By Scott Taylor
MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is the best practice coach in the game today. His record proves it.
Despite a one hour and five minute weather delay at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday night, the Vikings beat the Oakland Raiders 20-12 in a pre-season matchup – you know, a practice game.
That means, during his two-year stretch as head coach of the Vikes, Zimmer is now 7-0 in the pre-season. Too bad, he’s 7-9 in the regular season.
Saturday night Zimmer did see some good things. And a lot of things I’m sure he didn’t like.
Let’s start with the bad news:
- Jerick McKinnon ran for only 25 yards on 12 carries. Oh well, he isn’t going to be the No. 1 back anyway.
- QB Teddy Bridgewater had a terrible first drive, threw some passes that would be picked off by good teams and missed badly on a number of other throws. Highly touted receiver Mike Wallace did not look good.
- Kicker Blair Walsh (the least accurate kicker in the NFL last season) was awful, missing three field goal attempts and a point after from distances that are usually chip shots for him. Good thing it was a practice game.
- Coach Zimmer was not happy with the defense. After the game, he said: “Defensively, I think we can do a lot better that what we did tonight.”
Now, for the good news:
- After Oakland made it 6-0, the Vikings answered with Bridgewater’s best effort of the night. It was an eight-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a beautiful Bridgewater floater into the hands of Charles Johnson at the back of the end zone. How did the Cleveland Browns let Johnson get away? Oh, I know, they’re the freaking Cleveland Browns. Bridgewater scrambled for a third-down conversion to start of the drive and then completed perfect passes to tight end Rhett Ellison for 13 yards and McKinnon for 21. That was the Bridgewater people came to see and that’s all they would see.
- When Bridgewater left the game, he had 10 completions on 14 attempts for 89 yards and a TD. After three preseason games, Bridgewater has completed 22-of-28 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. He has a 111.2 passer rating with no turnovers or sacks.
- The best drive of the night was executed by backup quarterback Shaun Hill who guided the Vikings 80 yards on 13 plays to end the first half. It was a terrific two-minute (against a lot of second stringers) drill that ended with a TD pass to tight end Chase Ford, who made a couple of great catches.
- Johnson was the top receiver, catching four passes for 40 yards. He’s a dandy. Meanwhile, Matt Asiata caught three passes for 36 yards and carried twice for 15 yards and looked like a man in mid-season form. Bridgewater will have plenty of tools if Mike Wallace gets his act together.
Despite the weather and an Oakland team looking to establish itself, the Vikings were, generally, pretty solid. Zimmer was critical because that’s what good coaches do – they remain critical even in the face of victory. Even in a practice game.
“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.
“We approach every game as if it’s a regular-season game. We want to develop a winning attitude around here.”
Well, the Vikes definitely have a winning attitude in practice.