The Vikings took the field for the first time at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, hosting the San Diego Chargers in the third game of the preseason for each club. You only have one chance to make a good first impression, and the Vikings took advantage of that chance by defeating the Chargers 23-10 in front of a packed house in downtown Minneapolis.
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Here are 10 observations from Sunday's game…
1. Daggers to Diggs
On a day where QB Teddy Bridgewater stole the show as the Vikings raised the curtains on U.S. Bank Stadium, it was W Stefon DiggsR who played as impressive a supporting role as any other playmaker. Bridgewater completed 12 of his 16 passes on the afternoon, including five to Diggs on five targets. The first two completions of the game were to Diggs, totaling 16 yards and netting a pair of 1st downs; Diggs finished with 71 yards receiving.
2. Bridgewater is ready for the regular season
Aside from the impressive box score, Bridgewater also averaged 10.1 yards per passing attempt and dazzled the crowd with a 22-yard scamper in which he escaped the Chargers pass rush and then shook S Adrian Phillips out of his shoes. His most impressive stretch came late in the 2nd quarter when he completed consecutive passes to Charles Johnson for 19 yards, Diggs for 22 yards and then a TD pass to Kyle Rudolph for 27 yards. Those three throws called on Bridgewater to absorb hits from oncoming rushers as he threw, apply velocity and touch and throw receivers open – the kind of skills asked of NFL quarterbacks on a week-in and week-out basis.
View images from the third preseason game of 2016 as the Vikings took on the Chargers.
3. U.S. Bank Stadium impresses in football debut, Vikings fans show up to take it in
Concerts, soccer games and galas have taken place inside brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium, but Sunday was the first football game that was played in the building and, generally speaking from most accounts, it was a successful debut for the Vikings new home. For starters, a Vikings home attendance record was set with 66,143 fans packing the stands. Also, the clear roof and five pivoting glass doors permitted copious amounts of natural light into the building, providing a unique look and feel for an indoor venue. The sound system was good and the sound produced by fans was notable. The shadows on the field weren't anything of which to speak. And the home team won. There are surely a few things to iron out, totally expected when opening a building of this magnitude. All-in-all, though, it was a spectacular debut for a spectacular venue.
4. Treadwell demonstrates red zone capability
Shaun Hill lofted a pass to the back left corner of the end zone to a receiver in one-on-one coverage. It was what some call a "50-50 ball" but with the intended receiver being Laquon Treadwell, it was clear the chances of the offense winning that battle were far greater than 50%. Treadwell used his large frame and long arms to soar over the defensive back and haul in the offering from Hill to tack on two points following the Vikings second touchdown of the game. The Vikings elected to go for 2 after both of their touchdowns, failing to convert on a Matt Asiata run in the first half but converting on the Hill-to-Treadwell connection in the second half. Treadwell had another catch in the red zone later in the game, which netted 15 yards.
5. Zimmer errs on the side of caution with a handful of starters
As he says he did with Bridgewater in Seattle, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer erred on the side of caution with a handful of starters on Sunday. Matt Kalil and John Sullivan sat out on offense, with TJ Clemmings and Joe Berger stepping in. On defense, it was Everson Griffen, Eric Kendricks and Xavier Rhodes who didn't participate, with Danielle Hunter, Audie Cole and Trae Waynes seeing additional time.
6. Berger starts at center, Sullivan doesn't play at all
It's often suggested that he third preseason game is the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season. If one subscribes to that theory, then one will find the team's decision to start Joe Berger at center quite interesting. But if one listens to Zimmer's press conference, there might not be much of anything to it. Zimmer explained the team hadn't gotten a look at Berger at center in the preseason because he's been playing in Brandon Fusco's place at RG. With Fusco back in the lineup today, it was the team's chance to give Berger a look at center with the first team.
7. Walsh perfect in a new home
Blair Walsh had a solid debut at U.S. Bank Stadium, converting on all three of his FG attempts. Walsh salvaged scoring drives by splitting the uprights from distances of 23, 33 and 23 yards. He did not attempt an extra point because the Vikings went for 2 after each of their touchdowns.
8. Red zone offense will be a point of emphasis in practice
The Vikings offense entered the red zone five times. That's the good news. The bad new? They only converted one of those trips into a touchdown. Both Zimmer and Bridgewater addressed the red zone offense in their postgame press conferences, and you can be sure red zone offense will be a focus of the team's in practices leading up to the regular season opener. It will help to have Adrian Peterson on the field, and the same can be said for having Kalil and Sullivan in the mix, as well.
9. Young DBs splash again
For the second time this preseason, college teammates Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse each grabbed interceptions. Kearse was in the right spot at the right time to take in an overthrown Mike Bercovici pass. Alexander, after dropping an INT opportunity two plays prior, made an impressive interception in the end zone on a pass from Bercovici to Rasheed Bailey. Alexander and Kearse both played for Clemson and both were selected in last May's draft – Alexander a second-round pick and Kearse a seventh-rounder. Another young defensive back impressed, as well, with Waynes registering a pass breakup and also finishing in good position on other passes thrown his way.
10. Tough decisions ahead for Vikings coaches and scouts
One of the toughest parts of the business for coaches and scouts is deciding which players are in and which players are out at roster reduction time. That time is now, as NFL teams are required to trim their rosters to 75 players by August 30 and then to 53 players by September 3. Zimmer was asked about this process during his postgame press conference and said cutdown days are not a fun part of the business but he also said the Vikings roster is in good shape because there are a lot of quality players who love the game competing to make the squad.