EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — With Adrian Peterson returning to the backfield and a more experienced quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, the Minnesota Vikings envisioned a balanced offense ready to challenge for a playoff spot in the NFC.
Peterson has done his part through three games by leading the league in rushing. But the Vikings haven't established their passing game, even after adding an established deep threat in receiver Mike Wallace.
"We've probably shown 30 or 35 percent, but when you still have more of the playbook to bring out than you've shown, that's a good thing," Wallace said this week. "You still have the element of surprise."
Minnesota's league-worst passing attack could be without two of its top three receivers Sunday in Denver against the Broncos' top pass defense. Starter Charles Johnson has already been declared out with a rib injury and slot receiver Jarius Wright is questionable because of an injured hand.
Wright, who has five catches for 72 yards this season, was limited in Friday's practice after missing the previous two days.
"For the most part I was able to get my reps and able to get a couple of catches in, in there," Wright said. "It was good to get a chance to be back out here and get my catches. At the same time, we got a lot of receivers that's ready to step up."
Wallace leads the team with 12 receptions for 150 yards, and tight end Kyle Rudolph has been Bridgewater's other main target with 12 catches for 97 yards and the only receiving touchdown.
However, the Vikings (2-1) expected more from an improved receiving corps and Bridgewater. Minnesota is averaging just 149.7 passing yards per game. Bridgewater has completed 67.6 percent of his passes and his 6.82 yards per attempt is 22nd in the NFL.
"I'm not worried about our ability to throw the ball under any circumstance," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "We're doing what's best for our team right now and what we want our quarterback to do - and I think he's done it the last two weeks - is play winning football, not fantasy football."
Without Johnson, and possibly Wright, the Vikings will face Denver's pass defense that has allowed just 176.3 passing yards per game and has 11 sacks and six interceptions. Bridgewater could be forced to secondary options such as Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson and rookie Stefon Diggs.
Diggs, a fifth-round pick, has been inactive the first three games. Coach Mike Zimmer indicated Patterson, the rookie sensation who has slipped down the depth chart, could have opportunities on Sunday.
"I think he's been doing a good job all along," Zimmer said. "He just has to go out there and do it. There may be some opportunities for him this week, we'll see."
The Vikings listed starting safety Andrew Sendejo (knee), defensive end Justin Trattou (foot) and cornerback Jabari Price (shoulder) out for Sunday's game. Linebacker Audie Cole (ankle) is questionable and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (concussion/neck) is probable.
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