Minnesota Vikings notebook: Deflecting offensive line criticism?

Mike Zimmer seemed to deflect criticism of the offensive line, despite its struggles. Plus, get a dozen notes that help tell the tale of the game.

For all the hype the Minnesota Vikings had received over the past few months, increasing as time got closer to the opening bell of the regular season, Minnesota got its lunch and supper handed to it Monday night in a 20-3 blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.

The Vikings got dominated both offensively and defensively by the 49ers and it left head coach Mike Zimmer scratching his head.

“Maybe we’re just not ready for prime time yet,” Zimmer said. “The performance leaves me to believe that. Everybody’s been talking up about us for 11 months. Maybe we thought we were a little bit better than what we were. The surprising thing to me is that this team works. They get out to practice, they execute, they do things right. When they don’t, I’m on them pretty good. They perform, but just tonight we didn’t do it.”

One of the concerns coming into the game was the makeshift offensive line that the Vikings were going to be putting out for 60 minutes for the first time this year. With four of the five linemen in different positions than they were for opening day 2014, Matt Kalil was the only constant.

Adrian Peterson was expected to be the storyline of the night. Instead, he finished the game with just 31 yards on 10 carries and was a non-factor for the entirety of the game – more screen time was of Peterson standing frustrated on the sideline than it was of him on the field.

Teddy Bridgewater had it no better. The 49ers were shooting gaps that forced Bridgewater to improvise and make plays on the move. By the second half, the Vikings were calling quick-hitting pass plays, bubble screens and dump-off passes to attempt to take advantage of the aggression of the 49ers defense. Bridgewater was sacked five times and ran three times following a pocket collapse.

Zimmer defended the play of the offensive line – sort of – putting more of the blame on Bridgewater’s jitters when the heat was on.

“I don’t know that it was all about the offensive line,” Zimmer said. “Some of it was Teddy. A lot of it was Teddy tonight. Teddy did not play good.”

Asked to elaborate on his Bridgewater assessment, Zimmer said, “He was stood up, he just looked unsure, he was concerned about all the things that defensively they were doing,” Zimmer said. “It did not look like him.”

When the team watches game film Tuesday and Wednesday, they will see what everyone else saw Monday night – an offensive line pushed back on running plays and pockets collapsing on pass plays.

Zimmer can blame Bridgewater for not rising above the problems he was facing, but quarterback was dodging live bullets all night. The offensive line was abused by San Francisco defensive coordinator Eric Mangini’s game plan all night long and however one chooses to evaluate performances, the Vikings O-line got old-schooled by the 49ers and all of the Vikings weapons were neutralized in the process.

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GAME NIGHT NOTES

  • Peterson wasn’t the Vikings’ leading rusher at halftime. Jerick McKinnon had three carries for 20 yards, while A.P. had four for 14 yards.
  • The Vikings were outgained 395 to 248 in total yardage. The 49ers had 230 rushing yards, to go along with 165 passing yards – primarily because they didn’t have to throw. The Vikings had 71 yards rushing and 177 passing.
  • The Vikings converted just 1 of 9 third downs and were 0-for-2 on fourth down. The 49ers were 5 of 12 (41 percent) on third down.
  • Bridgewater was sacked five times. Colin Kaepernick was technically sacked once. On a play in which he rolled out to try to throw a pass, he ran out of bounds, with the pseudo-sack being shared by Everson Griffen and Chad Greenway – because they were closest to Kaepernick when he ran out of bounds.
  • Between the two teams, they kicked off seven times. Only one of them was returned and it was by Cordarrelle Patterson, who was brought down on the 15-yard line.
  • Mike Wallace was the top receiver for the Vikings with six catches in his Minnesota debut. Kyle Rudolph was second with five catches for 53 yards.
  • Bridgewater’s 23 completions were spread around between nine receivers.
  • Colin Kaepernick threw for just 165 yards. But when Carlos Hyde runs for three more yards than your QB throws for, those numbers are justified.
  • Hyde’s 168 rushing yards were the most by any running back in Week 1.
  • The 230 rushing yards will also have the Vikings as the Week 1 last-place team in run defense. It included two carries for 8 yards from Reggie Bush, who once again came up lame in the first quarter with a calf injury. With all the high hopes for Bush entering the game, one can only imagine how different the outcome would have been if Hyde had been part of a platoon.
  • Anthony Barr led the Vikings with 12 tackles.
  • The Vikings didn’t allow a single return yard on special teams. Both of the Vikings’ kickoffs were touchbacks and the two punts the 49ers attempted to return were shut down for no gain.
  • The Vikings weren’t much better. The only kick returned in the game was by Cordarrelle Patterson for 21 yards, which left the offense on the 15-yard line. Marcus Sherels had two punt returns for 9 yards.
  • The only positive to take away from the game was aggressive play on special teams. Andrew Sendejo blocked a punt that Sherels took the San Francisco 26-yard line. That field position edge was thwarted when Blair Walsh pushed a field goal attempt wide right. Audie Cole recovered a muffed punt, but the Vikings offense lost the ball on downs. With two opportunities to put up points, the Vikings came away with nothing.
  • In the first and fourth quarters, San Francisco had a time of possession landslide edge of 20:29 to 9:31 for the Vikings.
  • Sendejo started in place of Robert Blanton at safety, but Blanton was in the game in the second half with the game on the line.
  • Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd went out of the game in the first quarter but returned to action.

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