The week of practice is over and the Vikings are set for their game this Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Here's what we learned this week about the Vikings as they prepared for Week 17.
Cutler is back in the lineupOne week ago, it looked as if the Vikings would be playing Jimmy Clausen in the season finale. The veteran backup was thrust into the starting lineup when the Bears decided to bench starter Jay Cutler following a 14-game string in which he took 38 sacks, threw 18 interceptions and lost nine times.
Clausen started last week's game against Detroit, but it turns out he will not start this week's game in Minnesota because of a concussion. That means Cutler is back in the fold and will be leading the Bears offense in Minnesota this weekend.
In 10 career games against the Vikings, Cutler has been sharp. He's won eight of the 10 starts, has thrown 23 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions and has authored a passer rating of 93.2. In the earlier-season matchup at Soldier Field, Cutler was 31 of 43 for 330 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. It was the second most attempts he's had against the Vikings in a single game and it was the only time he's thrown for 300 yards.
For quarterbacks, accuracy trumps velocityVikings rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater was credited by both head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner for making outstanding throws in last week's game at Miami. The two throws that received the most publicity were both to Greg Jennings – his 21-yard touchdown to the veteran and then a 24-yarder on 3rd and 13 in the 3rd quarter.
"Well, he put it in a spot that only the receiver could get it was first, he came off the other side of the coverage to come back over there to Greg," Zimmer said. "His timing on it was really fantastic. All of those things are really, and that was a great throw, but the third-and-14 or third-and-13 that he threw to Jennings also, he had to avoid the rush, step up and actually was kind of throwing off his back foot on the one, and that was a great throw as well."
Zimmer was asked a follow up question, and continued to praise his young quarterback while also making an interesting point that perhaps accuracy is more important than velocity.
"I keep seeing all of those things – the way he moves in the pocket, steps up, and guys coming and he ends up not really stepping into the throw but putting it in there," Zimmer explained. "Norv talks a lot about throwing hard with an arc and on both of those two balls he did. I know everyone talks about arm strength and all of that stuff but it's about putting the ball on the money and that's what he's done the last few weeks."
Receiver (Jennings) motives quarterback (Bridgewater)Quarterbacks are looked at as leaders of the team. They're charged with organizing, performing and motivating. That last responsibility is one Bridgewater has likely done quite a bit of during his time as a football player dating all the way back to growing up in Miami. But last week, as he returned to Miami as a pro, it was someone else doing the motivating for Bridgewater.
The moment happened after that 3rd and 13 connection for 24 yards in the 4th quarter – a play in which Bridgewater was pressured and couldn't step into his throw, but was still able to deliver on time and with pinpoint accuracy to extend the drive.
It was a big-time throw to a big-time receiver, but it was from the arm of a young quarterback growing up before his team's eyes. Not long after that play, there was an interaction between Bridgewater and Jennings that was initiated by the veteran receiver and that will always be remember by the young quarterback.
"It was one of those deals where he came right to sideline and he told me, 'Man, that's it'," Bridgewater recalled. "Just hearing those words from Greg…Talk about a guy, like I always say, a guy that's played with Aaron Rodgers, a guy who's played with Brett Favre, a guy who has a championship under his belt. For him to just say something like that, gives you motivation. It just makes you want to work even harder."
Zimmer appreciates RobisonFollowing his team's performance against the Dolphins last week, Zimmer didn't have many nice things to say about his players – and understandably so. But when meeting with reporters this past Wednesday, Zimmer was informed that one of his defensive players – Brian Robison – was the recipient of the 2014 Korey Stringer Good Guy Award, given annually by members of the Twin Cities media and presented to the Vikings player who is the most cooperative and has the best attitude with the media.
That player was DE Brian Robison.
That prompted Zimmer to express appreciation for the role(s) Robison has played for the Vikings in 2014.
"Brian, and I had never met Brian before I got here or anything like that, but I think that he helped to kind of preach the message to, especially to the defensive players, of what we're trying to get done," Zimmer said. "I asked him to change his game and a lot of things of what he did for the betterment of the defense.
"He is a guy that I can go and talk to and ask him different questions about what his opinion is, what he thinks about and I think those kind of guys are important when you first come into a place. He's been solid. For instance, I talked to him about a couple of things that he needs to do that he wasn't doing, he said, 'I've got it, I'm going to fix it this week.' That's the kind of guy he is that he's going to do whatever he can do to help in any way."