Reeling from a blown opportunity in Pittsburgh, the Raiders next face a Minnesota Vikings team that is 6-2 for the first time since 2009. But unlike that veteran-laden team, when Brett Favre’s every move was covered with breathless intensity, these young Vikings have essentially flown under the radar.
In the wake of Sunday’s overtime victory over St. Louis, the biggest question looming over the Vikings is the health of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was hit in the head by Rams corrnerback Lamarcus Joyner while sliding early in the fourth quarter and by all appearances was knocked unconscious. He did not return to the game, although he reportedly believed he could have.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said this week that Bridgewater passed the first test in the concussion protocol and “should be good to go, I think,” in Oakland on Sunday. But Zimmer, who thought Joyner’s hit was dirty, also was critical of Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, referencing his role in the New Orleans “Bountygate” scandal in which payments were offered to Saints players who injured opponents.
Some NFL observers agreed that Joyner’s hit was dirty, including NBC’s Rodney Harrison, who said it was typical of a Jeff Fisher-coached team. Fisher, the Rams’ coach, fired back at Harrison, saying, “This is coming from a guy that had 18 unnecessary roughness penalties, seven personal fouls, four roughing the passer penalties, a total of 77 penalties in his career and was voted three times the dirtiest player in the National Football League and was suspended for a hit, a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jerry Rice in 2002. OK? This is where these comments are coming from.”
Fisher also was critical of Zimmer, saying of their brief post-game handshake, “He didn’t say a word. I went out to congratulate him. I was going to ask him how his quarterback was and congratulate him on the win, and he was gone. I understand that, but you also need to control your emotions after a game and go look at the tape and then adjust accordingly.”
The NFL is reviewing the Joyner hit.
The Vikings aren’t blowing away opponents; over the course of their current four-game winning streak, they have won by an average of 5.25 points. They have a predictably strong ground game fueled by Adrian Peterson, a seventh-ranked defense getting phenomenal play from tackle Linval Joseph, and outstanding special teams thanks in part to the reliable kicking of Blair Walsh and returns of Marcus Sherels.