (ankle), Nick Perry (shoulder) and Josh Sitton (toe) did not participate. Jayrone Elliott (hamstring) and Clay Matthews (groin) were limited Wednesday.