Notebook: Picks now part of Vikings’ tricks

The Vikings were one of the worst teams in the league last year intercepting passes by several measures. That has changed this preseason.

Sometimes, decimal points only add to the clutter. In the case of the Minnesota Vikings’ interception rate last year, the decimal points are a necessary start to the stat.

Last year, the Vikings averaged three-quarters of an interception a game – not three, but three-quarters: 0.75 interceptions per game.

That’s why Saturday’s 30-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs has to be viewed as more than just a “meaningless” win in an “exhibition” game. It wasn’t the final score, but how they got there that mattered to the surviving defenders of last year’s nightmare finishes.

It was more proof that head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense is going to be aggressive. And if they follow suit from what is generally considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season, the Vikings’ interception numbers might no longer be laughable.

They have added players. They have added playmakers. And they have stacked blitz upon blitz.

“We got five sacks, but I thought we could have had quite a few more if we would have been a bit more disciplined in our rush lanes,” Zimmer said. “We had our hands around the quarterback a few times and didn’t get him on the ground. It’s something that we’ve been working on and trying to get something different looks in there with some different guys. It’s good for our players to have something to build some confidence.”

The result Saturday was a defense that didn’t give up a touchdown until 25 seconds remained and had the presence to pick off three passes, including two against Chiefs starter Alex Smith. That’s the same Alex Smith that threw only seven interceptions all of last season in 508 attempts. That’s a 1.37 interception percentage.

Last year, the Vikings were tied for the fourth-lowest interception percentage, picking off only 12 passes in 648 attempts from their opponents. Zimmer’s Cincinnati Bengals had 20 interception facing only 614 passes, seventh in the league with an interception percentage of 3.3. This preseason, the Vikings’ interception percentage is 3.6.

After forcing a four-and-out and a three-and-out series on the Chiefs’ first two drives, the interceptions thwarted Kanas City’s two best touchdown opportunities of the first half at Arrowhead Stadium.

Captain Munnerlyn, the biggest free-agent addition in the secondary, stepped in front of a pass intended for Ron Parker in the end zone for the first interception. Chad Greenway, Minnesota’s leading interceptor last year with three, ended the next drive with a pick at the 8-yard line that he returned 28 yards. Shaun Prater finished off the interceptions with a steal from Chiefs backup Tyler Bray on his first series.

Those interceptions helped keep the lead for the Vikings. They were leading 13-5 after Prater’s interception, and Prater’s pick set up Teddy Bridgewater’s first of two touchdowns to Allen Reisner in a span of one minute, 44 seconds of game clock.

“They’re in tune to everything that we’re trying to get. Obviously there’s quite a bit of things that we need to work on, that we need to get better at,” Zimmer said. “It’s good to get some interceptions and usually when you get around the quarterback good things happen. I don’t know if we’ve improved; I just know that we’ve got a long way to go.”

Zimmer was pleased with the win and said it was good to give the defenders some confidence, but he wasn’t about to take his foot off the gas. Both in his postgame media press conference and shortly before that in his speech to the team, he emphasized avoiding over-confidence.

“We’ve got to be more perfect, more precise in everything that we do,” he told his players. “If we do that, we have to a chance to be a damn good football team, regardless of what everybody has said about us all year long. We go out there and we go play, we give everybody a full day’s work, more than they really want.”


  • Five players didn’t dress because of injuries: CB Jabari Price (arm/shoulder), LB Gerald Hodges (leg), LB Brandon Watts (leg), TE Chase Ford (foot) and DT Linval Joseph (calf). Adrian Peterson was also held out on a coach’s decision.

  • Numerous other Vikings didn’t get into the game: WR Donte Foster, QB Christian Ponder, WR Ty Walker, WR Kamar Jorden, WR Kain Colter, WR Erik Lora, LB Justin Jackson, DE Tyler Scott, OT Kevin Murphy, DT Kheeston Randall, DT Isama Faciane, OT Pierce Burton, OT Antonio Richardson, TE Kory Sperry and DT Chase Baker.

  • Matt Asiata started for Peterson, Shamar Stephen for Joseph, and Chris Crocker made the start at safety.

  • Among the players the Chiefs held out because of injuries were RB Jamaal Charles, S Eric Berry, LB Joe Mays and WR Dwayne Bowe.

  • Munnerlyn, TE Kyle Rudolph and LB Jasper Brinkley were the captains.

  • Kickoff started with a game-time temperature of 98 degrees.

  • Zimmer wanted to get a longer look at safeties Andrew Sendejo and Kurt Coleman at one of the most open competitions for a roster spot. The starting spot next to Harrison Smith is still open.

  • Zimmer said no decision has been made on his starting quarterback yet.

  • After sitting out the first two games because of a hamstring injury, Josh Robinson made the start in the nickel defense, despite Zimmer originally planning to hold him out.

    “I talked to him before the game,” Zimmer said of Robinson, who is recovering from a hamstring injury. “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. 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.”

  • The Vikings are 3-0 in preseason for only the 10th time in their 54 seasons and the first time since 2009.

  • The Vikings improved their record in Week 3 of the preseason to 34-20-0. They are 9-7 versus the Chiefs in preseason.

  • Adam Thielen’s 75-yard punt return is tied for fifth-longest in Vikings preseason history. Darius Reynaud holds the record with an 81-yard return against Dallas in 2009.

  • Reisner’s two receiving touchdowns is the first time that has been done in Vikings preseason history since Randy Moss versus Oakland in 2003. Reisner’s three receiving touchdowns this preseason are the most since Moss’s five in 2001.

  • The Vikings are averaging 5.5 yards per play in the preseason, compared to their opponents’ 4.5 yards per play. Vikings quarterbacks are averaging 7.8 yards per attempt, compared to 5.8 yards per attempt for their opponents.

  • Despite a spike in preseason penalties in the NFL, the Vikings have only 18 in their three games combined.

  • Cordarrelle Patterson is leading the Vikings with eight catches in the preseason and his 53-yard touchdown Saturday was the longest of the preseason for the Vikings.

  • For the preseason, Matt Cassel has completed 26 of 39 passes for 367 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 103.3 passer rating. He is averaging 9.4 yards per attempt. Teddy Bridgewater has completed 26 of 40 passes for 266 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 117.3 rating. He is averaging 6.7 yards per attempt.

    Scott Grams contributed to this notebook. Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.

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