Hartman: Zimmer mostly pleased with Vikings exhibition opener

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2014 - 12:11 AM
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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer walked off the field at TCF Bank Stadium during team warmups before his first preseason game, a 10-6 victory over Oakland on Friday night. Of his team’s performance, Zimmer said: “Before the game, some of the things that I talked about with the players were: I wanted to know who would play fast and smart. I think we did that for the most part.”

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Considering the fact that Adrian Peterson didn’t play at all and most of the other starters saw no more than limited service on both sides of the ball, you would have to consider the performance of the Vikings in their first exhibition game under new coach Mike Zimmer more than satisfactory.

“Well, it was good to get a win,” Zimmer said after Friday night’s 10-6 victory over Oakland at TCF Bank Stadium. “The fans did a great job in the first half of the ballgame, especially with the crowd noise. I think they enjoyed being at the University of Minnesota here, and hopefully we continue to give them some good football to watch. Before the game, some of the things that I talked about with the players were: I wanted to know who would play fast and smart. I think we did that for the most part.

“I wanted to be great in execution, and right off the bat in the first drive we went down and we got, I think, two three-and-outs on defense, and so we did that, and the in-game communication was important for us as a staff, to be able to communicate, to handle all the situations, and actually that went excellent. And then lastly, I simply need to take care of the football, and we did a great job with that offensively tonight. We did have one turnover on defense, so all in all we still have a lot of work to do with the field position. We didn’t get a chance to flip the field position.”

Zimmer noted his team making some mistakes that need to be corrected, but he added: “I do like how this team works, I like how they concentrate on the sidelines, they were all into it, even when they were out of the game, but we have to develop the fortitude and the killer instinct at the end of the football game to not let it come down to one play, one situation here or there.”

Zimmer said he thought starting quarterback Matt Cassel did a great job, going 5-for-6 for 62 yards in one drive. Zimmer added that he thinks getting Peterson back in the lineup will only improve Cassel’s performance. Peterson has not carried the ball in the preseason since 2011.

“He played like a veteran,” Zimmer said of Cassel. “He had control in the huddle, the communication between [offensive coordinator] Norv [Turner] and [quarterbacks coach] Scott [Turner] and him was very, very good.”

Wide receiver Adam Thielen, an undrafted free agent from Minnesota State Mankato and Detroit Lakes who was on the practice squad last year, has been one of the pleasant surprises in camp.

Zimmer was asked about Thielen’s contributions, which included a 15-yard reception from Christian Ponder in the third quarter.

“Adam had a heck of a catch on third down, didn’t he one time?” Zimmer said. “Then he returned a nice punt, he went down and covered kicks. You know we got a saying here, ‘The more you can do.’ ”

Zimmer said he regretted trying a 53-yard field goal in the third quarter, a kick that Blair Walsh missed wide right. “We had good field position, we were playing good on defense and I got greedy, maybe,” he said. But overall, Zimmer said he was pleased with his team’s performance.

“It went fairly smooth as far as the decisions that I had to make, for the most part. Just trying to do your best,” he said.

Barr sacks in debut

Vikings first-round draft pick Anthony Barr got to see his first pro action and was credited with half a sack with Tom Johnson on the final play of the first quarter.

The UCLA product, who started at strong-side linebacker against the Raiders, was asked about making a big play in his first pro game.

“I think the coverage helped me out a little bit, and then I was able to redirect and come back inside and make the play,” he said, adding later, “Whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do. That was just one of the plays where I happened to just come off the edge, and there was a couple plays like that, so when I can do that I can be effective.”

Barr said the Vikings defense played a fairly limited version of its scheme. “Probably for a good reason,” he said, “but I think we executed it pretty well.”

Was it what he expected? “I don’t know, I think our goal was to make this as exact as possible, and I think we were able to do that for the most part,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, I had a great time out there.”

There’s no doubt that Barr is going to be a starter, and he did nothing to hurt his chances with his performance Friday.

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
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

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