The Vikings tallied another preseason win on Saturday night, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 28-14 at AT&T Stadium to move to 4-0 this preseason and 8-0 all-time in the preseason under head coach Mike Zimmer.
Here are five observations from Saturday night's action...
1. The Bridgewater-to-Wallace pipeline opened upIt took three games plus most of the 1st quarter on Saturday night, but Vikings fans watching on TV and listening on the radio finally enjoyed something the team has seen regularly since March – a deep completion from QB Teddy Bridgewater to WR Mike Wallace. After appearing to make some kind of pre-snap adjustment and taking the snap as the play clock reached zero, Bridgewater identified single coverage on Wallace and lofted a perfectly-placed pass in the open field so his new, speedy receiver could outrun coverage and settle underneath the offering. The net result was a catch good for 38 yards, and many smiles across Vikings nation. Wallace finished with 3 catches for 50 yards and Bridgewater impressed by going 7 of 7 for 76 yards, but it was that one deep connection that resonated most profoundly for a fan base and for observers.
2. The defense is downright goodAfter allowing TD passes of 60 and 8 yards as well as explosive runs of 15 and 14 yards, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer will have enough to pick apart when he breaks down the film and meets with his players. At the same time, his defense is doing a lot of good things. The group is allowing just 14.0 points per game this preseason, and on Saturday night they held Dallas to 0-10 on 3rd downs, 194 net yards and a per-pass average of 5.24 yards. The Cowboys notched more than one 1st down on just 3 of 10 drives and its QBs were also sacked three times and completed just 48.0% of their passes.
3. Flash got his (kickoff return) groove backCordarrelle Patterson found the end zone, again. He caught a TD pass two weeks ago against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and on Saturday night in Dallas he found paydirt again. This time, though, it came via a 107-yard kickoff return. Patterson fielded the kick 7 yards deep in the middle of the end zone, started running to the left then stuck his foot in the ground and cut right. After following a lead block by Matt Asiata, Patterson gained the edge and had only the kicker to beat. That task was no problem for #84, as he cut back to the left and sprinted upfield to outrace the rest of the Cowboys coverage team for the score. That wasn't his last good move of the night, either. After the game while addressing reporters in the locker room, Patterson credited his 10 teammates charged with blocking for him on the play, a wise move from a player still learning his way in his third season.
4. Locke goes down (but came back in) and Walsh works his way backThe Vikings encountered a scary moment early in the game when P Jeff Locke had his legs taken out from under him on the follow through of a punt. Locke appeared to injure his lower leg and eventually went to the locker room for further evaluation. He did come back to play in the game and finished with 4 punts for a net average of 41 yards and a long punt of 55 yards, but K Blair Walsh had to punt once in Locke's stead. That punt was a 50-yarder but netted just 10 yards after a 40-yard return by Cole Beasley. Outside of that return, though, the Vikings surrendered just 19 return yards on 3 punts, as the punt team continued what has been a solid preseason. Walsh connected on his first 2 FG tries from 28 and 45 yards, but missed a third attempt (from 43 yards). It was a slight improvement for Walsh but he'll look to close the preseason in perfect fashion in Nashville on Thursday night.
5. Perfect record, but lots of opportunities for improvementSpeaking of closing the preseason, the Vikings will head back to Winter Park to prepare for the preseason finale and they'll have several things to clean up in doing so. The offense was 0-11 on 3rd downs and can't get the running game out of a rut, the 60-yard touchdown will leave a few players wishing they could have the play back, Walsh will look to refine his FG technique and Zimmer will demand his team clean up on the 11 penalties that were enforced against them.