The Vikings turned a lead into a blowout instead of blowing it when all three phases contributed when it counted. It was a different theme from the one set early last year.
One thing that was consistently missing from the Vikings last season was getting all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams – working together to close out games. If the defense was strong, it seemed as though the offense would struggle and, as Vikings fans remember, when the offense scored enough points for the team to win, the defense collapsed late – losing leads in the final minute of five games.
But Saturday night in Kansas City, the Vikings took a 10-5 lead to halftime and used all three phases of the game to turn a five-point lead into a 22-point lead in a span of a little more than four minutes to turn a tight game into a 30-12 blowout.
The Vikings sent the starting offense out to start the second half, but it took an alert special teams play to keep the ball in the Vikings possession. After Marcus Sherels
muffed a punt, Andrew Sendejo
was on the spot and made the recovery. Rookie Jerick McKinnon
led the way on the next drive, running three times for 40 yards and catching an 8-yard check-down pass to get the Vikings into scoring position, where Blair Walsh
connected on a 32-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 13-5 lead.
On the next drive, Kansas City backup quarterback Tyler Bray
came in and his first pass was intercepted by Shaun Prater
, who returned the pick 31 yards down to the Kansas City 8-yard line. Teddy Bridgewater
made his first appearance of the game and quickly got the Vikings on the board, throwing an 8-yard touchdown to tight end Allen Reisner
to give the Vikings a 20-5 lead.
On the ensuing Chiefs drive, the defense forced them into a three-and-out and Adam Thielen
returned the ensuing punt 75 yards down to the 5-yard line. On the next play, Bridgewater connected with Reisner again for a TD, giving the Vikings a 27-5 lead.
“Adam did a heck of a job. He’s a good kid and he’s one of those guys that the more things you can do, the better chance you have of staying,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “That’s how he’s been all training camp – he just keeps fighting and fighting. He’s got a lot of heart and obviously I like guys with a lot of heart. He just seems to get better and better, and when he’s in there he just makes plays.”
Granted, it was only a preseason game, but the Vikings showed that, when all three phases are hitting on all cylinders, they have the firepower to blow out teams, scoring 17 points in 4:17 of game time to help turn a close game into a lopsided Vikings win.
GAME NIGHT NOTES
The stamina of the players was severely tested. The game time temperature was 98 degrees and the Vikings made a point to rotate players in and out often. Zimmer said it wasn’t enough and he will talk to his coaches about doing a better job of rotating.
Defensive tackle Linval Joseph sat out his second straight game as he continues to recover from a gunshot wound in which a bullet when through his calf. Joseph is expected to be ready for the regular season opener.
Shamar Stephen got the start in place of Joseph Saturday.
“He’s got great size, great lower-body strength. He’s got good quickness. He runs well,” Zimmer said of Stephen. “He’s getting better every single day with our techniques and he’s actually playing both of our inside tackle positions. … I have a lot of high hopes for him for the future.”
Adrian Peterson didn’t play again and, for the third straight year, isn’t expected to play a down in the preseason.
Defensive backs Josh Robinson and Robert Blanton made their first appearances of the preseason. Robinson got burned with a 42-yard pass interference penalty in the first half, but Zimmer was just happy to see him out there.
“I talked to him before the game. I actually planned on letting him warm up and then not playing him in the game. And then I went up to him and asked him how he feels,” Zimmer said. “I just wanted to get him about 10 plays and try to get him a little bit of game tempo and game situation, have a little confidence on his hamstring. I was glad to see he sucked it up and played. He wanted to go longer and I decided to get him out.”
Jamarca Sanford (quad) and Phil Loadholt (leg) both came out of the game in the first half with injuries. Loadholt returned to action but was pulled before the rest of the starting offensive line.
“We’re going to do an MRI tomorrow, but they don’t believe it’s anything serious,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings are 3-0 in the preseason for the first time since 2009.
Those who have watched games this weekend likely noticed that extra points were moved back to the 2-yard line.
Matt Cassel had a decent night, completing 9 of 17 passes for 152 yards with one touchdown and one interception, including a well-thrown 53-yard bomb to Cordarrelle Patterson on the Vikings’ first drive, giving Minnesota a lead it would never surrender.
Bridgewater threw just seven passes, completing four of them for 40 yards, but two of them went for touchdowns. Zimmer said he hadn’t made a decision on his starting quarterback for the regular season.
Kansas City starter Alex Smith struggled much of the game, completing 14 of 24 passes for 140 yards and two interceptions. Bray completed 9 of 15 passes for 85 yards with one TD and one interception.
The Vikings had impressive showings from all of their running backs. Matt Asiata had 11 carries for 48 yards to lead all rushers, but Jerick McKinnon was impressive with a strong drive in the third quarter that led to six rushes for 43 yards. In the fourth quarter, Dominique Williams showed some flashiness, running five times for 39 yards, including hurdling a defender on an 18-yard run.
Patterson led the Vikings with three catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Only seven different Vikings caught passes, while 12 different Chiefs caught passes.
After having his share of struggles in Week 2 against Arizona, Blair Walsh made all three of his field goal attempts and scored 12 points.
Audie Cole led all tacklers with eight (seven solo). Sendejo had five solo tackles to finish second.
The Vikings had five sacks Saturday, one each from Prater, Corey Wootton and Tom Johnson and shared sacks from Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Jasper Brinkley and Justin Trattou.
In the second quarter, the Chiefs converted three straight third downs on their only scoring drive of the half. For the rest of the game, they converted just 3 of 14 opportunities.
The Vikings limited the Chiefs to just 285 yards – 80 of those coming in the final four minutes with the Vikings playing prevent defense while ahead 30-5.
The Vikings averaged 5.3 yards per rushing attempt, gaining 148 yards on 28 attempts. Kansas City ran 24 times for 91 yards – a 3.8-yard average.
The Vikings punt coverage teams played very well. On two punt returns, the Vikings allowed just four return yards.
In a preseason when penalties are at a record level, the two teams combined for just five penalties – three by the Vikings and two by the Chiefs.
Both teams got in the red zone four times. The Vikings came away with 20 points in their possessions and the Chiefs came away with 10 points.
When Loadholt got hurt in the first half, on the first play backup Austin Wentworth was in the game, he whiffed on a block that led to a safety and Kansas City’s first points of the game.
Griffen missed a couple of sacks in the game and, when he finally did get one, it was negated by offsetting penalties. He would get a shared sack later in the game.
The new-look Vikings defense was on display Saturday, especially as it pertains to veteran lineman Brian Robison. An edge rusher by trade, B-Rob was moved inside often in the first half and even took a couple of third-down snaps lined up at linebacker.
Although the Vikings didn’t have any kickoff returns Saturday, they did drop Patterson back after Kansas City scored a field goal in the first half. That kick went for a touchback.
The Vikings outgained Kansas City 93-6 in the third quarter.
For the second straight game, Christian Ponder didn’t take a snap.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.