When grading any game, one first has to look at the opponent it played. In the case of the Vikings' 28-7 domination of the Rams, the case can be made that there are college powerhouses that could give St. Louis a run for its money.
But, regardless of opponent, the dismantling the Vikings did in all three phases of the game were building blocks. While most fans may consider the opening game of the preseason as meaningless, coaches and players disagree. Three of the four preseason games aren't about the guys on the first line of the depth chart. It's about the guys on the second and third lines. What makes that vital is that, given the violence of the NFL game and the number of injuries that hit each team, having depth is a priority. One game into the preseason, so far so good.
Here is one grade-out of the game:
Running Game — This may have been the biggest disappointment of the night, unless you believe Adrian Peterson will be the only focus of the running game in 2010. With A.D. sitting out, Albert Young was given the start and didn't produce – losing yardage on more carries than he gained yardage. You can throw some of the blame to a patchwork offensive line, but, aside from a 22-yard run by rookie Toby Gerhart, the other carries netted the top two backs little to nothing. When asked about Gerhart, head coach Brad Childress said the Rams were stacking against the run. Darius Reynaud had a couple of good runs called back by penalty, so this is an area that has miles of improvement needed. GRADE: D.
Passing Game — Sage Rosenfels threw for 310 yards in less than three quarters of work and spread the ball around to a ton of different receivers. If the Vikings are shopping him, his stock just went up – so much so that they may have a hard time getting rid of him if Brett Favre shows back up. Rosenfels scorched the Rams for a pair of long TD passes and came a fingertip away from having a couple more. No complaints. GRADE: A.
Running Game — The Rams never got the running game established, and once they fell behind by 14 points all but abandoned it. They broke off a couple of decent runs, but nothing to write home about. GRADE: B+
Passing Game — Sam Bradford took a beating in his pro debut and the Vikings got stellar performances up front from Letroy Guion, Jayme Mitchell, Brian Robison and Fred Evans. They overpowered the Rams O-line and took control of the game through pressure and intimidation. GRADE: A+.
The special teams surrendered the only points the Vikings gave up on what, in a regular-season game, could have been a back-breaking early touchdown to give the Rams a seven-point lead. Rookie Chris Cook made up for the huge special-teams gaffe in the first quarter by forcing a fumble on a punt deep in Rams territory that led to the Vikings' first point, which somewhat negated the touchdown allowed. Rhys Lloyd didn't live up to billing as a kickoff specialist. Had all four of his kickoffs come from the 30-yard line – one was backed up 5 yards by penalty – three would have come down one yard deep in the end zone and the other one would have come down two yards deep. All of them were returned, which isn't supposed to happen with Lloyd in a dome. An accurate grade here would be incomplete. GRADE: C-.
The Vikings escaped St. Louis with a slow start and a dominating finish, becoming the only NFC North team to wins its preseason opener. As you can see, there were a lot of things to be pleased with and a few things that clearly need to be improved upon. If the Vikings can get all of that together, they appear to be on the right track to be a dominating team – even against NFL-caliber opponents, not Big 12 North Division foes like the Rams.
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.
Opening preseason grade a curve-buster
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