The Vikings are winners again. With a 20-12 win over the Oakland Raiders on Saturday night, the Vikings have moved to 3-0 this preseason and 7-0 all-time in the preseason under Mike Zimmer. It wasn't easy, though, as the teams waited out two strings of storms throughout the night, one of which caused nearly an hour delay in the 2nd quarter. In the end, the Vikings survived the rain, wind and a feisty Raiders squad to tally a victory.
Here are five takeaways from the win…
1. Bridgewater keeps building for 2015Teddy Bridgewater continues to look solid guiding the offense in his second season. Early in the game he connected with WR Charles Johnson for 5 yards on a 3rd and 5, then hit Johnson again for 11 yards on 4th and 6. He also demonstrated great mobility, patience and vision in finding RB Jerick McKinnon in the left flat for what turned out to be a 21-yard gain, then showed off that mobility again by scrambling for 4 yards on 3rd and 3. Finally, he was on the money with a perfectly-placed pass to Johnson in the end zone to give the Vikings their first score of the game.
In total, Bridgewater was 10 of 14 for 89 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, increasing his preseason totals to 22 of 28 for 219 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He has a preseason passer rating of 111.1, is averaging 7.82 yards per attempt and hasn't taken a sack. Credit also goes to the offensive line for Saturday night's performance. Missing two starters with RT Phil Loadholt lost for the season and C John Sullivan not dressing, the line stepped up and gave Bridgewater time to find targets and complete passes.
2. Locke shines, Walsh with work to doP Jeff Locke has now stacked two impressive performances together after looking good last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and performing well again on Saturday night. Locke had 3 punts and put all of them inside the 20, which gives him 9 punts inside the 20 on the preseason. One of Locke's punts was downed on the 2, giving the defense great field position and putting pressure on the opposing offense.
K Blair Walsh misfired several times on the night, failing to convert one of his two PATs and also missing 3 FGs from distances of 35, 38 and 49 yards. It's not panic time for Walsh and the FG team, but Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer did acknowledge concern about the misses so there is work to do this week as the Vikings prepare for their next preseason game.
3. Vikings showed up on 3rd downsA week ago, Zimmer mentioned that he expected his team to improve on 3rd downs, both defensive and offensively. On Saturday night, the team responded. The offense converted two 3rd downs on its first series while the defense got off the field on its first three 3rd down tries. At halftime, the offense had converted 60% of its 3rd downs and the defense had a success rate of 80% on 3rd downs. The stats leveled off a touch over the course of the game, but even still the Vikings offense finished the game converting 9 of 17 (53%) 3rd downs and the defense gave up just 5 of 14 (36%) 3rd down attempts.
4. Asiata, Ford, Sherels keep making playsWith three preseason games in the books, talk of "bubble players" and speculation about who will make the 53-man roster is about to reach its peak. It seems RB Matt Asiata, TE Chase Ford and CB Marcus Sherels find their names in the midst of this conversation every year, and yet every year they keep finding ways to make plays. Saturday night was just the latest example.
Asiata had just 2 carries, but he gained 15 yards in those two attempts and he also demonstrated some nifty moves as a pass catcher with 3 receptions for 36 yards on 4 targets, including a 17-yard reception. He has the look of a bulldozing, pile-moving back, but he's nimble on his feet and usually makes the first man miss in the open field; he's also a solid contributor on special teams. Ford caught a TD from Shaun Hill in the 2nd quarter to cap an impressive 2-minute drill series, holding onto the football despite taking a vicious shot while being in a defenseless position. He finished the game with a team-high 5 receptions. And Sherels. The former Golden Gopher is arguably the team's best gunner on punt coverage; he downed a Locke punt on the 2 early in the game. Then later in the game, he returned a kickoff 49 yards to setup the offense with great field position. Where exactly he stands on the CB depth chart is hard to gauge, but he helps the team in several ways and Saturday night was a good example of that.
5. Charles Johnson made playsWith just 1 reception on the preseason coming into Saturday night's game, WR Charles Johnson was having a quiet preseason despite having an impressive training camp. But on Saturday night he authored an impressive performance, making some noise and proving that what he's done in practice can be transferred to games. He hauled in 4 receptions for 40 yards, including a 10-yard TD on a play in which his defender was all over him. Johnson has a combination of size and speed that makes him a tough cover and he showed on Saturday night that he has the goods to be a factor in the Vikings offense this season.