Right now, the Minnesota Vikings are hoping to make the conversion from the preseason and carry their momentum into the regular season. There was plenty to like with the preseason, but they know that success doesn’t always translate to the regular season.
“We’ve been playing good football,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “We keep doing smart things, we keep doing the things that we have done in the preseason, we can go out and beat anybody. But we have to go out and do them; we can’t talk about it.”
The Vikings did plenty of good things in the preseason, starting with their 4-0 record. But it went beyond the wins. The statistics were there to represent on both offense and defense.
On offense, their three quarterbacks combined – starter Matt Cassel and backups Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Ponder – combined for the highest passer rating of all the NFL teams. Bridgewater led the team with a 111.2 rating, completing 61.2 percent of his passes for 283 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Cassel was next with a 103.3 rating, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 367 yards, two touchdowns and one interception; Ponder had an 89.2 rating, completing 63.2 percent of his passes for 160 yards.
But with a new coaching staff in place, new schemes on offense and defense and plenty of new players in key positions, gaining confidence in everything fresh was important, too.
“I think we’ve gained some confidence in some of the things. I think we’ve gained confidence in the techniques that we’re teaching and maybe the coaches and what we’re doing offensively and defensively, but if our expectations weren’t very high to begin with then we probably wouldn’t be a very good football team anyway,” Zimmer said. “I think the players believe in what we’re doing and the things we can accomplish if we continue to do the right things and, as I’ve said 100 times, it’s important to me that we have a team that plays real hard, plays real smart, does the right thing, don’t commit penalties. And those things did show up in the preseason, whether it’s just the preseason or not, it did show up.”
The Vikings ranked first in giveaways, with Cassel’s interception the only blemish, but there was a lot to like about how the defense performed, too.
It ranked second in points allowed per game (12.3) in the preseason, second in interceptions (five) and helped the Vikings rank second in turnover margin at plus-five. Defensive end Brian Robison likes what he sees from Zimmer.
“He’s very aggressive with his play-calling. He’s not afraid to throw any wrinkle out there to keep offenses off balance,” Robison said. “If we can execute the defenses that are called – and as you could see in the preseason we can execute – then it gives us a great opportunity to win ballgames.”
But Robison knows that 4-0 in the preseason is still just the preseason. It’s when the games “stick” that matter.
“I think guys are very excited about the season. We’re excited about this coaching staff we have,” he said. “Just everything around here right now, it seems guys are more upbeat about it. We’re just looking forward to putting the pads on for real and getting after it and having it stick to our record.”
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.