MINNEAPOLIS — Teddy Bridgewater gave the giddy fans chanting his first name a pair of go-ahead touchdown throws to cheer for in the fourth quarter, giving the Minnesota Vikings a 30-28 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night.
Bridgewater floated a back-shoulder fade pass from 2 yards out to Rodney Smith with 18 seconds remaining for the lead, after the Cardinals had gone ahead on a bizarre fourth-down score about a minute earlier.
On that final drive, Bridgewater completed six of seven passes for 77 yards. The first-round draft pick from Louisville, who finished 16 for 20 for 177 yards, found Allen Reisner for a short touchdown and Jarius Wright for the 2-point conversion with 7:57 left.
Ryan Lindley threw three straight incompletions from the 6 for the Cardinals and dropped the shotgun snap on fourth-and-goal. In the scrap for the ball, center John Estes got down on his knees and batted it behind him. Zach Bauman scooped it up and ran in for the score.
Drew Stanton threw a scoring pass to basketball-player-turned-tight-end Darren Fells for the Cardinals in the second quarter.
Kyle Rudolph had four catches for 89 yards and a scoring toss from Matt Cassel as the Vikings kept their first team in for the whole first half, and Bridgewater and the backups picked up where they left off.
Cassel was sharp in his only series last week against Oakland, and this time over a bigger sample size he was just as good, going 12 for 16 for 153 yards with one touchdown and no turnovers. Cassel even ran three times for 30 yards when nobody was open but the middle of the field was.
His go-to target was Rudolph, the tight end who has returned for his fourth year much richer, a little slimmer and poised for a breakout season in the new scheme under offensive coordinator Norv Turner. After failing to hang on to a high throw in the back corner of the end zone on third-and-goal at the end of the first drive, Rudolph finished the second possession with a 51-yard catch and run into the end zone.
Most of the second-stringers were in for the Cardinals by the time Rudolph was sprinting down the field. Three of their projected starters on defense didn’t play: linebackers John Abraham and Kevin Minter (pectoral) and free safety Tyrann Mathieu (knee). Abraham didn’t join the team until this week, due to personal reasons the Cardinals have not detailed.
They held out three starters on offense, too, with wide receiver Michael Floyd (groin), guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) and center Lyle Sendlein (calf) kept on the sideline. Backup tackle Max Starks limped off with a left ankle injury and didn’t return.
For the first time since training camp started, the Cardinals actually breathed some fresh air while they tuned up for the regular season. After playing their exhibition opener and holding every practice inside at their covered home stadium just outside of sultry Phoenix, they finally left the air conditioning. The temperature at kickoff was 85 degrees, steamy for Minnesota but a cold front for the Arizona desert in August.
Carson Palmer led the Cardinals on a 93-yard drive to start the game, and Jonathan Dwyer ran around left end untouched for the score. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer looked perturbed after that possession, but his defense bounced back a bit later. Chris Crocker started the game at strong safety, the position most unsettled in that group.
Palmer played two series and finished 4 for 8 for 91 yards. Stanton went 6 for 8 for 81 yards, and Lindley played the whole second half at quarterback after rookie Logan Thomas drew rave reviews for his second-half performance last week against Houston.
Running back Adrian Peterson was the only Vikings regular who didn’t play. Joe Banyard, who also had a 44-yard kickoff return, carried six times for 64 yards. Adam Thielen had four receptions for 54 yards with Bridgewater in the second half.
Blair Walsh made three of four field goals for the Vikings, failing on a 51-yard attempt when it bounced off the left upright. He also missed an extra point.