Cassel secure, Bridgewater sharp in Vikings win
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The thermometer read 97 degrees at kickoff, and still, Matt Cassel wasn’t as hot as he has been. But he still might have done enough to solidify the Vikings’ starting quarterback job.
Cassel played the first 2½ quarters Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium and got Minnesota going in a 30-12 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Returning to the city where he had played from 2009-12, Cassel completed 9 of 17 passes for 152 yards with a touchdown and an interception while playing two series into the second half. He led the Vikings on a 97-yard touchdown drive on their first series for a 7-0 lead.
Cassel’s showing wasn’t nearly as good as it was in the first two preseason games, when he completed 17 of 22 passes for 215 yards. But it still might end up being good enough to stave off rookie Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job.
The Vikings (3-0) don’t keep records of temperatures for preseason games, but they’ve never played in a hotter one in the regular season. The warmest was 94 degrees at the Baltimore Colts on Dec. 19, 1965. Considering most preseason games have been at night and many indoors, it seems 97 degrees would be a tough figure to top.
When asked two days before the game about playing in such temperatures, Bridgewater said, “Any weather is Teddy Bridgewater-type weather.’’ He had a chance to prove it when he entered the game late in the third quarter.
Bridgewater ended up throwing TD passes of 8 and 5 yards to tight end Allen Reisner before the quarter was done for a 27-5 lead. For setting them up, Bridgewater can thank Shaun Prater, who returned an interception 34 yards to the Kansas City 8, and Adam Thielen, who returned a punt 75 yards to the Chiefs 5, probably locking up a roster spot for Thielen.
Bridgewater finished the night 4 of 7 for 40 yards and is now 26 of 40 in the preseason for 266 yards with four TDs and no interceptions. Cassel is 26 of 39 in the preseason for 367 yards with two TDs and an interception.
Cassel made his first appearance in Kansas City since a four-year Chiefs run that included making the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season and flaming out in 2012 and losing his starting job to Brady Quinn. Reaction was mixed when Cassel entered the game.
However, it was a bit hard to fully gauge it since the Vikings started at their 3 and the fans were cheering loudly for the Chiefs defense. Cassel silenced them quickly by leading a 97-yard touchdown drive, which culminated with a 53-yard scoring pass to Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson had said he didn’t play up to capabilities in the previous preseason game against Arizona, when he caught two passes for just 9 yards. He had vowed to play better, and he made up for it in a hurry.
The third preseason game, the most significant one of the exhibition season, also saw Jasper Brinkley continue to battle Audie Cole for the starting middle linebacker job. Brinkley got his third straight start and was generally solid.
The competition continued for the wide-open starting job at strong safety. Chris Crocker got the start and Robert Blanton, who is No. 1 on the depth chart, saw his first preseason action after having a hamstring strain.
Also in the mix are Jamarca Sanford, Kurt Coleman and Andrew Sendejo. But Sanford was knocked out of the game in the first half because of a quad injury.
Also making his preseason debut was cornerback Josh Robinson, who had a hamstring strain. He was called for a 42-yard pass interference penalty in the first half.
Robinson has been a co-No. 1 on the depth chart at left cornerback with Captain Munnerlyn. But there seems little chance Munnerlyn won’t be starting the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at St. Louis.
Munnerlyn had the first of three Minnesota interceptions in the first quarter, returning a ball 14 yards out of the end zone to the Vikings 6. Also getting an important Vikings interception was linebacker Chad Greenway, who brought one back 28 yards in the second quarter to the Minnesota 36.
Cassel’s first preseason interception came late in the second quarter. He overthrew Jerome Simpson on a long pass, and it was picked off by Chiefs cornerback Ron Parker.
Cassel was sacked three times for losses totaling 17 yards. The second resulted in a safety in the first quarter that enabled the Chiefs to cut the deficit to 7-2.
The Vikings led 10-5 at halftime. Their other points came on a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter by Blair Walsh.
That’s generally regarded to be a chip shot by Walsh, who holds the NFL record of 12 straight field goals made of 50 or more yards. But Walsh has missed field goals of 53 and 51 yards and an extra point in the preseason, so it was an encouraging boot for the Vikings.
Walsh added field goals of 32 and 28 yards in the second half. The scoring was wrapped up when Chiefs quarterback Tyler Bray threw a 1-yard TD pass to Albert Wilson with 25 seconds left in the game.
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