Tight end Kyle Rudolph made his return from sports hernia surgery on Sunday, but he played just 14 offensive snaps in the 21-13 loss to the Bears. He was held without a catch.
Head coach Mike Zimmer on Monday said the plan all along was to ease Rudolph back in to action.
“Yeah, he’s feeling his way a little bit, still. He’s got to let it loose a little bit more,” Zimmer said. “We wanted to be careful with him, but on the same token, he needs to continue to feel good about where he’s at and try to let it loose, too.”
Rudolph, who had last played in Week 3, had been sidelined for seven weeks. As he neared a return, he said multiple times that he didn’t want to play until he felt fully like himself again.
But Zimmer believes that Rudolph was a little apprehensive against the Bears, which was probably to be expected in a situation like this, especially when it was cold, windy day at Soldier Field.
“He was confident but I don’t know if he was really confident, you know what I mean, as far as, ‘Okay, I can go run this route as hard as I can run,’” Zimmer said. “Kyle is a great competitive kid that wants to please and do everything he can. If there’s a chance that he’s going to try to play, he’s going to play regardless of if he’s 99 percent or he’s 88 percent. I think he needed to get back into it. He was a little bit rusty in my opinion. I think he just needs to get back into it more.”
The Vikings ran just 47 plays in the loss. Tight ends Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford played 24 and 22 snaps, respectively. It was Ford, not Rudolph, who was on the field for the game’s final drive.
In an open-ended question, a reporter asked Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer if he’s disappointed about wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson’s season on Monday.
“I don’t think disappointment is the right word,” Zimmer said. “I think youth might be the right word.”
Zimmer expressed why he felt Patterson, in his fourth offense in four years dating back to junior college, hasn’t been a disappointment this year based on his limited time playing wide receiver in his career. Patterson, 23, displayed a lot of promise in what started as a limited role during his rookie season last year. The Vikings planned to unleash him in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense this season but that hasn’t been the case through 10 games.
Patterson is second on the team in receptions, 28, and receiving yards, 332, on 59 targets. Opponents have been able to neutralize Patterson on offense, focusing on him given his playmaking ability, but Patterson hasn’t found an answer yet on how to get open.
“We’re going to continue to be patient with him and keep teaching him and keep working with him to try and get him where he needs to be in all those areas,” Zimmer said. “He does some very, very good things and then some things that you don’t like as much.”
Still, it has been a disappointing season for Patterson, who appears to be taking a little longer to develop than expected. This was thought of as a breakout season for Patterson, who has improved as a route runner over the last year, but he still has a long ways to go to become a consistent wide receiver in the NFL.
“Sometimes it takes time with young guys; I believe that’s the case with him,” Zimmer said. “I believe that he’s going to be a really good player, but everybody is impatient, including me, and I’m sure he is, too. But it will come. It will come.”
Vikings tight end Chase Ford said on Monday that rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater likely wouldn’t have thrown the a late fourth quarter interception against the Bears if he knew how much time was on the clock.
On the final Vikings possession, they dealt with a clock malfunction that occurred throughout the game as Soldier Field. The game clocks in the north and south end zones went dark with the Vikings trailing by eight points in the two-minute situation during the 21-13 loss.
“You definitely need the clock,” Ford said. “I’m sure if it was the other way, if the shoe was on the other foot, that clock would’ve been fixed. They would’ve found a way to fix the clock.”
Ford, who was on the field for the entire drive over tight end Kyle Rudolph, noted how the Bridgewater completed three passes over the middle following the two-minute warning and had no clue how much time remained in the game with the clock running. Following those completions, Bridgewater was picked off by safety Ryan Mundy with the Vikings facing a 2nd and 3 at the Bears’ 29.
“If the clock was working, and Teddy knew how much time there was, I don’t think he takes that chance on that play,” Ford said. “Maybe the next one or something, but on that play I don’t think he takes that chance.”
The interception occurred with 42 seconds left in the game, which Ford mentioned, “I still don’t know how much time was left when that picked was thrown.” Still, even with the clock issues and Bridgewater’s interception, Ford wasn’t using it as an excuse for the team’s sixth loss this season.
The Vikings offense had just 254 total yards on just 47 snaps. The offense was ineffective all game, scoring its only touchdown after a well-designed fake punt stopped seven yards short of the end zone.
“Either way, we came up short with the loss,” Ford said. “It shouldn’t have came down to that. We could’ve played better on the offensive side of the ball.”
Free agent movement has been sloooooow for the Twins this offseason, which shouldn’t be surprising since baseball’s hot stove generally takes a while to heat up.
Not much even qualifies as “news” yet on the Twins front, but there are rumblings, at least, that free agent pitcherJustin Masterson is on their radar.
Several other teams are also intrigued by Masterson, per that tweet from Jerry Crasnick, but it’s worth at least a discussion of what kind of deal would make sense for the Twins … and what type of pitcher they would be getting if they landed him.
First off, Masterson fits the Phil Hughes mold of “buying low,” since he’s coming into his free agent season after a down year. Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA with Cleveland and St. Louis last season. He entered the year as the Indians’ ace; he ended it in shambles. Hughes, you’ll recall, was 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 2013 with the Yankees before his very good 2014 season with the Twins.
Masterson, like Hughes, had two pretty good seasons out of the three preceding his real clunker, posting sub-3.50 ERAs and topping 190 innings in both 2011 and 2013 with Cleveland.
Most projections have Masterson looking for a one-year deal in order to build his value back up. MLB Trade Rumors pegs that deal at around $12 million per season — not exactly the same bargain as Hughes’ three-year, $24 million deal in terms of annual value but less of a risk when it comes to the length.
Prior to 2014, he was looking for a multi-year extension from Cleveland in the $17 million/year neighborhood, but those talks broke off in spring training and we have to think the Indians are glad they did. (At the very least, noted Indians fan Bob Collins is glad they did and does not give Masterson a ringing endorsement).
The Twins flat-out need arms. Their cumulative starting pitching remained atrocious in 2014 despite Hughes’ contributions. But would Masterson on a one-year deal give them enough of a bump to be competitive? That’s highly debatable, and the answer is probably no. Developmentally, they are better off giving those innings to a guy like Trevor May or Alex Meyer. Competitively, though — at least in the short-term — even an average version of what Masterson was between 2011-13 (205 IP, 3.86 ERA) would solidify the rotation and mean more wins. Again, we’re probably talking about the difference between a team in the mid-70s and one that could get to .500 — neither would be contenders, but selling the Target Field public on a better product in Paul Molitor’s first year could be, right or wrong, a factor in the Twins’ front office decision-making.
On a one-year deal, the risk would be low. If he bombed, the Twins wouldn’t be stuck with him or hoping he bounced back (like they are now with Ricky Nolasco). If he was great, they would reap the benefits of a good season. So if the Twins believe they need to improve their rotation and don’t want to give a bunch of spots to youngsters — and the price is deemed fair — they might feel like he makes sense.
As a pitcher, the natural temptation is to again compare Masterson to Hughes, but his peripheral numbers don’t quite match up.
Even before his tremendous 2014 campaign, Hughes had a career K/BB ration of 2.7 and averaged 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. His WHIP was 1.32. All of those numbers improved last year with the Twins (most notably his absurd 11.6 K/BB ratio), and he allowed just 0.7 homers per nine innings thanks to the spacious Target Field (and better command) after sitting at 1.3 HR/9 in his previous years playing his home games at the smaller Yankee Stadium.
Home runs have never been Masterson’s problem; he’s more of a sinkerballer than a fly ball pitcher and gives up just 0.7 homers per 9 innings for his career (same as Hughes did last season). He has about the same strikeout rate (7.5/9 innings) but he also walks 3.7 batters/9 innings for his career, giving him a career WHIP of close to 1.4. Most troubling: last year he walked 4.8 batters per 9 innings and had a WHIP of 1.63. Even Hughes in his down years with the Yankees was never above 1.49.
That said, Masterson at his best is a top-end-of-the-rotation pitcher. He was an All-Star in 2013, when he went 14-10, struck out 195 batters and led the AL with three shutouts. Part of his woes last season could be attributed to a knee problem that landed him on the DL.
Any team that rolls the dice with Masterson is obviously hoping they are getting the 2013 version instead of the 2014 version. What would likely happen is he would be somewhere in between, of course.
For the Twins, it would be unfair to expect the same kind of ballpark bump they got from Hughes since some of his improved command (both in terms of throwing strikes in general and throwing them where he wanted to throw them) can be attributed to not living in constant fear that every mistake would wind up over the fence. Masterson is by no means merely a “pitch to contact” groundballer as his nearly 200 Ks in 2013 can attest, but without a Target Field boost the Twins would be counting on him simply pitching better and also relying on their infield defense to make him look good.
We’re not saying it couldn’t work. We’re certainly not saying the Twins don’t need pitching. But in terms of fit, he’s no Hughes.
The oddsmakers have reviewed the film, crunched the numbers and decided that the Packers are better than the Vikings.
A lot better.
And we can’t say we blame them.
The Packers are 9.5-point favorites against the Vikings on Sunday. That game is at TCF Bank Stadium, and we really can’t remember too many times when Minnesota was that big of a home underdog.
It’s common for oddsmakers to dictate that home-field advantage is worth three points, so they’re saying that on a neutral field Green Bay is 12.5 points better than Minnesota. At Lambeau? 15.5 points (though in reality they were more than double that good in the real game earlier this year, a 42-10 Packers rout with Christian Ponder at QB).
Based on that dismal showing and all of the Vikings’ losses, really — Minnesota has been held under 300 yards and 16 points in each of their six setbacks — the 9.5-point spread really isn’t surprising. Green Bay has topped 50 points each of the past two weeks, including hanging 55 on a Bears team the Vikings could only manage 13 against on Sunday.
So not surprising, but still a bit sobering considering 24 hours ago some of us were talking about the Vikings picking off a wounded Bears team and possibly making a playoff run with the Packers game representing the first of three in a row at home.
Instead, the Vikings are 4-6 and will need to pull a major upset to avoid dropping to 4-7.