Bobby Felder should have an arrow pointing up by his name. He made some big plays on defense and especially on special teams to help his roster chances. Plus, get 20 notes to help tell the story of the game.
During what passed for the dog days of August in mild Mankato, Leslie Frazier was asked a relatively direct question: How much weight is given to preseason games in deference to OTAs, minicamps and training camp?
As has become his wont, the more experienced he has become to instantly answering questions that sometimes took longer to ask, Frazier gave a diplomatic answer. He's getting pretty slick at the Teflon art of deflection. He said that all three have an impact, but, when somebody stands out in one area, it gets noticed.
Cornerback Bobby Felder
could well be described as a "bubble guy." When coaches, fans, media types or Rick Spielman put check marks next to the guys who have locked down roster spots, there are about 40 check marks. Felder wasn't one of them.
He might be making his case to put down a little lead next to his name.
If there was ever a night that a player showed how a meaningless preseason game can be meaningful, it was Felder. Not only did he finish second on the team with six tackles (four solo), he had punt returns of 37 and 21 yards and singlehandedly downed a pair of punts inside the Buffalo 3-yard line.
Felder may not end up on the Vikings' 53-man roster. But, if he doesn't, the Vikings will have some explaining to do. There are no game balls handed out during the preseason, but if there were, there would be no questioned who earned it … and maybe earned a roster spot when the tough cuts start coming.
GAME NIGHT NOTES
Wide receiver Jarius Wright left the game late in the first half with what was announced as concussion, but Frazier mentioned it might also be a shoulder.
"They are assessing what's going on with him," Frazier said. "… He got dinged a little bit so we have to find out what that means."
Adrian Peterson didn't play, but don't be shocked to see him a week from Sunday. During a sideline interview, Greg Jennings may have spilled the beans on the Vikings plan, saying he was looking forward to seeing how the offense runs with "The Savior" (a.k.a. Peterson) back in the lineup. Frazier has been evasive about that topic, but he did say during the week that he wanted to see Peterson get some playing time in the preseason and he also said after the game the third preseason game made the most sense.
Who says lightning doesn't strike twice? In the span of 15 minutes, the Vikings had two dismal exchanges between their centers and quarterbacks that were critical to the deep hole the first- and second-team players dug for the bubble boys. Following an interception in the first quarter, the Vikings started a drive on the Buffalo 31-yard line in a scoreless game. On the first play, with a chance to grab momentum, Christian Ponder wasn't prepared for the snap from center John Sullivan. It whizzed by Ponder's head and, after he tracked it down, the Vikings were facing a second-and-25 situation. They got back to the original line of scrimmage, but Blair Walsh pushed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right (familiar in Buffalo) to keep the game scoreless. Almost to the dot on time in the second quarter, backup center Joe Berger launched a snap over the head of Matt Cassel that bounced its way into the end zone for a Buffalo touchdown that gave the Bills a 7-3 lead they would never relinquish.
The Buffalo offense was a good test for the Vikings defense because they ran their offense almost exclusively out of a hurry-up and often no-huddle tempo. They dialed up the pace, which the first team did well at adjusting to. The second and third teams? Not so much.
Just as aggressive as the Buffalo offense was the defense, bringing the blitz early and often. For a team as desperate as the Bills are heading into the 2013 season, it's clear they're willing to take chances.
If you needed a moment to define how little Leslie Frazier cares about his preseason record, it came in the fourth quarter when the Vikings scored a touchdown to cut the deficit to 20-16. Because overtime is played in the preseason, instead of going for an extra point that would have cut Buffalo's lead to three points, Frazier went for a two-point conversion – something he would never do in a regular season game. The film doesn't lie and the film explains his rationale to the preseason.
Buffalo committed a whopping 14 penalties that were assessed, while the Vikings committed just three. The Bills had 11 penalties called on them before the Vikings had their first called on them.
The Vikings didn't have many penalties, but one was critical. When the Vikings fell behind 20-3 in the third quarter, Stephen Burton returned a kickoff 102 yards for an apparent touchdown. But a holding penalty on linebacker Tyrone McKenzie – a penalty that didn't have an impact on the return itself – brought the play back and denied the Vikings a chance to get back into the game immediately after a second half-opening TD gave Buffalo a 17-point lead.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson led the Vikings in passing, completing 10 of 17 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. Ponder completed 5 of 12 passes for 53 yards and Cassel completed 4 of 8 passes for 29 yards.
Kevin Kolb played the entire first half, completing 13 of 21 passes for 111 yards with no TDs and one interception. Rookie E.J. Manuel completed 10 of 12 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
As is common among preseason games, a lot of players got on the stat sheet. Six quarterbacks saw action, 16 different players were credited with rushing attempts and 26 different players caught passes – 13 for each team. On defense, 57 players got credited with tackles – 33 for the Vikings, 24 for the Bills.
Marvin Mitchell led the team with seven tackles (five solo), followed by Mistral Raymond and Felder with six each.
The Vikings were 3-for-16 on third-down conversions.
The two teams combined for 15 punts – eight by Buffalo averaging 42.9 yards and seven by the Vikings averaging 48.9 yards.
The big difference in the punting numbers was the net average, which factors in return yardage. The Vikings averaged 39.7 net yards per punt, while Buffalo averaged just 28.9 yards.
Phil Loadholt had one of those moments Friday that, had he played for Ohio State, would have earned him a Buckeye on his helmet. In the first quarter, a Bills defender jumped into the neutral zone, but the ball hadn't been snapped. As he tried to get back on his side of the line, Loadholt reached out and slapped him in the helmet, which stopped the play and gave the Vikings five yards. It was a veteran moves by a big-money guy.
The Bills should have had a second big scoring opportunity on defense to go along with the touchdown they scored early in the second quarter. On the next drive, Cassel was hit from behind and fumbled. Instead of falling on the ball inside the Vikings 20-yard line, Buffalo cornerback Ron Brooks tried to scoop the ball in and take it for a touchdown. He botched the play and rookie guard Jeff Baca recovered it to keep the ball in the possession of the Vikings.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop played for the first time in more than a year and had a decent performance, making a couple of big hits and recording a shared sack with safety Andrew Sendejo.
Bethel-Thompson led the Vikings on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, but the Vikings burned two minutes on the first of those two drives when inside the 2-yard line. It took the Vikings four plays to finish the drive when they had a first down at the Buffalo 2.
The Vikings starters are expected to go into the third quarter Aug. 25 against the 49ers.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.