By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
photo credit ESPN Raiders Aldon Smith puts the sack on Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger
OAKLAND — Sunday’s match up at O.co Coliseum between the Vikings and Oakland will showcase two of the league’s best young quarterbacks in Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater and Oakland’s Derek Carr.
Both quarterbacks were drafted in 2014 to turn around struggling franchises with Minnesota selecting Bridgewater with the 32nd overall pick in the first round, and Oakland drafting Carr with the 36th overall pick in the second round.
Oakland (4-4), who has already surpassed its 2014 win total after finishing 3-13, is in the thick of the AFC playoff race thanks to their second-year signal caller. Carr has thrown 19 touchdowns to just four interceptions, including tossing four touchdowns in each of his past two games.
In Oakland’s 38-35 heartbreaking loss in Pittsburgh last week, Carr completed 24-of-44 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns and an interception. Carr is on pace for just Oakland’s third 4,000-yard passing season in franchise history. Raiders’ passing attack anchored by the wide receiver duo of Michael Crabtree (47 receptions, 591 yards, 5 TDs), and rookie Amari Cooper (45 receptions, 653 yards, 4 TDs) and both are on pace for 1,000-yard seasons.
Crabtree recorded his second straight game with seven catches and 100-plus receiving yards in the loss against the Steelers. The Silver and Black could have their work cut out for them when putting the in the air as Minnesota sports the NFL’s sixth-ranked passing defense, yielding just 220.6 yards a game.
Running back Latavius Murray practiced Thursday since suffering a concussion in Pittsburgh. Murray is seventh in the league in rushing with 630 yards with three touchdowns on 132 carries.
Bridgewater, who also suffered a concussion of his own in Minnesota’s 21-18 victory in overtime against the visiting St. Louis Rams last Sunday. Bridgewater left the game early in the fourth quarter and was replaced by journeyman quarterback Shaun Hill after taking a vicious hit from Rams’ cornerback Lamarcus Joyner.
On the season, Bridgewater has played steady, throwing six touchdowns and six interceptions, but has steered Minnesota to a 6-2 record tied for first place in the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers in his second season from Louisville.
Minnesota will host Green Bay next week.
But it was running back Adrian Peterson that was the standout performer in the game.
The NFL’s leading rusher finished with 125 yards on the ground, 21 of which came in overtime that would set up kicker Blair Walsh for the game-winning field goal.
The Raiders were torched defensively in Pittsburgh, allowing 597 total yards to the Steelers, with Antonio Brown recording 284 yards receiving on a franchise-record 17 catches. Safety Nate Allen, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since the home opener, is expected to be back and help a struggling secondary that sports future Hall-of-Famer in Charles Woodson.
Woodson leads the NFL with five interceptions in his 18th season.
Minnesota is currently riding a four-game winning streak, in large part to a defense that has yielded just 306.8 yards total per game and holding the opposition to 18 percent (9-for-50) on third down conversions.
Oakland is 5-1 all time at O.co Coliseum against Minnesota, and have won five of their last seven at home dating back to last season.
This will be the second trip to the Bay Area for Minnesota this season. The Vikings lost to the San Francisco 49ers 20-3 in Week 1 at Levi’s Stadium behind a season-low 248 total yards.
Peterson finished with just 31 rushing yards on 10 carries against a 49ers team that historically holds Peterson in check, yielding just 3.0 yards per carry to Peterson, his lowest against any team for his career.