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During the Vikings-Rams game Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium on the U of M campus, Rams defensive back Lamarcus Joyner hit Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with a forearm shiver to Bridgewater’s head:

The NFL implemented a new rule several years ago in their attempt to protect quarterbacks. If a quarterback slides at the end of a run, the defensive player doesn’t have to touch him because the slide is considered proof that he’s giving up on the play in exchange for his safety. Clearly, that’s what Bridgewater did early in the fourth quarter. Joyner slid, too, but with his forearm out. After the game, Joyner said that he wasn’t trying to hurt Bridgewater.

I don’t totally believe that but I won’t accuse him of being a dirty player because, as far as I know, he doesn’t have a reputation of being a dirty player. I won’t extend that same benefit of the doubt to St. Louis Head Coach Jeff Fisher or St. Louis Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams because they both have reputations of being dirty coaches.

During the pregame show on NBC’s Sunday Night game of the week, commentator Rodney Harrison, in talking about the Bridgewater-Joyner play, said that he remembered a wide receiver on Fisher’s team going low and hitting Harrison’s knee. As a result of the play, Harrison wound up with a torn ACL, ending his season. Harrison said he looked up in pain to see “Jeff Fisher smiling” while Harrison was in pain.

That’s before talking about Gregg ‘Bountygate’ Williams. Ben Goessling, one of ESPN’s staff writers and former Vikings beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote briefly about Williams in his article:

Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has a history with the Vikings; he was the New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator in 2010, when the Saints’ bounty system targeting quarterback Brett Favre became national news after New Orleans beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.

There’s no justification for what Joyner did. A defensive player that slides with his forearm out isn’t playing within the rules. If the quarterback is sliding, then the official’s whistle blows and the play is over. Period.

If Williams and Fisher aren’t teaching their defensive players this basic rule, then they’re being derelict in their responsibilities to play within the rules. If the NFL doesn’t discipline Fisher and Williams, they’re essentially telling them that not teaching players to play within the rules is optional. The NFL has tried hard over the last 18 months to clean the game up. If it doesn’t discipline these coaches, and to a lesser extent, Joyner, they will have shown that talk of player safety is just talk.

UPDATE: I DVR all Vikings games so I can study the players’ performances. I just watched the hit on Teddy Bridgewater that gave him his concussion. I have a different perspective on the play than I had yesterday. Thanks to the marks left in the Bank’s field turf, it’s clear that Bridgewater started his slide before the 25 yard line. Joyner didn’t hit Bridgewater until Bridgewater’s head was across the 25 yard line. Further, it’s clear that Joyner didn’t leave his feet until after Bridgewater had crossed the 25 yard line.

Upon further review, there’s no question in my mind. Joyner’s hit was intentional. The NFL should fine and/or suspend him. The NFL should investigate the Rams to see whether Williams has restarted the BountyGate program in St. Louis.

When the Vikings hired Mike Zimmer, they hired him because they were impressed with his ability to coach up defenses. Zimmer’s reputation looked a bit shaky early on because Detroit scored easy touchdowns on their first 2 drives of the game. While it’s impossible to predict the final score, it isn’t impossible to predict the fact that Zimmer’s in-game adjustments would change the complexion of the game.

Trailing 17-6 with 5:08 left in the first half, Zimmer unleashed his defense. Matthew Stafford, who played courageously, didn’t stand a chance once the Vikings dialed up the pressure. The Vikings finished with 7 sacks of Stafford, robbing him of the time to pick out his weapons like Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. Offensively, they kept giving the ball to Adrian Peterson but they also unleashed Teddy Bridgewater and Stefon Diggs. Saying that Diggs has been the hottest wide receiver in the game the last 3 weeks is understatement.

Against the Broncos’ outstanding secondary, Diggs caught 6 passes for 87 yards. Against a solid Chiefs secondary, Diggs caught 7 passes for 129 yards. Today, against Detroit, Diggs caught 6 passes for 108 yards, including this catch, which might be the best TD catch in the NFL this season:

These stats, especially the highlighted statistics, speak to the Vikings’ defensive dominance:

Honestly, I didn’t know that the Vikings outgained Detroit by 150 yards. I didn’t know that they had the ball 13 minutes more than Detroit. I was aware that the Vikings pressured Stafford mercilessly from the middle of the second quarter, sacking him a total of 7 times for the game.

At one point late in the third quarter or early fourth quarter, Fox NFL announcers Chris Meyers and Ronde Barber highlighted the fact that the Vikings had outgained Detroit something like 350 yards to 3 yards since the end of the first quarter.

The Vikings have some things they need to fix during the week. Fixing their defense isn’t their highest priority, though.

The most over-hyped story in the NFL offseason has been the drama whipped up by Ben Dogra, Adrian Peterson’s agent. It surpasses the hyperventilation surrounding Chip Kelly trading up to the 2nd pick to draft Marcus Mariota. While it’s possible that one of those trades happens, the chances that both things happen are about as likely as Kate Upton proposing to me.

I get it that Dogra is representing his client. That’s his first responsibility. Rick Spielman’s first responsibility is to build a championship football team in Minneapolis. The best way to do that is to give Teddy Bridgewater a bunch of weapons who can score from any place on the field. Putting Adrian behind Teddy is a major step in that direction. Putting a rejuvenated Mike Wallace on the outside is another positive step in that direction.

That isn’t to say trading Adrian is foolish. It’s saying that it’s foolish unless Spielman gets a king’s ransom for Peterson. Earlier this week, former Colts GM Bill Polian quantified what a king’s ransom would be if he were the GM. When asked what it’d take, Polian abruptly said “multiple number ones”, as in more than 1 first round pick. I totally agree. I don’t think it’s likely that there’s a team out there willing to pull the trigger on that type of trade but that’s the starting point for the Vikings.

If I’m Rick Spielman, I wouldn’t trade the best running back in the game for a second- or third-round pick. The other GM would hear me start laughing if he offered that type of compensation. I’d point out that, despite Dogra’s daily protestations, Peterson is still under contract for 3 more years.

Frankly, I’d tell Dogra that there isn’t a trade market out there and that his client’s only option for playing this year are with the Vikings. Honestly, I’m certain that Dogra knows this. There just aren’t many teams that can fit Peterson’s $15.4 million cap hit into their budget and pay the Vikings enough in talent and/or draft picks.

The Cowboys can’t afford that capwise, especially after signing Greg Hardy to rush the passer. They’d have to give up their first round pick this year plus either Zack Martin or the Cowboys’ 2nd round pick. There’s no way the Cowboys would do that.

The Cardinals have the flexibility capwise but they’d have to give up the 24th pick in the draft plus Tyrann Mathieu and a second day pick to get Peterson.

The bottom line is simple. The Vikings hold all the cards in this. Either Adrian plays for the Vikings or he retires. Considering the fact that Adrian can make $40,000,000 over the next 3 years, I just don’t see Peterson walking away from that payday.

The other factor that hasn’t been talked about by the media is the fact that Adrian watched Teddy last year. He was impressed with Teddy. Why wouldn’t he want to play for a team that’s on the verge of becoming a legitimate contender in the NFC North? That doesn’t mean I think the Vikings would win the Division this year if Adrian returns. I’ll say, though, that they’d have a pretty strong shot at it their first year in the dome.

This afternoon, the Minnesota saw the difference that a great quarterback makes. This afternoon, Teddy Bridgewater became the face of the Vikings, running for a touchdown while completing 19 of 30 passes for 317 yards. This was the first time a Vikings quarterback threw for 300 yards since the year Brett Favre took the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game.

Bridgewater’s play, though, wasn’t the only noteworthy accomplishment for the Vikings’ offense. This was the first game the Vikings quarterback threw for 300 yards, a Vikings runner ran for 100 yards and a Vikings receiver got more than 100 yards receiving in the same game since Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice turned the trick against Detroit on 11/15/09. This time, Touchdown Teddy threw for 317 yards, Jerrick McKinnon ran the ball 18 times for 135 yards and Jarius Wright caught 8 passes for 132 yards.

It’s gotta be intimidating for the Packers, the Vikings opponent this Thursday, to think that the Vikings offense cooled off in the second half because they still gained 207 yards in the second half. The Vikings gained 351 yards in the first half.

For the second straight game, the Vikings’ opponent threw tons of exotic blitzes at Bridgewater. For the second straight game, Bridgewater handled it like a veteran. It’d be wrong to highlight the fact that Bridgewater had tons of time thanks to his offensive line playing their best game since 2012. Then again, Atlanta’s defense will never be mistaken for the original Steel Curtain defense led by Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene, LC Greenwood and Mel Blount.

The offensive line of Kalil, Johnson, Sullivan, Ducasse and Loadholt dominated Atlanta’s defensive line. McKinnon gained an average of 7.5 yards per carry. Matt Asiata scored 3 rushing touchdowns, with McKinnon and Bridgewater each scoring a rushing touchdown, too. The Vikings gained 241 yards rushing on 44 carries. That’s a 5.5 yard per carry average.

I’d be surprised if this wasn’t a hellish week for Atlanta’s D-Line. They were dominated. They got manhandled. They forced 2 punts the entire day. Atlanta’s defense gave up 558 yards of total offense while letting Jarius Wright had a career day receiving and Vikings receivers seemed to be open all day.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk briefly about the Vikings defense. Statistically, it wasn’t a great day. They gave up 411 yards of total offense. They gave up 2 explosive touchdowns in the third quarter. Still, they turned up the heat when they needed to. Rookie first round pick Anthony Barr called the defensive signals today while finishing with 5 tackles and the Vikings’ only sack. After spending lots of time in Coach Zimmer’s doghouse in the preseason, third year corner Josh Robinson essentially finished the game with a great interception down the sideline. Harrison Smith finished with 5 tackles, too, and a 4th quarter interception of Matt Ryan.

Atlanta has too many weapons to be stopped. Still, the Vikings came up with the key stops when they needed them.

It’s too early to make predictions about how many games the Vikings will win this year now that the Bridgewater Era has started. It isn’t too early to say, though, that Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner are putting this team together the right way. Turner’s offense looked positively explosive today. Zimmer’s defense played hard-nosed football. They were opportunistic, too.

Finally, the Vikings have a new face of the franchise in Teddy Bridgewater. What’s fun to watch is that the game seems to play out in slow motion for him. It’s also fun to watch his arm talent, too. Teddy’s the real deal.

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