The Vikings got off on the right foot in the 2017 preseason on Thursday night, defeating the Buffalo Bills 17-10 at New Era Field. Here are five takeaways from the win…
1. Defense did what it does
Mike Zimmer will certainly find things to correct, but his first-team defense got the job done in two series of work against the Bills first-team offense. Buffalo managed just 52 yards and three 1st downs on 10 plays against the Vikings starting defense. The first drive stalled when quarterback Tyrod Taylor was sacked by Everson Griffen and the second drive ended two plays after Anthony Barr captured running back Jonathan Williams behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of one yard. The Bills did have gains of nine, 11, 14, 15 and 17 yards against the Vikings starters, but the negative plays generated by Zimmer's crew were enough to hold Taylor and Co. at bay.
2. More work to do for offensive line
Quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked on back-to-back passing attempts in a combination of plays that rendered consecutive drives fruitless and led to punts. The first sack came on 3rd and 7 from the Minnesota 40 when defensive end Eddie Yarbrough got around right tackle Mike Remmers to get to Bradford. The next sack came on the first play of the next Vikings possession, putting the Vikings behind schedule and setting the stage for a punt two plays later. In fairness to the Vikings offensive line, starting left tackle Riley Reiff did not play nor did running backs Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. Even so, an output of 34 yards and one 1st down on 13 plays, resulting in three punts, is below the expectation set for the starters by Zimmer and his offensive staff. On a positive note, there were backup and reserve linemen who flashed and fullback CJ Ham plunged in for a two-yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter.
3. Backup QBs impressed
Both of the Vikings non-starters at quarterback had solid performances. Veteran Case Keenum, signed this past offseason as a free agent, was 11 of 16 for 121 yards while guiding the Vikings on two scoring drives. Keenum found rookie receiver Stacy Coley for 38 yards to the Buffalo 26 to eventually set up a 36-yard Kai Forbath field goal that capped an 11-play, 70-yard drive. On the Vikings first drive of the 3rd quarter, Keenum connected with Michael Floyd for 12 yards on the first play and then with Coley again for another 24 yards, leading to Ham's two-yard score a moment later. Heinicke got right to work when he entered for Keenum midway through the 3rd quarter, leading the offense on a 14-play, 71-yard drive that resulted in a Rodney Adams two-yard touchdown reception and a 17-3 Vikings lead. On the drive, Heinicke was three of six for 20 yards and the score on the drive, but he also ran for 19 yards after a bad snap, had one of his offerings dropped and generally showed good command of the offense.
4. Kicking game was solid
Vikings punters Ryan Quigley and Taylor Symmank combined to land four of their seven punts at or inside the Buffalo 10, which includes punts of 60 and 49 yards by Symmank. The two punters teamed with the coverage units to net an average of 41.7 yards per punt, with Buffalo managing just six yards on two returns on the night. Also, kicker Kai Forbath was perfect on both point after touchdown attempts and he converted a 36-yard field goal in the 2nd quarter.
5. Zimmer isn't satisfied
The Vikings scored two touchdowns, played good defense and won the game, but their head coach is anything but satisfied. He told sideline reporter Greg Coleman at halftime there wasn't much to like in the first two quarters and then it was clear during his postgame press conference that Zimmer wasn't pleased with the way his team played. It's clear he has high standards for this football team and Vikings fans can take solace in the aftermath of a generally underwhelming performance that their head coach is bound and determined to correct issues and generate a better output next Friday night in Seattle.