The Vikings kept the preseason pedal to the medal on Thursday night, defeating the Tennessee Titans by a 1903 count at LP Field in downtown Nashville to conclude the exhibition schedule with a perfect 4-0 mark. Teddy Bridgewater found Adam Thielen early in the game for the lone touchdown, Blair Walsh was perfect on four field goal tries, and the Vikings defense was in bend-but-don't-break form and was pitching a shutout until late in the 4th quarter.
Most of the Vikings starters did not play Thursday, but that did not lead to any sort of letdown for head coach Mike Zimmer's team. Following the game, Zimmer expressed positivity about the way his team has embraced change since he was hired as head coach and also credited his players for doing things the right way. While he refuses to bask in the glow of being 4-0, it's clear Zimmer loves the direction his team is heading into the 2014 regular season.
Here are five takeaways from the Vikings victory over Tennessee on Thursday...
1. Vikings keep winning the turnover battleIf it's been said once it's been said a thousand times, winning the turnover battle is key to winning the game. The Vikings have made a good habit of winning the turnover battle this preseason, and they did so again in the finale. For the third time in four exhibition games, the Vikings did not commit a turnover. They did, however, force a couple turnovers. Defensive end Corey Wootton, who started the game, sacked Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger in the 2nd quarter, also forcing a fumble and recovering the ball. That turnover setup the third of four Walsh field goals on the night. In the 4th quarter, cornerback Julian Posey ran underneath a pass from Titans quarterback Dominique Davis and intercepted it.
For the preseason, the Vikings 5 in turnover margin, taking the ball away six times and giving it up once.
2. There is great depth along the defensive lineBe prepared to love this year's defensive line. The Vikings front four constantly disrupted the opposing quarterback this preseason, collecting a total of 11 sacks in four games. Three of those 11 sacks, one of which resulted in a lost fumble, came against Tennessee and all three came at the hands of defensive linemen – tackle Tom Johnson and ends Justin Trattou and Wootton. It's easy to make a case for the Vikings to keep eight defensive linemen on the final 53-man roster, and with the way guys such as Trattou are playing, one could make a case for more than eight.
View images from the fourth preseason game of 2014 as the Vikings took on the Titans.
3. Blair Walsh is in the zoneA couple of missed field goals and a missed extra point during the Vikings first two preseason games caused some to stir about Blair Walsh's prospects in 2014. But stir no more, stir no more. On a rainy, windy Thursday night in Nashville, Walsh was a perfect four of four on field goals, hitting from 45, 22, 35 and 30 yards. Since Walsh's miss against the Kansas Chiefs in Week 2 of the preseason, he's converted nine of nine field goal tries and has been perfect on extra points, as well. Walsh also consistently boots the football through the end zone for touchbacks on kickoffs.
4. Joe Banyard can play in the NFLThe Vikings running back position is often in the spotlight because the best player in the entire NFL at that position is in stable – Adrian Peterson. But while Peterson did not play a down this preseason, the Vikings running backs still remain a factor. Matt Asiata has impressed Vikings coaches, it's easy to see rookie Jerick McKinnon can contribute this year, and now both Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams have flashed before our eyes. Banyard, in particular, was impressive on Thursday night. He rushed for 111 yards on 18 carries (6.2 yards per attempt), and is the kind of runner who delivers hits rather than taking them.
5. Quarterbacks continue to look sharpTeddy Bridgewater started his first NFL game on Thursday, going four of nine for 17 yards with a three-yard scoring strike to Adam Thielen early in the game. Christian Ponder took the bulk of the snaps, though, and was excellent in doing so. He completed 12 of 15 passes for 121 yards, leading the Vikings on three scoring drives and taking good care of the ball. Ponder did take two sacks, but he also escaped trouble a number of times and consistently put the ball in the right spot or chose to throw the ball away to live another down.