Rain can’t stop Vikings’ preseason hot streak
By Chris Tomasson St. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Zimmer's Vikings have won preseason games in excruciating heat and in driving rain. They've won them at home, away and on a neutral field. What they haven't done is lose one. Zimmer, in...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - Mike Zimmer’s Vikings have won preseason games in excruciating heat and in driving rain. They’ve won them at home, away and on a neutral field.
What they haven’t done is lose one.
Zimmer, in his second season as coach, raised his exhibition record to 7-0 as Minnesota defeated Oakland 20-12 during a turbulent night of weather Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings are 3-0 this preseason.
The game was delayed 1 hour, 5 minutes in the second quarter when there was lightning in the area, not to mention a driving rain at the stadium. The weather was much better after the delay, when the Vikings broke away from a 6-6 tie.
“We approach every game as if it’s a regular-season game,’’ said Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. “We want to develop a winning attitude around here.’’
Overall, the Vikings have won eight straight exhibition games. That’s three shy of the team record the Norm Van Brocklin-coached team won from 1963-65.
Van Brocklin never made the playoffs while coaching the Vikings from 1961-66. Obviously, Zimmer, who has shrugged off all of his winning in the preseason, doesn’t want that to happen with him.
“There were a lot of good things that happened, with the adversity we had to go through with the weather and being able to adjust,’’ Zimmer said. “Offensively we did some good things, we did some good things on third down. We had one penalty and they had (13). ... Defensively, I think we can do a lot better than we did.”
The delay started with 6:45 left in the second quarter when everybody was ordered off the field and the fans out of the stands and to the concourse. After the delay ended, the Raiders went ahead 9-6 on a 26-yard field goal by Giorgio Tevecchio with 2:07 left in the half.
Backup quarterback Shaun Hill then led the Vikings down the field. His 4-yard touchdown pass to Chase Ford with eight seconds left in the half gave Minnesota the lead for good at 13-9, and there soon was a four-minute halftime.
The first half featured another steady performance from Bridgewater. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 89 yards and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Charles Johnson early in the second quarter to tie the score 6-6.
The Raiders had failed on a two-point conversion following a Latavius Murray 2-yard run late in the first quarter for a 6-0 lead. Blair Walsh missed the extra point following Minnesota’s first touchdown.
Extra points have been moved back from 20 to 33 yards this season, and it was wet and windy. But it was an ugly miss, drifting wide right. On a very tough night, Walsh also missed three field goals. They were a 35-yard field goal attempt wide right in the first quarter, a 38-yard attempt wide left in the fourth and a 49-yard attempt wide right in the fourth.
Walsh at least did make his final two extra-point attempts. That included a 43-yard boot on Minnesota’s final touchdown, which followed a holding penalty.
That touchdown came on a 1-yard run by fullback Blake Renaud late in the third quarter for a 20-12 lead. It marked the second straight preseason game in which a Minnesota fullback has scored a TD, with Zach Line having gotten one Aug. 15 against Tampa Bay.
The game marked the return to Minnesota for quarterback Christian Ponder, who played for the Vikings from 2011-14 before signing with Oakland as a free agent. Ponder checked in late in the second quarter, following the weather delay.
Ponder, who had a mediocre Minnesota tenure and had said earlier in the week he expected to be booed, got just that from the fans, even though most already had left. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 69 yards, leading the Raiders to two field goals on the three drives he played.
For the Vikings, the game marked the return of linebacker Anthony Barr, who last played in a game Nov. 30, 2014. He missed the final four games last season and the first two preseason games this month because of knee issues.
Getting his first start at middle linebacker was rookie Eric Kendricks. He is battling for the job Audie Cole, who started the first two, and Gerald Hodges.
On offense, Minnesota’s top receiver was Johnson, who caught four passes for 40 yards. With Adrian Peterson sitting out this preseason, Jerick McKinnon again got the start at running back, and he struggled with 25 yards on 12 carries.
Still, the Vikings once again won. Zimmer had a 4-0 preseason last year, which includes winning games when it was 97 degrees in Kansas City and when there were heavy rains in Tennessee. The rains came once again Saturday. And once again Zimmer’s Vikings won an exhibition game.
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