Sloppy play in Vikings' loss covers up signs of any progress

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2013 - 6:35 AM

First-team offense records three points, multiple gaffes.

view larger photos

  

– It’s only preseason. It’s only preseason. It’s only preseason.

Maybe that’s a convenient excuse. Or a reassuring mantra. Or some necessary combination of the two.

Whatever the case, you can bet Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave spent his flight home from Buffalo late Friday repeating those three words.

To himself. To head coach Leslie Frazier. To the entire offense. To any flight attendant who’d listen.

What was supposed to be a measure of preseason progress Friday at Ralph Wilson Stadium turned out to be a display of uncharacteristic sloppiness as the Vikings’ first-unit offense stumbled through a 20-16 loss to the Bills.

The tally for that starting group: five possessions, four first downs, three points.

But hey, it’s only preseason. And because it was only the second preseason game, the Vikings did no real game-planning for Buffalo and were addled early and often by the Bills’ exotic defense, a system that features a wide variety of pressures and unique fronts that can become even more dizzying when they’re not studied and practiced against all week.

“It was a little different and sometimes hard for us to identify,” said quarterback Christian Ponder. “But it was good for us to see a defense like that. I’m sure we’re going to see something like that [again].”

Added Frazier: “We didn’t spend a lot of time up in Mankato preparing to play Buffalo. We worked a lot on our team. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Plenty of important work lies ahead as the Vikings gear up for the most telling game of the preseason Aug. 25 in San Francisco.

Early on against Buffalo, however, their sloppy play seemed contagious. On the game’s first snap, Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Kalil whiffed on a block and Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes whizzed through unobstructed for a 7-yard sack.

On the next possession, Pro Bowl MVP Kyle Rudolph flat out dropped a Ponder pass on third-and-2, forcing a second consecutive three-and-out.

And a series after that, John Sullivan’s premature shotgun snap on first down whizzed past Ponder’s right shoulder, creating a 14-yard loss and smothering a golden opportunity after safety Jamarca Sanford intercepted a pass at the Buffalo 31.

All-Pro kicker Blair Walsh capped that series by sending his 49-yard field goal attempt wide right.

“The only thing I was saying to myself when everything was happening was, ‘OK. Glad it’s the preseason,’ ” Frazier said. “Let’s get this out of the way now. Because we definitely don’t want to be doing this in September.”

It’s worth reiterating that again on Friday league MVP Adrian Peterson spent his night on the sideline. But Peterson’s absence can’t explain all the careless gaffes either.

Midway through the second quarter, the Vikings had 11 plays for no gain or a loss. And Frazier, for one, seemed a tad miffed at just how much the Buffalo defense threw at his team at this stage of the preseason.

“Everybody has their way of approaching it in the preseason,” he said. “That’s their choice. And we’ll keep moving forward.”

The Vikings’ first-half scoring drive was a 12-play, 62-yard march that ended with a 36-yard Walsh field goal. Included: a pile-driving 9-yard stampede by Toby Gerhart and a beautiful 25-yard reception by Rudolph. That provided at least a measure of calm.

But the highlights were outweighed by the disjointed blunders. Ponder finished 5-for-12 for 53 yards. He was also sacked twice and badly missed Greg Jennings on an easy quick-hit throw.

The Vikings’ second unit failed to deliver a salve for the discomfort. On its first series, Joe Berger sent a snap from the Vikings 23 way over the head of quarterback Matt Cassel, recovered for a touchdown by Bills defensive end Jamie Blatnick.

The Vikings totaled 74 yards on eight possessions in the first half, averaging 2.3 yards per play as Buffalo led 13-3.

In the silver-lining department, the first-unit defense held the Bills scoreless through five possessions. Sanford’s interception came as a result of superb coverage from rookie Xavier Rhodes on a Kevin Kolb pass to Marquise Goodwin. The Bills also picked up only two first downs and gained 44 yards in the first quarter.

The Vikings delivered two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Joe Banyard scored on fourth down from the 1, and Rodney Smith hauled in a 36-yard toss from McLeod Bethel-Thompson.







  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Buffalo 20, Vikings 16

    Friday August 16, 2013

    The Vikings traveled to Orchard Park, N.Y., for their second preseason game Friday.

  • Vikings notes: Pro Bowl backfield remains idle

    Saturday August 17, 2013

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The Vikings allowed their top-unit offense to play five series Friday. But that was sans two...

  • Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder scrambled for 14 yards with the Bills’ Ron Brooks in hot pursuit. The gain set up a field-goal try.

  • Minnesota Vikings receiver Jarius Wight (17) could not bring in a Christian Ponder pass as he was defended by Stephon Gilmore (24) in the first quarter. ]

  • Christian Ponder was dragged down by the Bills’ Manny Lawson on a busted play in the first quarter Friday night.

  • nfl exhibition buffalo 20, VIKINGS 16

    Up next: 7 p.m. Aug. 25 at San Francisco • TV: Ch. 11 (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis - LP: K. Siegrist 6 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 7
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 4 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 6
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 5 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 9
Washington - WP: T. Roark 4 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 1
Boston - LP: J. Tazawa 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Price 6
San Diego - WP: J. Hahn 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Wood 2
Oakland - LP: J. Hammel 1 FINAL
Texas - WP: J. Williams 4
NY Mets - WP: C. Torres 3 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: F. Rodriguez 2
Miami - WP: B. Hand 2 FINAL
Houston - LP: D. Keuchel 0
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 9 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: K. Correia 5
Cleveland - LP: C. Carrasco 4 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 6
Pittsburgh - LP: C. Morton 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: B. Anderson 8
Detroit - LP: D. Smyly 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: M. Morin 2
Baltimore - WP: D. O`Day 2 FINAL
Seattle - LP: C. Furbush 1
Los Angeles - WP: Z. Greinke 8 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Lincecum 1
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Colorado 3
Calgary 26 FINAL
Edmonton 22
Winnipeg 23 FINAL
Brt Columbia 6
Ottawa 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Toronto 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Winnipeg 7/31/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Toronto 8/1/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Brt Columbia 8/1/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Saskatchewan 8/2/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Tulsa 77 FINAL
Washington 82
Chicago 79 FINAL
Atlanta 75
San Antonio 78 FINAL
Minnesota 88
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pm
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pm
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close