Letting the rookie quarterbacks play and keeping the starters on the sideline may have been the best decisions Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt made all night.
And Zimmer, who interviewed with Tennessee before the Titans hired Whisenhunt, still finished off his first preseason in perfect fashion.
Teddy Bridgewater threw a touchdown in his first NFL start, Joe Banyard ran for 111 yards and the Vikings beat the Tennessee Titans 19-3 on Thursday night.
“More than the record indicates I feel good about the way we’ve performed,” Zimmer said. “We’ve taken care of the football and not made a lot of mistakes. We haven’t been a big penalty team. We seem to be doing the right things. It’s always nice to win. To me, it’s how are we playing. Hopefully that will carry us on.”
Defensive end Corey Wootton, signed from Chicago as a free agent this offseason, had one of the Vikings’ three sacks as Minnesota (4-0) notched its seventh undefeated preseason and first since 2001.
“The biggest thing is every coach wants to win all the games in the preseason just to set a standard on how it is going to be and a winning attitude with a winning team,” Wootton said.
Blair Walsh kicked four field goals, and both coaches protected their starters by keeping them safely on the sidelines as a storm drenched LP Field most of the first half. Lightning less than 3 miles away delayed the kickoff of Temple at Vanderbilt.
“It was tough conditions early,” Whisenhunt said.
Titans quarterback Jake Locker and Matt Cassel of the Vikings both dressed and warmed up. But Zach Mettenberger got his first start for the Titans (2-2), while the Vikings also went with their rookie. Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson warmed up, too, but he sat a fourth straight preseason game.
Those starters watched teammates finish up, many holding towels over their heads against the rain. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who signed a $36 million extension Wednesday, at least got some action in high-fiving the Titans as they ran into the field for kickoff.
Zimmer announced Monday that Cassel will start at quarterback Sept. 7 when Minnesota opens at St. Louis. Bridgewater showed why he will be ready if the Vikings decide to make a change later.
Bridgewater escaped two would-be sacks on the opening drive, and drove the Vikings 80 yards over more than 6 minutes. He completed 3 of his 4 passes and capped the drive with a 3-yard TD pass to Adam Thielen. Bridgewater played two series and was 4 of 9 for 17 yards with a touchdown.
“It is another goal that I can cross off my list,” Bridgewater said of his first start. “At the same time, it was a preseason start. It was a just a great feeling getting on the field, walking out of the locker room knowing that your number is called right away.”
Walsh kicked three field goals in the first half as the Vikings scored on their first four drives.
Banyard did most of the damage, ripping through the Titans’ backups over and over again. Banyard had 69 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter alone, and the second-year pro out of Texas-El Paso who has never carried in the regular season made his case with all 111 yards on 18 carries in the first half.
Christian Ponder, the 12th overall pick in 2011, took over in the second quarter for Bridgewater. Ponder was 12 of 15 for 121 yards in his most play this preseason.
Mettenberger, a sixth-round draft pick out of LSU, came in having thrown for more yards than anyone else this preseason. He was 12 of 17 for 154 yards. Dominique Davis took over for the Titans late in the third quarter, and the quarterback signed Tuesday threw deep on his first play and was intercepted by Julian Posey.
“It was a great opportunity to get out there and get some reps,” Mettenberger said. “It’s unfortunate how the game kind of played out.”
Notes: For the Vikings, Thielen hurt his hip, DE Justin Trattou hurt a shoulder and FB Zach Line hurt an ankle. ... Titans DE Marcus Dixon had two sacks, both of Ponder. ... Maikon Bonani, competing with Travis Coons to be the Titans’ kicker, had a touchback on the opening kickoff. He missed a 32-yard field goal wide left off a bad snap but had a 29-yarder in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout.
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