Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
The Vikings trimmed their roster from 90 to 76 players on Monday, announcing 14 players that were either released or waived due to injury.
Safety Brandan Bishop, defensive tackle Kheeston Randall, tight end Kory Sperry, tackles Kevin Murphy and Pierce Burton, cornerbacks Derek Cox and Robert Steeples, defensive ends Tyler Scott and Jake Snyder and wide receivers Andy Cruse, Kamar Jorden, Erik Lora and Ty Walker were all released by the team. Safety Mistral Raymond (hamstring) was also waived with an injury designation.
The Vikings also activated tight end Chase Ford off the physically unable to perform list. Ford missed all of training camp and the preseason due to a broken left foot.
The Vikings still need to make one more cut by Tuesday at 3 p.m. CT. All 32 teams must have their rosters set to a maximum of 75 players at that time.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer informed his players this morning that Matt Cassel will be the starting quarterback for the season opener against the Rams, according to a FOX Sports report.
Cassel had been battling first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater for the chance to start. But despite impressive preseason numbers from Bridgewater, which included four touchdown passes and no interceptions, it was clear throughout the summer that Cassel was firmly entrenched as the starter.
Cassel got the majority of the first-team reps during training camp and started every preseason game for the Vikings. He played nearly three quarters of Saturday night’s 30-12 win over the Chiefs.
Bridgewater, meanwhile, only received reps with the first-team offense in the preseason opener.
Since drafting Bridgewater in May, Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman have said that they do not want to rush Bridgewater onto the field before he is ready. And they re-signed Cassel before even picking a quarterback to be the bridge to whoever their next quarter of the future would be.
Zimmer is expected to formally announce his decision at a press conference later this morning.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— What have we learned about the Vikings during their 3-0 preseason start?
— RT Phil Loadholt is going to be OK after injuring his ankle the other night.
— The Vikings won’t be facing Rams QB Sam Bradford in the season opener.
— Head coach Mike Zimmer has yet to name his starting quarterback.
— Zimmer’s defense flashed potential in Saturday’s win over the Chiefs.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Say what you want about the preseason. Winning is contagious.. I love the way this TEAM goes to work!! #Vikings
— Kyle Rudolph (@KyleRudolph82) August 24, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— Packers NT Josh Boyd is ready to step in for the injured B.J. Raji.
— The Bears defense took a step back in a blowout loss to the Seahawks.
— Lions rookie OLB Kyle Van Noy is worried that he has a sports hernia.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings return to Winter Park for two days of practice before heading to Nashville. Zimmer will talk before practice and the locker room will be open to media. Practice begins at 12:50 p.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
The Vikings have gone undefeated in the preseason six times in their history, but a perfect preseason is no guarantee for regular-season success. In four of the seasons, they had a winning record and in three they made the playoffs. One of their undefeated preseasons was 1973, when they advanced all the way to the Super Bowl. But the last time they went undefeated was 2001, the year after their 41-0 loss in the NFC title game. They would go 5-11 that season.
After a missed connection on a deep ball in last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel and second-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson got it right tonight.
On the team’s opening drive, which started at their 3-yard line, Cassel froze the Chiefs defense with a play-action fake and fired a 53-yard touchdown pass to Patterson, who had gotten behind Chiefs second-string safety Daniel Sorensen. It was an accurate throw by Cassel and Patterson did a good job of tracking the ball before making an over-the-shoulder catch and coasting into the end zone.
“It was a play that we had worked on throughout the week and we had yet to throw the ball to Cordarrelle on it,” Cassel said, who was 2-for-2 for 84 yards on the opening drive. “He got on top of the safety and I was able to see it and give him an opportunity, and he went and made a great play.”
Patterson said he could feel a big play coming when Cassel barked out the play call in the huddle. He just figured the play would come from fellow wide receiver Greg Jennings on that particular play.
“Matt did a heck of a job putting it out there,” said Patterson, who had three catches. “I felt like the ball wasn’t even coming my way because in practice, we go over it every week and he always throws it to Greg. Before the play, I told Greg, ‘I got you.’ And Matt did a heck of a job getting it out to me.”
How unusual was it was to witness with our very own eyes the Minnesota Vikings making not one, but two game-altering defensive plays in the red zone during Saturday night’s 30-12 preseason victory at Kansas City?
Well, let’s rewind to last season to answer that one.
According to official NFL statistical data, only the historically putrid Dallas Cowboys defense gave up more red zone touchdowns (40) than the Vikings did (39) in 2013. From a percentage standpoint, the Vikings allowed opponents to score touchdowns on 61.9 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line a year ago. That was seventh-worst in the league and third-worst in the NFC.
Saturday night, the Chiefs moved the ball inside the 20 three times against the Vikings’ first-team defense in the first half. They scored ZERO touchdowns and one field goal while throwing two interceptions.
The first interception came on first-and-goal from the 10-yard line. And the guy who made the play, Captain Munnerlyn, actually baited the quarterback, the normally ball-secure Alex Smith, into throwing the ill-advised pass. Munnerlyn gave Smith a false sense of an open window and then jumped the route with an instinctive flash that we never saw his predecessor — Chris Cook — make during four interception-free seasons.
It wasn’t a third-down play, but, hey, the Vikings also need some work on their first-down pass defense. A year ago, teams completed 67.1 percent of their first-down passes against the Vikings. That was fourth-worst in the league.
Later in Saturday’s first half, linebacker Chad Greenway read Smith’s eyes, sat on a route and caught a ball that was thrown right to him. That came on third-and-four at the Vikings’ 11. And if you assume that defenders always catch footballs thrown directly at them, then you haven’t been watching the Vikings in recent years.
A year ago, the Vikings were last in the league in pass completions allowed for first downs (15.4 per game). They also were 30th in third-down conversions allowed (44 percent).
Saturday night, Smith converted 3 of 7 third-down situations while attempting to pass. He completed passes of 18 and 11 yards, and had a 42-yard pass interference penalty on Josh Robinson. He also was sacked once and threw an interception.
Overall, Chiefs quarterbacks converted 4 of 10 third downs while attempting passes. They were sacked twice and threw two picks on third downs.
|Washington - LP: T. Clippard||3||FINAL|
|Philadelphia - WP: K. Giles||4|
|St. Louis - LP: S. Maness||2||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson||5|
|Tampa Bay - LP: G. Balfour||2||FINAL|
|Baltimore - WP: B. Brach||4|
|Boston - WP: J. Tazawa||11||FINAL|
|Toronto - LP: C. Janssen||7|
|NY Yankees - LP: B. McCarthy||2||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: R. Porcello||5|
|Atlanta - LP: A. Wood||2||FINAL|
|NY Mets - WP: D. Gee||3|
|Chicago Cubs - WP: T. Wood||3||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - LP: J. Cueto||0|
|Cleveland - WP: B. Shaw||8||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - LP: J. Petricka||6|
|Minnesota - LP: G. Perkins||1||FINAL|
|Kansas City - WP: W. Davis||2|
|Oakland - LP: L. Gregerson||2||FINAL|
|Houston - WP: J. Fields||4|
|Los Angeles - WP: R. Hernandez||9||FINAL|
|Arizona - LP: T. Cahill||5|
|Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi||2||FINAL|
|LA Angels - WP: M. Shoemaker||8|
|Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson||1||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: T. Ross||4|
|Texas - LP: N. Martinez||0||FINAL|
|Seattle - WP: J. Paxton||5|
|Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa||0||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner||3|
|Atlanta||8/28/14 5:00 PM|
|Detroit||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Indianapolis||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Kansas City||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|NY Jets||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|St. Louis||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Carolina||8/28/14 6:30 PM|
|New England||8/28/14 6:30 PM|
|Washington||8/28/14 6:30 PM|
|Baltimore||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Chicago||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Denver||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Minnesota||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|San Francisco||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Arizona||8/28/14 9:00 PM|
|Seattle||8/28/14 9:00 PM|
|(21) Texas A&M||8/28/14 5:00 PM|
|(9) So Carolina|
|Wake Forest||8/28/14 6:02 PM|
|Boise State||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|(18) Ole Miss|
|Tulane||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Temple||8/28/14 8:15 PM|
|Rutgers||8/28/14 9:00 PM|
|Weber State||8/28/14 9:30 PM|
|(19) Arizona State|
|BYU||8/29/14 6:00 PM|
|(6) Jacksonville St||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Bowling Green||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||8/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Colorado State||8/29/14 8:00 PM|
|UNLV||8/29/14 9:30 PM|
|Penn State||8/30/14 7:30 AM|
|Troy||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) UCLA||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Mich||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(5) Ohio State||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Appalachian St||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Ga Southern||8/30/14 11:30 AM|
|Boston College||8/30/14 2:00 PM|
|West Virginia||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Rice||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|(17) Notre Dame|
|(10) South Dakota St||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|California||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Marshall||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|UC Davis||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|Arkansas||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|(16) Clemson||8/30/14 4:30 PM|
|Liberty||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|(23) North Carolina|
|Ohio U||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Idaho||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||8/30/14 6:10 PM|
|(20) Kansas State|
|Fresno State||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Southern Miss||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|North Texas||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(14) Wisconsin||8/30/14 8:00 PM|
|South Dakota||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|(25) Washington||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|Utah State||8/31/14 6:00 PM|
|SMU||8/31/14 6:30 PM|
|Miami-Florida||9/1/14 7:00 PM|
|Ottawa||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|Winnipeg||8/31/14 3:00 PM|
|Toronto||9/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||9/1/14 3:30 PM|
Poll: Which of these children of famous musicians has made the best music?