EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer recognized the blitz immediately.
The Vikings, however, didn't, and it led to the first of five sacks Teddy Bridgewater took in a 20-3 season opening loss against the 49ers on Monday at San Francisco.
The 49ers crowded 10 players near the line of scrimmage and showed pressure on each side of center Joe Berger. Rookie safety Jaquiski Tartt sprinted straight up the gut, as linebacker NaVorro Bowman dropped back. Eric Reid also blitzed from the edge and got past Adrian Peterson. Tartt arrived before Reid and was credited with a takedown of Bridgewater at the 3-yard line for a loss of 14.
"(Adrian) missed one protection, but he's been working really hard at it," Zimmer said. "He's gotten a lot better at it in my opinion than what he was. The one blitz that they run, the one that they sacked Teddy at about the 2-yard line, they see that exact same blitz every day in practice. So I'm like, 'Come on, how does that happen?' They see this blitz every single day in practice and we probably run it better, but we didn't touch two guys, so that's what I say like, 'I don't even know who this team is.' "
Zimmer said Tuesday's film review confirmed a "poor performance."
"We've got a lot of soul-searching to get done," Zimmer said. "Offensively we didn't convert on third downs, sustain drives, things we talked about going in to the ballgame. I'm not sure that we handled the situation as a team very good and the way we started the ballgame.
"I feel like our team got frustrated and flustered a little bit and did not regain our composure for quite a while," Zimmer continued. "Defensively, too many missed tackles, no perimeter run force, guys in the wrong places, guys getting reached in their blocking schemes. It was just a really, really uncharacteristic performance from our football team and it's disappointing."
Perhaps the biggest aberration was Bridgewater's night that didn't have the amount of poise the QB showed last season as a rookie when he made 12 starts and led the Vikings in six victories.
"Usually he's got so much composure," Zimmer said. "A couple times didn't pull the trigger when he had opportunities to. As an example, when it's third down and he goes and slides and almost doesn't get the first down instead of going head first and getting the first down. So things like that that's not typical of what he's done and what we've done in practice as well."
Players were off Tuesday after returning to Minnesota that morning. Coaches broke down the film and began preparations to host Detroit Sunday.
Zimmer said he doesn't expect the next performance to be destined for the scrap heap.
"I do not think that Teddy is going to throw another clunker," Zimmer said. "I have never seen that side of him. I think it's probably just an enigma that this happened. But we're going to have to find out and see. I base it on what I see in practice and things that I do. He had good practices last week, threw the ball. Heck, when we came back on Thursday, he was humming the ball, it was going everywhere. He was pumped up, you could tell."
'Too fast at times'?
Peterson posted 31 yards on 10 carries and caught three passes for 21 yards. His most impressive play of the night was a display of strength and will during which he caught a short pass near the line of scrimmage and carried two defenders several yards before a third and fourth jumped in to help bring him down.
Zimmer was asked if Peterson, who was rested the entire preseason, looked tentative and said no.
"I think he was aggressive trying to get to the hole and maybe trying to get there a little too fast at times," Zimmer said.
The Vikings offensive line only returned Matt Kalil (at left tackle) to the same spot as the last time Peterson had taken the field.
In addition to the soul searching he wants to see occur, Zimmer said the safety position alongside Harrison Smith is "kind of a fluid situation."
The Vikings opted to start Andrew Sendejo after starting Robert Blanton in all five preseason games.
"I'm just trying to [have] somebody give me confidence in that position," Zimmer said. "Somebody I feel like is going to make the safe play and not the spectacular play. I don't really care about making the spectacular play, I want guys to make the safe plays. When he [Andrew Sendejo] missed those tackles, he got cut on the one force, then I said, 'Hey, let's put him [Robert Blanton] in and see if he can do anything.' "
Zimmer said the assessment of Sendejo/Blanton was "50-50." He added that Antone Exum Jr. isn't in the mix because the second year pro hasn't shown enough prowess "when things are moving fast."
Marcus Sherels' 44-yard return of the field goal blocked by Andrew Sendejo is the second longest in Vikings history behind Antoine Winfield's 59-yard return of a block by Kevin Williams. "Tweezy" took it all the way to the house in a 30-27 win at New Orleans on Monday Night Football (Oct. 6, 2008).
Zimmer said Blair Walsh was 28-for-28 on field goals in practices last week but didn't kick well in the pregame. Walsh went 1-for-2 Monday after going 5-for-11 in the preseason. Zimmer said he's ready "for him to pull out of this thing and start kicking like he's capable of kicking."
T.J. Clemmings became the third rookie right tackle to start a season opener, joining Doug Davis (1966) and Phil Loadholt (2009). Loadholt suffered a season-ending Achilles injury against Tampa Bay in the preseason.