EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line is under siege these days, both from opposing defensive fronts and hyper-critical fans who expect them to do a better job of protecting rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Just as big of a concern within the team, however, is the lack of production from the Vikings’ playmakers on the outside. Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and the rest of the Vikings’ receiver corps have struggled to gain separation from defensive backs and give Bridgewater opportunities to make big plays down the field.
The Vikings have been outscored 59-13 in losses to division rivals Green Bay and Detroit in the last two weeks and mustered just 511 yards of offense.
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”It’s a struggle out here right now, just trying to get open for Teddy to see me,” Patterson said after the loss to the Lions. ”Next week, I’ve got to do a better job.”
The Vikings rank 30th in passing offense and lead the league in dropped passes. Jennings’ team-leading 268 yards receiving rank 56th in the league and the Vikings haven’t had a passing touchdown since Matt Cassel, who is out for the season with a foot injury, threw one against New England in Week 2.
Patterson has been slowed by a hip injury, veteran speedster Jerome Simpson was cut a few weeks ago after the team learned of another drug-related arrest and Bridgewater didn’t have much time to find open receivers last week while being sacked eight times by the Lions.
”We have to execute,” Jennings said. ”We work too hard all through the week to have 13 points to show for it in the last two weeks. We just simply have to execute. When the plays are called, we have to execute. And that’s across the board.”
Another big factor is the absence of two of the team’s best offensive players. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is out after having surgery to repair a sports hernia and star running back Adrian Peterson has not played since the first week while he faces charges of child abuse in Texas.
Bridgewater also said he has to do a better job of getting the ball out of his hand quicker against the Buffalo Bills this week.
”No guy is going to be wide open at this level of football,” Bridgewater said. ”For me, I just have to be faster, whether it’s in my decision-making, my movements in the pocket and just ball placement.”
During Wednesday’s news conference, the young quarterback placed the brunt of the blame for the offense’s woes last week on his own shoulders. He said ”the majority” of the times he was sacked were because he held the ball too long.
He also said he had to be more accurate with his throws to give his receivers a better chance to haul them in.
”I’m pretty sure I can throw a much better ball,” Bridgewater said. ”I can have better ball placement. Sometimes I’m asking those guys to make difficult catches where I’m throwing the ball behind a wide receiver. I think that I can be better in my ball placement and throwing the ball on time.”
Coach Mike Zimmer has tried to spread the blame around the entire offense so as not to single out a position group or player.
”I told the team this today: When you get sacks, it’s not just the offensive line,” Zimmer said Wednesday. ”It’s the receivers not getting open or missing the sight (adjustment), or missing the hot (read) adjustment, or the running back missing the blitz, or the offensive linemen not blocking their guys, or the quarterback holding the ball too long, throwing it in the wrong place or getting the protection redirected the right way. It’s a team issue.”
NOTES: Zimmer was asked whether he would start the same five offensive linemen against the Bills. ”Possibly,” he said, without elaboration. … LB Chad Greenway returned to practice this week, after missing the last three games with broken ribs. … LB Gerald Hodges (hamstring), CB Jabari Price (hamstring) and DE Corey Wooten (back) did not practice.
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