MIN-ARZ Grades: Teddy Bridgewater comes up short
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Cardinals 23-20 victory over the Vikings:
– Every single snap that Dwight Freeney (+0.6) was on the field last night was for a pass rush and he saved his pivotal impact for the last of those 22 snaps. Collecting only two hurries on his first 21 pass rushes, Freeney pulled out his patented spin move to beat Vikings’ LT Matt Kalil (-1.1) on the inside and stripped the ball from Teddy Bridgewater in the pocket to clinch the victory. Freeney may no longer be the same relentless threat he was in his glory days with the Colts, but he’s proving he can still come up with game-changing plays when called upon, displaying the depth and breadth of talent the Cardinals possess.
– In his second straight start David Johnson (+2.1) impressed once again as a runner, topping 90 yards for the second time in five days, but this time didn’t hurt his overall grade by putting the football on the ground. Johnson broke two tackles and collected 51 of his 92 yards after first contact in his best rushing performance of the season. Adding an additional five catches in the passing game, Johnson highlighted his multidimensional skills that could see the Arizona offense improve even further now that he handles the workload in the backfield.
– This was a bit more of a Jekyll and Hyde game from Carson Palmer (+1.5) than the lights out performances that have become customary so far in 2015. Ultimately, he still came up with big plays, particularly down the field, to see the Cardinals to victory. But some ropey passes, especially to the left side of the field, were not punished as fully as they might have been by the Vikings. If Minnesota had been more opportunistic, the game could have turned on those plays.
ILB Deone Bucannon (+2.5)
DE Calais Campbell (+2.2)
HB David Johnson (+2.1)
OLB Josh Mauro (+1.9)
QB Carson Palmer (+1.5)
– Missing key defenders at every level of the defense, there were prognostications of doom about the Vikings’ fortunes in this game before it even began. Faced with the challenged, their undermanned defense regrouped and held their own in this game. On the defensive line, Brian Robison (+3.2) and Everson Griffen (+4.9) produced strong games, bringing the heat on Carson Palmer which helped out the retooled secondary. The makeshift safety pairing of Anthony Harris (+3.6) and Terence Newman (+1.3) both earned positive grades. Upon watching the film, it will be all the more frustrating for Minnesota’s defense when they realize fundamental errors on the Cardinals two long touchdowns ultimately proved their downfall in a performance that was a few plays away from a securing a victory.
– On offense, Teddy Bridgewater (-0.3) produced another solid performance but once again was unable to come up with a “signature” win that he and the Vikings have consistently come up so agonizingly short of. Blitzed on more than 60 percent of his dropbacks, Bridgewater was able to find the open man to keep the chains moving, earning a passer rating of 120.4 on his 23 attempts against the blitz including his touchdown pass. Ultimately an incredible play by Freeney robbed Bridgewater of the chance to build on his effort in regulation and complete the comeback victory.
– The downturn in production from rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs (-0.2) continued Thursday night as his contribution to the offense was limited to two short catches and two holding penalties drawn from Patrick Peterson, both of which were declined. Since breaking out with 419 yards in his first four games (+7.9 overall), Diggs has only topped 50 yards once in six games since (-2.8 overall), catching only 19 of his 32 targets during the dry spell. Getting Diggs and Bridgewater back in sync will be crucial to the Vikings pushing through the glass ceiling and breaking through against the league’s toughest competition.
DE Everson Griffen (+4.9)
C Joe Berger (+3.8)
S Anthony Harris (+3.6)
DE Danielle Hunter (+3.4)
DE Brian Robison (+3.2)