MINNEAPOLIS – "The good, the bad and the ugly" is how the saying goes … but there wasn't a whole lot of good Saturday afternoon.
The Vikings struggled to slow the Broncos in the teams' first preseason contest of the year, and Minnesota fell 33-6 at U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened its massive doors to fans for the first time in 595 days.
"A really poor performance today," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told media members following the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Zimmer pointed to an 80-yard touchdown allowed, as well as three penalties committed on third downs.
"Just really disappointing with the guys who played today," he said.
View action photos from the Vikings-Broncos preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Worth noting is that Minnesota opted to sit 31 players, most of them starters, for the game.
"I thought we had two good days of work this last week with those guys, so we were going to give these other guys some opportunities to see if they could make the club," Zimmer said. "Some of them proved us right; some of them proved us wrong.
"A lot of these guys are backup players. [But] the things they showed today were definitely not good enough," Zimmer added. "We gave up a fade in the end zone, we're not even close to the guy. The bombs, the two young safeties had a hard time today of knowing who's up and back and who's down. The long bomb, they bit on it and [Cameron] Dantzler didn't cover the guy."
The play referenced by Zimmer occurred on the first play of Denver's second possession of the day.
Starting from his own 20, Broncos quarterback Drew Lock dropped back to the 11 and let it fly. The deep ball hit receiver K.J. Hamler in-stride, and he was able to easily outrun Dantzler into the end zone. The safety on the play was rookie Camryn Bynum.
Giving up a big play here and there is sure to happen, but Zimmer was especially frustrated by the fact that the Vikings participated in joint practices with the Broncos Wednesday and Thursday before suiting up for the game.
"The funny thing – I guess not funny – is [Hamler], we practiced against him for two days," Zimmer said. "You'd think those guys would know his speed and what he's done. They went 1-on-1 against him."
Defensive end Stephen Weatherly was the only first-teamer on the Vikings unofficial depth chart who played Saturday. And starter or not, he did commit one of the third-down transgressions. Jumping offsides on third-and-4 at the end of the first quarter kept alive a Broncos drive that ultimately ended with a Trinity Benson touchdown.
Jalyn Holmes, who rotated in at defensive end, committed a neutral zone infraction on third-and-2; the first down awarded to Denver helped the Broncos move down the field and kick a 34-yard field goal.
And inside the final seven minutes of the game, rookie linebacker Christian Elliss was flagged on third-and-4 for lowering the head to initiate contact – a costly 15-yard penalty.
If there are silver linings to be seen, rookie defensive linemen Janarius Robinson and Patrick Jones II recorded tackles for losses of 3 and 4 yards, respectively. Robinson also had a near pick of QB Teddy Bridgewater in the second half of the game.
The Broncos rushed for 138 yards.
And in the passing game, Minnesota allowed Bridgewater a passer rating of 144.8 and Lock a rating of 153.3, not too shy of the NFL max of 158.3.
D.J. Wonnum acknowledged "definite struggles" by the defense as a whole.
"We came out slow. We've got to start faster," said Wonnum, who started at defensive end opposite Weatherly. "Going into practice this week, we're going to make corrections on those things that we obviously didn't execute correctly and continue moving forward."
Wonnum finished the game with two tackles. The team was led in tackles by Bynum with seven (three solo) and linebacker Troy Dye with six (five solo).
"We've just got to review the tape and get back to work and figure out what we were messing up at and figure where everything was kind of hidden. Figure out what our keys are," Dye said postgame. "We've just got to get back to the drawing board and just back to work."
There's no doubt about it: After the Vikings off day Sunday, Zimmer will certainly have the team back to work.
In fact, he plans to have the players who were active in Sunday's game scrimmage against each other this week.
"It's definitely an opportunity to get better. Whatever Coach says, that's what we've got to do," Dye said. "If he says we're scrimmaging, we're going out there to scrimmage and give it everything we've got.
"We've got to get better and continue to improve," he added.