First-team defense continues to shine, Vikings beat Kansas City

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2014 - 7:47 PM

The Vikings picked off Alex Smith twice and kept the Chiefs quarterback on the run during their stellar half of work in a victory.

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– Mike Zimmer has acknowledged that he probably won’t be able to fix the Vikings defense overnight. But in their third preseason game Saturday night, a 30-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, his starters showed flashes of the smothering unit he one day expects them to become.

“We get better and better each and every practice,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “We learn how to play with each other better. This defense, we can be one of the top defenses in the league.”

Sure, a cynic might say that is a little ambitious. They might also point out that the Chiefs were without star running back Jamaal Charles and top wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.

But for two quarters the Vikings harassed the first-stringers the Chiefs did trot out there, including quarterback Alex Smith, before Zimmer removed his defensive starters. And if not for some crafty scrambling by Smith, the Vikings might have doubled their total of five sacks.

“We probably could have made quite a few more if we were more disciplined in our rush lanes,” Zimmer said. “We had our hands around the quarterback quite a few times and didn’t get him on the ground.”

Zimmer probably wasn’t thrilled that Smith steered the Chiefs into the red zone three times in the first half, but the Vikings held them to just three points on those possessions. And after the Vikings took a 10-5 lead into halftime, they pulled away in the third quarter thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The Vikings improved to 3-0 in Zimmer’s first preseason as a head coach. In those three wins, the starters for the Vikings, who ranked next to last in total defense a season ago, surrendered just 17 points in about five quarters of action.

But they hadn’t, at least until Saturday night, pressured the quarterback with regularity. And they certainly hadn’t been forcing turnovers like they did against the Chiefs.

Munnerlyn intercepted Smith in the end zone in the first quarter, and in the second, linebacker Chad Greenway stepped in front of one of Smith’s passes in the red zone. Cornerback Shaun Prater got the Vikings’ third interception of the night — they had only one in their first two games — when he picked off Chiefs backup Tyler Bray after Smith exited early in the third quarter.

Offensively, Matt Cassel and the first-stringers picked up where they left off a week prior, when Cassel led the Vikings on three first-half scoring drives in a wild victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

After Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt pinned the Vikings at their 3, Matt Asiata picked up 31 yards after catching a swing pass. Asiata moved the chains again with a couple of productive rushes. Then Cassel froze the Chiefs defense with a crafty play-action fake and fired a 53-yard touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson for an early 7-0 lead.

But Cassel quickly cooled off, and linebacker Tamba Hali and a dangerous Chiefs pass rush had something to do with that. Cassel was sacked three times, including one in the end zone by Chiefs defensive end Jaye Howard that forced Cassel to fumble out of the back of the end zone for the safety.

In the second quarter, with the Vikings leading 7-5, Cassel made his first glaring mistake of the preseason, overshooting wide receiver Jerome Simpson on a deep ball. Chiefs cornerback Ron Parker picked off Cassel, the quarterback’s first interception of the preseason.

Cassel, who remained in the game until late in the third quarter and completed seven of his 15 attempts for 68 yards after the team’s opening drive, remains the heavy favorite to start Week 1.

Bridgewater entered the game after Prater’s interception and hit tight end Allen Reisner in the right flat for an 8-yard touchdown that expanded the lead to 20-5.

On the first play after a 75-yard punt return by wide receiver Adam Thielen, Bridgewater and Reisner connected again. The touchdown gave the Vikings a 27-5 lead and sent many of the sweaty stragglers left at Arrowhead Stadium, which had a temperature of 97 degrees at the opening kickoff, heading toward the parking lots.

Zimmer still has a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball before the season opener, including officially picking between Cassel and Bridgewater. But he appeared pleased with how far this team has come over the past few weeks, especially from a Vikings defense in transition.

“Obviously there’s still quite a bit of things we have to work on that we need to get better at,” Zimmer said. “But it’s good to see them get some interceptions. Usually when you get around the quarterback, good things happen.”

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 56 FINAL
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 73 FINAL
Prairie View 61
UAB 47 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 71 FINAL
Mercer 77
San Jose St 56 FINAL
Washington 78
Washington St 25 2nd Half 10:28
UC Santa Barbara 51
Baylor 71 FINAL
Memphis 47
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 68 FINAL
South Florida 83
Princeton 72 FINAL
Wake Forest 55
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53
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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 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
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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