Before heavy rain and another round of lightning blasts sent the Vikings and the Oakland Raiders back to their locker rooms and thousands of fans scrambling out of TCF Bank Stadium in search of shelter, 24 minutes of sloppy football was played.
Vikings starters had showed well in their first two preseason games, and the team as a whole played mostly crisp and clean football outside of some penalties and a few fumbles from the backups. But for the first time this summer, the Vikings first-stringers looked to be in preseason form in Saturday night’s 20-12 victory over the Raiders.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the starters on offense were efficient in their one drive against Pittsburgh in the preseason opener. And they were at times explosive against Tampa Bay last Saturday, opening the game with a field goal then tacking on a touchdown before sitting down for the night.
In the harsh conditions Saturday night, though, Bridgewater and his pass-catchers had some slip-ups early as the winds swirled at upward of 20 miles per hour. And the Vikings running game faltered, with running back Jerick McKinnon mustering only 18 yards on seven carries running behind the first-team offensive line.
“There were some issue with Mother Nature, but that’s something that we had to get through,’’ Bridgewater said. “All we can control is how hard we work, how hard we go out and compete, and we did a good job of that.’’
On his first pass of the night, Bridgewater threw a floater up for grabs in the middle of the field toward Jarius Wright. His third-down heave fell incomplete and a defensive holding penalty kept the drive alive.
On the next play, Bridgewater threw a slant behind Charles Johnson, but the receiver made a nice adjustment to the pass to make a chain-moving catch.
After Kyle Rudolph could not bring in a high pass from Bridgewater, Mike Wallace dropped a quick-hitter and Bridgewater’s third-down pass to Wright in the flat sailed over the receiver’s head.
“There were some balls that sailed a little bit, but not too bad,’’ coach Mike Zimmer said. “Teddy might have started a little slow. He completed balls, but he wasn’t as accurate as he normally is early then he settled down.”
The Vikings took advantage of a short field and got into position for a field goal after Bridgewater and Johnson connected for a fourth-down conversion. But Blair Walsh missed a 35-yard attempt wide right, keeping the scoreless tie intact.
The Vikings first-team defense, which forced two three-and-outs and allowed only a field goal in four possessions in the first two preseason games, showed some vulnerability in the first quarter Saturday.
After Walsh’s miss, the Raiders used running back Latavius Murray and a big play by their top 2015 draft pick to go 75 yards in six plays.
Oakland rookie receiver Amari Cooper beat cornerback Terence Newman over the top and tapped two feet in bounds along the right sideline for a 40-yard reception from second-year quarterback Derek Carr, who was selected four picks behind Bridgewater last spring. The completion moved the Raiders into the red zone.
Two plays later, Murray plowed into the end zone from 2 yards out to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead. Murray was stuffed on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt.
“Defensively, I think we can do a lot better that what we did tonight,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings responded with an eight-play, 60-yard drive to tie the score. After Bridgewater scrambled for a third-down conversion at the start of the drive, he completed passes to tight end Rhett Ellison for 13 yards and McKinnon for 21.
Bridgewater capped the drive by lobbing a beautiful fade toward the right pylon on the second play of the second quarter. Johnson got behind Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden to make the TD catch.
Walsh missed the 33-yard extra-point try.
Walsh, who was the NFL’s least accurate kicker last season, missed two more field-goal attempts, one wide left and one wide right, in the fourth quarter.
When asked if he thought the wind affected Walsh, Zimmer responded: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him. He missed three field goals and an extra point. … A lot of things concern me. Not just that.”
Bridgewater departed the game after his TD pass, having gone 10-for-14 for 89 yards.
Through three preseason games, Bridgewater has completed 22 of his 28 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. He has a 111.2 passer rating with no turnovers or sacks.
The starting defense came out for two more series, though they left thirty-something starters Chad Greenway, Brian Robison and Newman on the sideline for the second of the two. They forced a three-and-out and another quick punt.
Soon the skies opened up and thunder rolled through the half-filled stadium. When a bolt of lightning lit up the sky, the game was suspended. It resumed 65 minutes later, but the Vikings starters were long gone after an uneven outing.