The third game of the 2015 NFL season is in the books, and the Vikings are 2-1 after beating the San Diego Chargers 31- 14.
By Jordan Wright
After the week one beat down at the hands of the 49ers, the Vikings have played much better football. Offensively, the Vikings rank 29th in the league with 294 yards per game. That includes being dead last in passing offense per game with 149.7 yards, but third in rushing with 144.3 yards per game.
Adrian Peterson continues to play well, rushing for 126 yards on 20 carries on Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater had a below average game, throwing for only 121 yards to go along with an interception, although his receivers didn’t help him out any. Kyle Rudolph dropped a sure touchdown, and Charles Johnson didn’t seem to work back to the ball on the interception. Even after his mediocre start, Bridgewater is still Pro Football Focus’ eighth rated quarterback.
Defensively, the Vikings dominated the line of scrimmage, consistently putting pressure on Chargers’ quarterback Phillip Rivers and limiting them to only 90 yards on 28 carries for an average of 3.2 yards per carry. As a team, the Vikings recorded four sacks, five pass deflections, an interception and a touchdown.
The scary moment of the game came on a collision between Xavier Rhodes and Andrew Sendejo. Both players were going for a tackle, and Rhodes ended up hitting his head on Sendejo, giving him a concussion and knocking him out for the rest of the game. Rookie Trae Waynes replaced Rhodes, and looked markedly improved from what we saw in the preseason. Waynes had solid coverage, tackled well, and perhaps most importantly, wasn’t called for any penalties. Pro Football Focus gave Waynes a grade of 2.3.
The player of the game could have gone to any number of players. Everson Griffen had a wonderful game, Harrison Smith is PFF’s highest rated safety, Adrian Peterson continued to prove he’s a first ballot hall of famer, and Anthony Barr had a very disruptive day. But my vote for player of the game goes to Chad Greenway. Greenway hasn’t been playing much, as he is regularly replaced in the nickel defense by rookie Eric Kendricks. But today, Greenway had the play of the game with his 91-yard interception return for a touchdown which helped put a dagger in the Chargers’ day. Growing up in South Dakota, Greenway played 9-man football which means he played offense and defense, so once he got the ball he knew what to do with it. He might not have the same speed he once did, but he was still able to get to the end zone on that play.
The player who could use the most improvement was Andrew Sendejo. Not only did the Viking’s safety miss a few tackles, he also caused the concussion on Xavier Rhodes, even if it was accidental. Robert Blanton was the starter opposite Harrison Smith last year and all through preseason, yet it has been Sendejo who has gotten the start in the first three regular season games. Mike Zimmer might need to re-evaluate that decision, as Sendejo has been somewhat of a liability on defense. He is also PFF’s 65th (out of 80) ranked safety with a -2.6.
Coming up, the Vikings travel to Denver to take on the Broncos. The Broncos are 3-0 after knocking off the Detroit Lions on Sunday night. Denver will always be a threat with Peyton Manning behind center. While Manning may have lost some of his arm strength, his mind is as sharp as ever, and he has the ability to dissect opposing defenses at will. Denver ranks right behind the Vikings with 290.7 yards per game, which includes 233.7 passing yards (17th ranked), and only 57 rushing yards per game (31st). Defense is the strength of the Broncos, as they rank first in the NFL with only 259 yards given up per game. It is going to take an almost perfect game from the offense, defense and special teams to go into Mile High stadium and leave with a win. It can be done, but Denver is an elite team, and this will be a huge test for the Vikings.