DENVER — The Minnesota Vikings have believed in Teddy Bridgewater’s potential to become a franchise quarterback, and for much of the second half on Sunday, it appeared as though their faith might be rewarded with a defining moment in Bridgewater’s 16th career start. He outdueled Peyton Manning, stood up to the AFC’s best defense and engineered a comeback to pull the Vikings even with four minutes left. But the Broncos, who exploited the Vikings’ protection problems all day, got to Bridgewater a little too often on Sunday and Denver prevailed 23-20.
How the game was lost: The Vikings’ two biggest problems all season have been their ability to protect Bridgewater and kicker Blair Walsh’s missed field goals, and both of them came back to bite Minnesota on Sunday. If not for Bridgewater’s fleet feet, the Broncos might have ended up with even more than the seven sacks they had, including two on the game’s final drive, and Walsh’s missed 38-yard field goal turned out to be the difference.
What it means: The Vikings head into their bye week at 2-2, already a pair of games behind the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North. The Vikings had what might be the AFC’s best team on the ropes at home on Sunday, and while the progress they’ve made is evident, it’s hard not to look at Sunday’s loss as something of a missed opportunity.
One reason to get excited: Bridgewater did everything asked of him in the second half, completing 13 of his 15 passes for 131 yards and directing a pair of scoring drives to pull the Vikings even. He scrambled for a first down to keep the Vikings’ final drive alive, and finished the day with 269 passing yards.
One reason to panic: The Broncos’ defense is a tough assignment for anyone on the road, but the Vikings have to be concerned about their ability to protect Bridgewater. He was sacked seven times in the loss, with T.J. Ward coming clean on a blitz to force a game-ending fumble.
Fantasy watch: Adrian Peterson had been stifled until the fourth quarter, when he lined up behind a three-tight-end front on fourth-and-1. As the left side of the Vikings’ line sealed off a hole for Peterson, he surged 48 yards for a touchdown, putting him second in Vikings history with 94 TDs. Peterson finished the day with 81 yards.
Ouch: Wide receiver Jarius Wright was active after being listed as questionable with a hand injury but was used sparingly, as the Vikings gave many of his snaps to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who was playing his first game on Sunday.
Celebrity sighting: Actor Josh Duhamel, a Vikings fan from North Dakota, took in the game on Sunday and spent part of the second half in the Vikings’ radio booth with play-by-play man Paul Allen.