Teddy Bridgewater's otherwise strong showing against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday ended in disappointment when a sack in the final seconds of the game forced a fumble that sealed a 23-20 loss for the Minnesota Vikings.
With 13 seconds left on the clock in a third-and-10 situation, the Vikings elected to pass on a 48-yard field goal from Blair Walsh and instead attempt another throw. But Cardinals defensive end Dwight Freeney beat offensive tackle Matt Kalil on a spin move and managed to swipe the ball from Bridgewater's hand just as he prepared to throw.
"The play call was designed to get out of bounds," Bridgewater said. "All of our receivers were coming from the left side of the field so I tried to do my best to wait for those guys to at least get to the right side of the hash so that they didn't get tackled in bounds because we didn't have any timeouts."
Yes, with one of the NFL's worst offensive lines, the play call from Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner asked Bridgewater to wait for tight end Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Jarius Wright to run from the left side of the field, and then throw when they could get out of bounds on the right side of the field. That proved to be too much time to ask for.
The slow-developing play left Bridgewater vulnerable and he told reporters after the game that the clock in his head told him to throw the ball out of bounds before he was sacked.
"We were trying to throw the ball to the sideline," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. "We told [Bridgewater], ‘You can't complete the ball in bounds,' because with 12 or 13 seconds left, that's right at the time where you can spike the ball and get the clock stopped. You can't complete the ball in bounds, and you can't take a sack."
Kalil had a more blunt description of what went wrong on the play.
LT Matt Kalil on last play: "I don’t know. I got beat. That’s what happened." #Vikings— Brian Murphy (@murphPPress) December 11, 2015
Bridgewater finished the game 25-of-36 passing for a career-best 335 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. The sack for Freeney was one of three recorded by the Cardinals, upping the amount of sacks given up by the Vikings to 38, the fifth-highest total in the NFL. Few teams have struggled more to protect their quarterback than the Vikings, although Zimmer said after the game that he was happy with the team's protection, last play aside.
The Vikings dropped out of a tie for the NFC North lead with the loss and now have two wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons for an NFC Wild Card berth. Up next are back-to-back home games against the Chicago Bears and New York Giants before a Week 17 duel with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
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SB Nation presents: The worst fumble of 2015?