Three Takeaways From Vikings Preseason Debut

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 11, 2012 – 3:10 am

The Vikings made their 2012 preseason debut on Friday night, dropping a 17-6 decision to the San Francisco 49ers at a blustery Candlestick Park. Rookie K Blair Walsh capped the game’s opening drive with a 39-yard FG that cut straight through the 20 mph gusts that swirled inside the stadium, but that was the only lead the Vikings would have for the evening.

San Francisco answered with a TD later in the 1st quarter to take a 7-3 and eventually took a 17=6 lead into the locker room at halftime. Neither team scored in the 2nd half.

For the Vikings, QB Christian Ponder was good-not-great, completing 4 of 9 passes for 80 yards. RB Toby Gerhart was solid and strong, rushing the ball 5 times and gaining 31 yards, with a long rush of 16 yards. The Vikings defense struggled stopping the 49ers ground game, allowing over 100 rushing yards in the 1st half and 260 in the game.

The thrill of victory and agony of defeat take a back seat in the preseason, though, as teams are looking to find “wins” within the exhibition games. There are position battles to be settled and roster spots to be won, and that is the focus for NFL teams and their followers during the preseason.

With that in mind, here are three takeaways on my mind as I sit on the team’s charter flight back to Minneapolis…

Blair Walsh impresses in first NFL game
I’ve been a big supporter of Blair Walsh’s since the Vikings selected him in the 6th round. His leg strength was never questioned, and I didn’t find his dip in accuracy during his senior season at Georgia as concerning as others did. The kid was an 88.8% kicker as a sophomore and junior, and most of his misses during his senior year came on FGs from 40 or 50+ yards.

Regardless, there were no concerns about Walsh’s accuracy on Friday night. He converted both of his FG attempts, the first from 39 yards and the second from 26. Keep in mind, the nasty wind gusts did nothing to help matters, either. In addition to his accuracy on FG tries, Walsh’s leg strength was on display during kickoffs. He logged one touchback on a kick that was blasted through the endzone, and then his other two kickoffs were 6 and 8 yards into the endzone. During the regular season, teams will not be taking those kicks out of the touchback area.

The benefit of Walsh’s touchbacks – opponents’ average drive start will be closer to their own 20 – will far outweigh any accuracy issues he has on FGs. As any defensive player or coordinator and they’ll tell you that pinning a team at or inside the 20 is a big-time advantage for the defense. With Walsh, the Vikings will be doing much more of that in 2012 than they have in recent seasons (Vikings ranked 31st in opponents’ average drive start in 2011).

Run defense missed Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield
The Vikings held out DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams and CB Antoine Winfield on Friday night, giving the veterans a break from the action while also giving younger players more opportunity. And the absence of three quality run stoppers showed, with San Francisco gashing the Vikings defense on the ground seemingly at will in the 1st half.

One part of you gets frustrated when the opponent is able to run the ball so easily. But the other part of you knows that without Allen, Williams and Winfield in the mix, the defense is much more vulnerable. It would’ve been nice to see other players step up and stymie the 49ers ground game, but I’m not worried about the Vikings run defense just yet. If the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers are able to do in the next two weeks what the 49ers did this week, then we’ll have some concerns.

Offensive line displays improvement
I was pleased with the performance of the Vikings first-team offensive line. RB Toby Gerhart averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 5 attempts and neither Ponder nor Joe Webb were sacked while the first-team offensive line was in the game. Several times Ponder was able to settle into a pocket after dropping back, and on his52-yard pass to WR Stephe Burton Ponder was afforded the time and space to step up into the pocket to deliver the throw.

First-round pick LT Matt Kalil looked solid in his debut. He will be the first to admit there’s room for improvement, but it was a good beginning for Ponder’s new blindside protector. C John Sullivan had no issues with snaps and RT Phil Loadholt was sound in his technique and discipline.

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Vikings Arrive At Candlestick Park For Preseason Debut

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 10, 2012 – 4:45 pm

The Vikings traveling contingent has made the short trek from the team hotel to Candlestick Park for tonight’s preseason debut against the San Francisco 49ers and players have begun hitting the field for their warmups. We’re currently under sunny skies with a temperature of 56 degrees and the winds howling at 18 mph.

Tonight marks the first preseason game for both the Vikings and 49ers, and it marks the 7th time the teams have met in the preseason, with the last coming in 2010. The last time San Francisco played a game here at Candlestick they were hosting the NFC Championship Game last January, a game in which they lost to the NY Giants.

Several representatives from the Vikings organization visited some of the 49ers facilities, which are located directly next to the site of the team’s new stadium, which is being constructed right now. We’ll have a report and pictures from that visit posted here on the Blog shortly.

Remember to stay tuned to tonight because we’re you’re best place for preseason coverage of the Vikings. We’ll host a live chat on the website during the game, we’ll stream press conferences after the game, and I’ll check in following the game with a recap of the night and plenty of reaction from players and coaches.

Also, for those of you not in Minnesota who wish to watch tonight’s game, go to the home page and check out Preseason Live, a subscription-based program that you can utilize to watch every Vikings preseason game (charge of just $20).

That’s it for now, but we’ll be checking in with you periodically before tonight’s game to keep you up-to-date on the action.

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Reminder: Vikings vs. 49ers To Be Broadcast On The CW Twin Cities

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 10, 2012 – 9:54 am

The Vikings kick off their preseason schedule tonight against the San Francisco 49ers, and for the third consecutive season KARE 11 will be the team’s preseason television partner.

Because of NBC’s 2012 Olympics coverage, however, the Vikings-49ers game will be broadcast on an alternative channel. The CW Twin Cities will televise tonight’s game, with kickoff slated for 8:00 p.m. CT.

Below is a listing of The CW Twin Cities’ channel locations on Cable/ADS:

– DISH ch 23
– DirecTv ch 23
– Comcast SD ch 8
– Comcast HD ch 808
– Charter Cable ch 602 or 783 (depending on location)
– Mediacom cc 106 or 117 or 821 (depending on location)

Preseason Simulcast
The Vikings Entertainment Network (VEN) will use the Vikings Radio Network broadcast team of Paul Allen and Pete Bercich for the 2012 Vikings preseason television broadcasts. The preseason games, aired on KARE 11 (on WUCW tonight at San Francisco), will be simulcast over the Vikings Radio Network and its flagship station KFAN 100.3 FM.

“Hundreds of thousands of Vikings fans enjoy listening to PA’s exciting calls and Pete’s thorough analysis on the radio during Vikings games,” said Vikings Vice President of Sales & Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix. “This is a unique opportunity to also allow our television viewers to listen to the voices of the Vikings.”

Former Vikings punter Greg Coleman will continue his sideline reporting role, while former Vikings LB Ben Leber will be added to handle sideline interviews during the preseason TV broadcasts.

For more information on the Vikings preseason TV schedule, click here.

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