MINNEAPOLIS — Saturday's 33-6 loss by the Vikings to the Broncos didn't go according to plan, so what is Head Coach Mike Zimmer's plan going forward?
"I think I'm going to [intrasquad] scrimmage [next week] with these guys that played today," he said. "They need it, and it showed."
For the sake of context, more than 30 players did not play, including 21 of 22 players listed as starters on the team's unofficial depth chart.
Zimmer said he opted to rest so many starters because of the quality of work they got in during two joint practices with Denver.
In the first NFL preseason that's been condensed from four games to three, Zimmer opted to get more in-game evaluations for players. He said he hasn't decided if starters will play next week against the Colts.
"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."
View action photos from the Vikings-Broncos preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Instead of a mixture of good and bad to point out and exciting debuts, Zimmer and Vikings assistants have a teach tape and laundry list of things to correct.
"Really poor performance today," Zimmer said. "That's what happens when you give up an 80-yard pass, a long kickoff return, you had three defensive offsides on third downs, an interception for a touchdown, a safety for holding in the end zone, three very poor punts. Just really disappointing with the guys that played today."
Any of those things that Zimmer ticked off can be reasons for losing a close game in a league that often comes down to the wire.
All of them at once without offsetting positives? You get a lopsided showing.
Newcomers will have an understanding of how quickly momentum can be seized in an NFL game.
The first points of the game resulted from the safety that was awarded because of a holding penalty in the end zone by Dakota Dozier on a third-down play. The two-pointer was immediately followed by an 80-yard touchdown pass from Drew Lock to KJ Hamler.
Zimmer was irate that Hamler got behind second-year cornerback Cameron Dantzler and rookie safety Camryn Bynum, who is switching after playing corner at Cal.
"You'd think those guys would know his speed and what he's done," Zimmer said. "They went 1-on-1 against him."
Possibly more annoying for the defense, however, were pre-snap penalties by veterans. An offsides infraction by Stephen Weatherly on a third-and-4 gave Denver a fresh set of downs during the Broncos second march to the end zone for a 16-3 lead.
Jalyn Holmes was flagged for a neutral zone infraction on third-and-2. That drive ended with a 34-yard field goal by Brandon McManus to expand the Broncos lead to 26-3.
"It doesn't matter who is out there playing, we've all kind of got to communicate and get on the same page, regardless of the time of the day or the game we're playing," linebacker Troy Dye said. "We're all NFL football players, so it's up to us to play when our number is called. I think, collectively, we can do a better job, and moving forward, we will. We've just got to get back to the drawing board and figure out what we did wrong on tape and continue to move forward."
Zimmer also didn't like the offensive output.
"I think I can come out with a little more fire," said Browning, nearly two years removed from his most recent game action. "I was trying to get a feel for what it was going to be like. I haven't played in a game in a year and a half or so, so I was trying to get a feel for what the right avenue or approach was as far as demeanor."
Browning said he should have moved on in his progression instead of targeting Ihmir Smith-Marsette on the pass that was picked off by Pat Surtain II.
"It was just us shooting ourselves in the foot, our offensive mistakes setting us back," Smith-Marsette said. "We take one step forward, two steps back. Just eliminating the mishaps on ourselves, I feel like we'll get going."
Rookie A.J. Rose, Jr., provided a bright spot for Minnesota's offense, rushing 25 times for 100 yards and adding an 18-yard reception. Rose's load increased after fellow rookie Kene Nwangwu left the game with an injury.
"I just felt like Zimmer leaving me in there, and knowing that he trusts me with these carries, just to show him I can execute the offense and the run plays he called, I feel like I did a good job of that," Rose said.
The Vikings will return to practice Monday. Minnesota will host Indianapolis at 7 p.m. (CT) on Aug. 21.