Fans, coaches, and teammates feel their hearts sink anytime a player falls to the turf without being touched. In any sport the scenario induces panic and immediate cause for concern. In football, watching the franchise quarterback – the most important player in all of sports – endure this unimaginable experience causes the audience to gasp, perhaps cry, and pray for the best.
That’s exactly what happened to Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater during a non-contact drill at Vikings practice on Tuesday. Those attending practice report witnessing Bridgewater immediately grab his left knee, leading to head coach Mike Zimmer cancelling practice just twenty-five minutes in.
After extensive MRI testing the team confirmed the worst, revealing the third-year pro suffered a complete tear of his ACL and dislocated knee. Teddy’s season is officially over. But, the Vikings’ season is not.
Yes, Minnesota will move forward into quarterback purgatory with 36-year old Shaun Hill as its starting signal caller. Hill enters his 11th NFL season with a career record of 16-18 as a starter with 49 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.
Hill can’t move around the pocket like Bridgewater. He can’t throw like Bridgewater. But he doesn’t have to. Hill is smart, experienced, and has one of the best teams in the NFL surrounding him. Minnesota’s game plan each week revolves around Adrian Peterson carrying the rock anyway, so not much changes from an offensive standpoint.
Remember in 2012 when Christian Ponder started 16 games for the Vikings, going 10-6 and earning a Wild Card berth? Good, because that season he passed for less than 3,000 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
If you can recall Ponder’s performance then you can certainly recall that of Adrian Peterson. In 2012, coming off a torn ACL, AP rushed for an NFL-high 2,097 yards with 12 touchdowns. Peterson was just eight yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson record of 2,105 yards set in 1984. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Peterson can come close to that mark in 2016. In 2012 every team knew the Vikings’ offense functioned on the strength of Adrian Peterson. In 2016, nothing is changed. But just because the other team knows what’s coming doesn’t mean they’ll be able to stop it.
In addition to arguably the best running back in the NFL, Minnesota also boasts a talented defense led by safety Harrison Smith; lineman Everson Griffin, Sharrif Floyd, and Linval Joseph; and linebackers Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway. With a talented mix of youth in the secondary, this group creates a tough matchup each week.
While the Westgate altered the Vikings’ Super Bowl odds from 20-1 to 30-1, the bottomline is this: the Vikings strategy does not change. Sure, the team can’t rely on advanced athleticism from the quarterback position, but they don’t need to. Minnesota may not win the NFC North for the second consecutive season, but I fully expect it to remain in the playoff hunt through Week 17.
Stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com