The Vikings’ third preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers will likely be their closest to a regular-season game, in the sense of how much time they’ll have to look at their starters and play with much of their first-team offense on the field after holding some players out of the first two preseason games because of injury.

But the Vikings’ approach on Sunday night still won’t be much different than what they’ve done in their first two preseason games. In other words, it won’t be much like what they’d do during the regular season.

Coach Mike Zimmer has long rejected the idea of the third preseason game as a “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, as it relates to the idea of the Vikings game-planning for a specific opponent. In fact, he said this week, there’s some benefit to keeping things somewhat open-ended in the preseason.

“I think it’s good to see how the team reacts to scenarios they’re not prepared for,” he said. “It’s kind of how we’ve done it since I’ve been here. We still have work to do on us. So, for us to take a week and prepare for San Francisco like we would be in a regular season game I think is counterproductive to what we want to get done.”

Zimmer said the Vikings have used some defensive calls in the preseason they likely wouldn’t use if presented with the same situation in the regular season. The Vikings’ typical defense is relatively straightforward, relying on players employing sound principles and technique while avoiding self-nullifying mistakes. Because of that, coaches have used the preseason to throw some new ideas at the players who have now been in Zimmer’s scheme for four years.

“I was talking to [team owner/president] Mark Wilf today, and these guys have been around the system now,” Zimmer said on Wednesday. “So, the install, they’ve seen it four times, most of them. To get them excited about something new, we have to keep being innovative as coaches. I think the whole thing is just getting back down. Again, last week, we’re still looking at things where we can become better defensively.  Some of the things that happened in the game or in the first game, we’re making things and if we don’t like it, we’ll throw them out.

"I’m not concerned about any of that stuff. I just want to make sure our guys understand the importance that the way we’ve played around here on defense is with a chip on our shoulder and we need to continue to do that, that will make us a good defensive football team.”

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