Final auditions over; Vikings finish preseason unbeaten

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2014 - 10:40 AM

The Vikings fell just short of a shutout in a 2½-hour preseason finale.

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– This felt like a preseason finale, with starters from both teams sitting out, the Vikings and Titans both keeping the clock moving to avoid injuries, and the bleachers at LP Field mostly vacant because of rain showers and an NCAA game across town on Vanderbilt’s campus.

It wouldn’t have been a surprise to hear that the Vikings started up their buses to the airport at halftime.

Beyond the important decisions that coach Mike Zimmer has to make at middle linebacker, strong safety and on the back end of his 53-man roster — which will be revealed Saturday — there was not much to evaluate in a game in which a handful of lesser-known Vikings players made extended cameos.

Heck, there was even a Christian Ponder sighting, the first since the preseason opener.

But the Vikings did beat the Titans 19-3 in a sloppy but fast-paced game, completing their first unbeaten preseason since 2001.

“More than the record in the preseason, I feel good about the way that we’ve performed,” Zimmer said. “We’ve taken care of the football. We’ve not made a lot of mistakes. We haven’t been a big penalty team. We seem to be doing the right things.”

This is the seventh time that the Vikings went undefeated in the preseason. In four of the ensuing regular seasons, they had a winning record. In three, they made the playoffs.

And in 1973, they went all the way to the Super Bowl. Of course, a perfect preseason is no guarantee for success. In 2001, the year after their 41-0 loss in the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings won five games.

Before giving way to the second-stringers and roster long shots Thursday, the Vikings in the preseason were mostly sharp offensively, and Zimmer’s defense offered hope that a turnaround will soon come.

But a good idea of who the Vikings will be in 2014 won’t become clear until they play a game that counts in the standings. The first one of those will be in St. Louis on Sept. 7 against the Rams.

“It’s always nice to win, especially when you’re starting a new program,” Zimmer said. “But to me, it’s how are we playing? What kind of football are we playing? And hopefully that will carry us on.”

With Zimmer holding out all of his clear-cut starters Thursday night, including top quarterback Matt Cassel, rookie Teddy Bridgewater — sans gloves — made his first start in the NFL, albeit in a preseason game. He completed four of nine attempts for 17 yards and a touchdown and steered the Vikings to a pair of scores on his first two drives before exiting the game.

“He’s getting better each and every week,” Zimmer said.

Second-year running back Joe Banyard did most of the heavy lifting, rushing for 111 yards on 18 carries.

Banyard’s 20-yard run on the opening drive set up a 3-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to wide receiver Adam Thielen that gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead. It was the only touchdown of the night.

Ponder, who did not play in the team’s second and third preseason games, replaced Bridgewater with 9:26 left in the first half. For the most part, it was a positive performance. He completed 12 of 15 attempts for 121 yards.

“I’m especially proud of Christian Ponder because I know there have been a lot of fans and a lot of people who have been negative toward him,” Zimmer said. “He went out and performed well tonight.”

Kicker Blair Walsh booted four field goals to put the Vikings up 19-0. Titans kicker Maikon Bonani split the uprights in the middle of the fourth quarter to end the shutout.

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Los Angeles - LP: C. Frias 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 16
San Francisco - WP: S. Romo 4 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 2
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 9
Toronto - LP: J. Happ 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 6
Washington - LP: R. Detwiler 1 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: A. Wood 3
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 4 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: D. Gee 3
NY Yankees - WP: B. McCarthy 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: A. Cobb 2
Cincinnati - LP: D. Corcino 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: K. Hendricks 3
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Sale 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 6
Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco 2 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 0
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: K. Gibson 8
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 0 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 2
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: C. Wilson 5
Texas - WP: R. Ross Jr. 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Doolittle 1
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 5 FINAL
San Diego - LP: E. Stults 2
Tampa Bay 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
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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 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

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