About a week ago in a conversation with Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, he told me that what made him feel good about his team was that more than one rival NFL coach had pointed out in studying video of preseason games that they were very impressed with several facets of the Vikings’ game, and the coaches were giving them a solid scoop.
Well, it turned out that it wasn’t just propaganda when the media reported out of Winter Park that Zimmer and his coaches were doing a great job teaching this team.
However, more of a test will come Sunday, when a Patriots team that seems to be great every season under Bill Belichick comes to town.
Sunday’s 34-6 victory at St. Louis was very impressive nearly any way you look at it, but especially if you compare to last season’s 34-24 loss at Detroit in Week 1.
In their first game of the season, the Vikings have already done what they couldn’t do all of 2013, and that’s win on the road. The Vikings have opened on the road every year but one since 2009, which is the last time they won a road opener, when a Brett Favre-quarterbacked team won at Cleveland.
Last season, the Vikings opened in Detroit and played a first half similar to Sunday’s, leading the Lions 14-13. But they were outscored 21-10 in the second half.
Against the Rams on Sunday the Vikings scored a Greg Jennings touchdown right before halftime for a 13-0 lead, then dominated the second half, outscoring St. Louis 21-6.
Adrian Peterson had 21 carries for 75 yards Sunday after posting 18 carries for 93 yards at Detroit — though 78 of those yards came on a single carry to open the game. But Cordarrelle Patterson was the real story out of the backfield Sunday with three carries for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Christian Ponder opened last season as the Vikings’ starting quarterback and went 18-for-28 for 236 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in Week 1. Matt Cassel had fewer yards Sunday but was more efficient, going 17-for-25 for 170 yards, two touchdowns and no picks.
And that was another good sign for Vikings fans: The squad didn’t commit a turnover, keeping with the trend that started in the preseason of winning the turnover battle. St. Louis threw two interceptions, including the one that Harrison Smith took back 81 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a good win today,” Zimmer said in his postgame news conference. “Our guys played well, I thought. You know, in the first half I thought we kind of self-destructed a little bit with too many penalties, but I like the way this team works. I’ve said that numerous times. It was good to go on the road and get a win. We still have a lot of work to do, but there’s some good things to take of this tape and then we have a lot of things we have to correct.”
Zimmer talked about the second-half adjustments that turned a 13-0 lead into a 34-6 rout.
“They were so excited to play today, being opening day, and everyone is excited to play today. But I felt like we were maybe overjuiced as far as getting ready to go,” Zimmer said. “I talked to them at halftime and said, ‘Hey just settle down, we’ll be all right. Just keep doing what we’ve been doing all preseason,’ and I think we kind of did.
“It’s a great learning experience for us. Today was a great learning experience for us for being a new program, being a young football team. How to win on the road, the things you have to do to beat teams on the road. I’m proud of them.”
And there’s more hope for the Vikings next week, since the Patriots lost 33-20 to the Dolphins. A 2-0 start would really open some eyes.
Jerry Kill has a very close relationship with Texas Christian football coach Gary Patterson.
“We go all the way back, a long time back to when I was at Pittsburg State University and I was the linebackers coach on defense and Gary took my place,” said the Gophers coach, whose team visits the Horned Frogs on Saturday. “We both came up through coach [Dennis] Franchione, my college coach, who has moved along, and Gary took his place at TCU.
“We have been friends for a long time. Our coaching staff has gone back and forth, Tracy Claeys, all of us, it has been a very close relationship. That’s why we didn’t really want to play him, because it messed up our coaching relationship as far as sharing ideas and things like that. We both came from Kansas, we’ve been very, very good friends for a long time.”
Patterson turned down the Gophers job in 2007 before Tim Brewster was hired. But after first declining the job, the word is that Patterson called back and changed his mind, saying he was interested, but the job wasn’t available anymore.
Gophers junior running back David Cobb rushed for 220 yards in the 35-24 victory over Middle Tennessee State, the highest rushing total for the program in nine seasons. Cobb said while the team was happy with winning, it knows it has to improve to win at TCU, which had a bye this week and beat Samford 41-14 in its opener. The Horned Frogs are a 10-point favorite on their home field.
Cobb was asked how the Gophers felt following a game in which they led 28-0 at halftime but got outscored 24-7 in the second half.
“That’s unacceptable, to come into the half up 28-0 and then come out and do nothing in the second half,” he said. “It’s one of those things we have to develop a new mentality. We have to have the mentality that the game is not over until it’s over. You have to keep going. I think we got a little too conservative on the offensive side of the ball, and that can’t happen. They came out and made adjustments and came right back at us and didn’t throw the towel in. So we have to be ready for that. I mean, we’re happy with the win, but there’s a lot of mistakes we have to correct.”
Cobb was asked about Chris Streveler, who might have to start this week if Mitch Leidner can’t recover.
“Strev, one thing about him is he’s always going to be happy and he’s going to be jumping around, always excited,” Cobb said. “He brings juice. He brings a lot of juice. I mean, he knows the offense just like Mitch and the other quarterbacks. I’m sure he’ll be ready for his opportunity and prepared for his opportunity. I’m sure he’ll come in and do a great job. He’ll have nerves, like anybody, but I believe in him, and if Strev is the guy we have to go with, we’re going to be behind him 100 percent.”
Cobb said the team would be prepared no matter what.
“I definitely think we’ll have to play a lot better than yesterday, and we will. Some of the mistakes we made we can’t make,” he said. “We have to force more turnovers and score in the red zone and just have to click and jump out to a faster start. But we’re 2-0, but tomorrow we’ll be 0-0 and we haven’t done anything for this week. So we’ll get ready to go to TCU.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org