The short week of practice is over and the Vikings are set for their game Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers. Here's what we learned this week about the Vikings as they prepared for Week 5.
Bridgewater Questionable, Ponder ReadyThe Vikings listed QB Teddy Bridgewater as questionable on the week's final injury report. After missing practice on Monday and Tuesday with the ankle injury he suffered on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Bridgewater did participate in Wednesday's practice on a limited basis.
If Bridgewater is unable to play, Christian Ponder will get the nod. Ponder has plenty of experience, has beaten the Packers previously and can operate Norv Turner's offense in a manner consistent with what the coaching staff expects.
"It's like every other week," Ponder said. "I've tried to prepare just in case. You prepare as if you are the starter so that, if you are thrown in there, you're prepared enough to play well. I'm taking it as if it's any other week."
Bridgewater a "Huge Fan" of FavreWhether he plays Thursday night or not, Bridgewater will step foot on the very same field as legendary quarterback Brett Favre. Bridgewater said earlier in the week that he remembers watching Favre play and went so far as to call himself of big fan of the future Hall of Famer, who finished his career with the Vikings and had one of the best seasons of his career in 2009.
Here is a two-question exchange on the topic from Bridgewater's press conference on Tuesday:
Reporter: Any memories of watching Brett Favre or the Packers?
Bridgewater: Yes, a ton of memories.
Reporter: What are some?
Bridgewater: I can't even tell you the exacts or the specifics. I just remember growing up and being a huge fan of Brett Favre. I feel like he's one of the toughest quarterbacks to play this game and I admire everything about him.
Zimmer Wants to Rush Smarter, Not HarderThe Vikings have eight sacks as a team so far in 2014, a number that ranks tied for 13th in the NFL. Given the talent the Vikings have on the defensive line, it's fair to expect the frequency of sacks to rise for the Vikings defense as the season progresses.
Key to doing that, according to Head Coach Mike Zimmer, is not necessarily to rush more defenders. It's for the defenders who are rushing to be smarter about the manner in which they do it.
"We would have a lot more sacks just with our four man rush if we would learn to rush as a team and not rush as individuals," Zimmer said. "We have actually pressured okay, what we haven't done is rush smart. We have to rush a lot smarter and same thing with this quarterback. If we give him an opportunity to get out of the pocket a lot of times, a lot of bad things happen."
When Rodgers gets out of the pocket, he's athletic enough to pick up yardage with his legs. But he's even more lethal when a scramble affords him more time to find receivers down the field.
Packers Capitalize on Second ChancesPenalties are typically not a significant factor in wins and losses. Seattle, last year's Super Bowl champions, was the most penalized team in the NFL in 2013 and Denver, Seattle's opponent in the Super Bowl, was the eighth-most penalized team.
Against Green Bay's offense, though, it's important not to allow penalties to extend drives. The Packers have scored 37 points (four touchdowns, three field goals) on drives that were extended directly or partially by a defensive penalty. Last week in Chicago, the Bears were particularly stung by Green Bay's opportunistic ways, watching the Packers score three times – 17 points – after penalties extended drives.
Munnerlyn Won't Lose his "Luggage" on Thursday NightAnother point of emphasis for the Vikings defense on Thursday night will be to stick with Green Bay's receivers longer than usual.
"He can extend the plays and find open receivers," Vikings CB said of the Packers all-pro passer. "His receivers know how to get open. You can have them covered but they uncover themselves very well, so we've got to do a great job of keeping our eyes on our luggage."
Added CB Josh Robinson: "You have that clock in your mind where you think, 'OK, it should be a sack' and you want to look back, but you've just got to train yourself to keep covering regardless," Robinson said. "If he's moving, keep moving. If the receiver is standing there, you've just got to keep looking at him, because sometimes that's what happens on film."