Bridgewater, Vikings beat Chargers in stadium opener

Published 8:39 am Monday, August 29, 2016

Teddy Bridgewater was sharp in his return from a sore arm, completing 12 of 16 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in the first half for the Minnesota Vikings in a 23-10 exhibition victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers in the official unveiling their new stadium.

After sitting out last week, Bridgewater found Kyle Rudolph for a 27-yard score to cap a crisp 2-minute drill and led the Vikings to points on three of five possessions. Bridgewater even juked strong safety Adrian Phillips to further a 22-yard run that set up one of three field goals by Blair Walsh.

“The shoulder’s feeling great,” Bridgewater said. “I had some fun out there playing with the guys, and I can’t wait to get back out there.”

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Melvin Gordon, aiming to rebound from a rough rookie season, cruised through the middle of Minnesota’s starting defense for a 39-yard touchdown after Philip Rivers audibled to a run upon sensing a blitz. San Diego lost running back Branden Oliver, though, to an Achilles tendon injury on his right leg that required a cart to take him off. The loss of Oliver, the primary kickoff returner and a contributing backup behind Gordon and Danny Woodhead, left the Chargers in a somber mood.

“I went up there as a friend and just prayed for him,” Woodhead said. “That’s the only thing you can do in that situation.”

With sunlight streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling glass on the west side and through the translucent, space-age roof, the Vikings enjoyed a gleaming debut for U.S. Bank Stadium in front of a sold-out crowd of 66,143.

“It’s a beautiful place,” coach Mike Zimmer said, as purple-clad fans watched his postgame press conference from a lounge area the team walks through to reach the field. “It’s just getting used to everything.”

The Chargers undoubtedly felt some envy, with their decade-and-a-half quest to replace 49-year-old Qualcomm Stadium unfulfilled and a move to Los Angeles a possibility. This game was conveniently scheduled for national broadcast on Fox, in case folks in San Diego were still on the fence about public funding.

Rivers went 5 for 9 for 54 yards and an interception for the Chargers.

With Adrian Peterson resting on the sideline, Jerick McKinnon rushed eight times for 56 yards for the Vikings.

Slippery start

Several players on both teams lost their footing on the artificial turf during the game, one sign of the newness.

“I think after about five or six games it will be perfect,” Gordon said. “It’s just got to get broken in a little bit.”

Zimmer said a few players told him the surface was fine.

Rookie watch

Chargers: Sixth-round draft pick Drew Kaser dropped three punts inside the 10-yard line. Kaser, who unseated 13-year veteran Mike Scifres, averaged 50.3 gross yards on four kicks.

Vikings: WR Laquon Treadwell made a tricky catch on a fade route in the corner of the end zone on a 2-point conversion pass from Shaun Hill. The first-round draft pick also had a 15-yard reception.

Position battles

Chargers: QB Mike Bercovici, competing with Zach Mettenberger to be the third-string QB, had passes intercepted by Vikings rookies Jayron Kearse and Mackensie Alexander. Bercovici finished just 4 for 12 for 67 yards.

Vikings: Joe Berger played the whole first half at center over John Sullivan, who missed last season with a back injury and has not been assured of getting back his job. Sullivan didn’t play, because the coaches wanted to evaluate the way Berger played with right guard Brandon Fusco.

Injury update

Chargers: Besides Oliver, RT Joe Barksdale also came out of the game in the first half, limping off with a left ankle injury.

Vikings: Pruitt and SS Antone Exum left the game with left leg injuries and will have MRI exams. SS Michael Griffin hurt his back and was on crutches afterward.