Vikings QBs produce sterling performances against Arizona

Matt Cassel's night may have him closing in on the Vikings' starting quarterback job. But rookie Teddy Bridgewater drew rave reviews on Saturday night, too.

Matt Cassel (16) appeared to be edging closer to the Vikings' starting quarterback job when he has 12 of 16 for 153 yards passing and a touchdown in the first half for Minnesota. But then Teddy Bridgewater impressed, too, late in Saturday's preseason win over the Cardinals.

Ann Heisenfelt / Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Greg Jennings walked out of the locker room, dressed and headed out of TCF Bank stadium for the evening, passing reporters on the way and saying, "It's Teddy time."

Maybe not yet, but a step was taken on Saturday night.

Jennings wasn't making any grand statement about the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback job. Instead, Jennings was announcing the obvious after Bridgewater led a game-winning drive with 71 seconds left to beat the Arizona Cardinals 30-28 on Saturday night in the second preseason game.

"It was unbelievable," said receiver Rodney Smith, who caught Bridgewater's touchdown pass with 18 seconds remaining. "He's a big-time player. They drafted him in the first round for a reason and he just showed them he was well worth it."

Whether it's indeed "Teddy time" is for coach Mike Zimmer to decide with two more weeks left in the preseason. And Saturday's game -- despite Bridgewater's late heroics -- likely did little to change the pecking order, where nine-year veteran Matt Cassel has started the past two games and taken the majority of the first-team practice snaps throughout training camp.

"No, not yet," Zimmer said when asked if he's come to a decision on his starting quarterback.

Cassel appeared to be edging closer to a declaration when he has 12 of 16 for 153 yards passing and a touchdown in the first half for Minnesota. Then Bridgewater got his chance to keep his name in the competition by completing 16 of his 20 attempts for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

Cassel wasn't sacked and didn't have a turnover in finishing with a 125.3 quarterback rating. Bridgewater, with two touchdowns, had no turnovers, was sacked once and had a 136.9 quarterback rating.

Bridgewater had some practice struggles last week, and said he's been "overthinking things," but improved on his first preseason game. The TCF Bank Stadium crowd again was chanting "Teddy" for the rookie first-round draft pick, but Bridgewater wasn't ready to say it's "Teddy time" either.

"It's not," Bridgewater said. "I'm still the young guy here. I still have a lot to prove. I still have a lot to work for. I'm just going to continue to come in each and every day and try to get better."

But the poise shown in engineering the come-from-behind, final-minute drive didn't surprise his teammates, either.

"He does it every day in practice," Smith said. "I wasn't surprised at all. He always puts the ball on the money. He's always efficient in everything, so I wasn't surprised at all."

Second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson -- last year's flashy rookie -- added: "He's so calm. He just sit back there and I feel like he's just sitting back there and delivering the ball to receivers. Don't panic. He's always smiling. You need that out of a young quarterback."

Leave it to Patterson to succinctly summarize Minnesota's perceived quarterback competition, though.

"Cassel man, he's the starting quarterback," Patterson said. "You can't take that from him. Whatever the coaches say, they say, but Cassel's the starting quarterback and Teddy's doing a heck of a job competing with him. So, you need that out of your two quarterbacks."

Does Patterson think Cassel will be starting in Week 1 of the regular season at St. Louis?

"I'm not a coach at all," Patterson said. "Both of them doing a heck of a job, but you see Cassel's taken all the first-team reps right now, so I feel like he's the starter."

For Zimmer, Saturday's game went just as he hoped from his two quarterbacks. Cassel played the entire first half and has gone 17 of 22 passing in the preseason for 215 yards and one touchdown, leading four scoring drives on six chances.

"Matt's doing great," Zimmer said. "Honestly, he takes good charge of the football team. I still like to compete. We still have to keep competing. They're all getting a lot of reps, as you see."

Bridgewater is 22 of 33 passing in two preseason games, going for 226 yards and two touchdowns. As Zimmer had planned, Bridgewater played the entire second half of Saturday, but a 10-minute Arizona drive limited the rookie's chances. He led Minnesota to scores on three of four drives Saturday.

"Teddy was calm," Zimmer said. "He was smart. That whole (final) series was a lot of blitzes. He slid the protection the right way. You can't take a sack in that situation. He was able to get the ball out of bounds a couple of times, get out of the grasp of a lot of rushers, and so he made a lot of great plays there. I thought Teddy played well tonight. I expect Teddy to play well."

Inside the locker room, both quarterbacks don't play into the competition, though Cassel said this week if he performs well, he expects to be the Vikings' starter.

"It's coach's decision and he's probably one that's better to speak about that than I am," Cassel said. "But at the same time, I just have to keep going out and playing hard and hopefully performing well, and letting them know I'm ready to play."

Bridgewater is keeping the competition going with Saturday's performance. After a first preseason game in which Bridgewater was 6 of 13 passing for 49 yards and was sacked twice, he looked more like the pro-ready prospect Minnesota believed it was drafting when it traded into the end of the first round with Seattle to select Bridgewater out of Louisville.

Bridgewater almost had his first touchdown with a pass going through Adam Thielen's hands. He calmly kept the drive going and finally had his first -- albeit preseason -- touchdown on a 3-yard strike to backup tight end Allen Reisner.

On the final drive, Bridgewater was 6 of 8 for 75 yards and the touchdown on a fade to the 6-foot-5 Smith.

"For me, I'm the young guy and a lot has been thrown at me," Bridgewater said. "I tend to overthink things. Coach Turner always said, and Coach Zimmer tells me, 'Just do what you do best and that's play football and have fun.' Today I was able to just go out and play relentlessly, not overthink plays and just trust everything that the coaches have been telling me."

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