For a preseason game, you could call the Vikings 36-14 win over the Buffalo Bills anything but boring. The first team offense moved the ball and scored the first touchdown of the 2012 season, the first team defense made improvements from week one, playing the run much better. In the process, the team gave fans hope and a glimpse of what is an improvement of a three win team a year ago.
"It's good to get a win," said quarterback Christian Ponder.
"Coach Frazier made a point last night that we wanted to be undefeated at home including starting tonight. I thought we came out focused in pre-game and we knew we wanted to score early and score often."
Ponder led the team on an 8 play 80 yard opening drive that was capped by a one yard touchdown pass to fullback Jermoe Felton. The big play came when Ponder found Jerome Simpson with a short pass that the playmaker ran to the Buffalo 12 yard line in the process, Simpson hurdled over Bills free-safety Jarius Byrd in highlight reel fashion.
"I'm just doing what I'm born to do," said Simpson. "I'm just trying to make plays and Christian threw the ball perfectly."
Ponder would lead the first team on three scoring drives and had it not been for a 49 yard missed field goal by Blair Walsh, that number would have been a perfect four-for-four on the night.
"It was a very good effort by our football team," said head coach Leslie Frazier. "The guys have worked so hard from the time we began on April 23rd and all through training camp. Tonight, you saw some of that hard work paying off."
Walsh showed why he the team selected him in this past draft. The rookie was calm and made five of six field goals (22,47,45,40,30) on the night.
The defense welcomed Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield back to the starting lineup and their presence was felt immediately. Rookie safety Harrison Smith made his presence felt and continues to prove he is going to be a solid safety in the NFL. He may have worked his way into the starting lineup for good according to his head coach.
"I've got to look at the tape, but I didn't see anything with the naked eye to tell me any different," said Frazier. "His presence and the fact that he can take good angles and understand situations that's a big deal when you are trying to prevent big runs along with big passes."
Another rookie on the defensive side of the ball continued to make big plays as Audie Cole provided the defensive punch in the fourth quarter intercepting and scoring touchdowns on back-to-back defensive plays.
"That was double of anything I had in college," said Cole. "Nothing like getting your hands on the ball. I had never scored a touchdown since high school so it was great."
"To see Audie do what he did, that's a big deal," said Frazier. "Everyone on the team was in the end zone with him on that second one. It's pretty impressive."
Sandwiched in between Ponder's solid performance and the rise of the rookies, the not quite capacity crowd did their part to help the team with a near 25 minute continuous wave that included a ticker-tape parade like shower of paper from programs that were placed on every seat before the game.
"That was awesome," said Jared Allen. "It all started because they wanted a PI. It never ceases to amaze me. At the end, I figured there were probably some fans that weren't really cool with it. I thought it was hilarious. Well done to our fans."
Both tight end Kyle Rudolph and cornerback Chris Cook were taken out of the game with concussion like symptoms. According to Frazier they will be evaluated and tested for concussions tomorrow.
The San Diego Chargers come to Mall of America Field next Friday night at 7pm.