NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Letting the rookie quarterbacks play and keeping the starters on the sideline may have been the best decisions Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt made all night.
Teddy Bridgewater threw a touchdown in his first NFL start, Joe Banyard ran for 111 yards and the Vikings wrapped up a perfect preseason beating the Tennessee Titans 19-3 on Thursday night.
Blair Walsh kicked four field goals, and the Vikings’ defense had three sacks in a game where both coaches protected their starters by keeping them safely on the sidelines as a storm drenched LP Field most of the first half. Lightning less than 3 miles away delayed the kickoff of Temple at Vanderbilt.
Titans quarterback Jake Locker and Matt Cassel of the Vikings both dressed and warmed up. Locker didn’t bring his helmet out for kickoff with Zach Mettenberger getting his first start, while the Vikings also went with their rookie. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson warmed up, too, but he sat a fourth straight preseason game.
Those starters spent the night watching teammates finish up the preseason, many holding towels over their heads against the rain. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who signed a $36 million extension Wednesday, at least got some action in high-fiving the Titans as they ran into the field for kickoff.
Zimmer, who interviewed for the Titans’ head coaching job before Tennessee hired Ken Whisenhunt, finished off the Vikings’ seventh undefeated preseason and first since 2001. Zimmer announced Monday that Cassel will start at quarterback Sept. 7 when Minnesota opens at St. Louis. Bridgewater showed why he will be ready if the Vikings decide to make a change during the season.
Bridgewater escaped two would-be sacks on the opening drive, and drove the Vikings 80 yards over more than 6 minutes. He completed 3 of his 4 passes and capped the drive with a 3-yard TD pass to Adam Thielen. Bridgewater played two series and was 4 of 9 for 17 yards with a touchdown.
Walsh kicked three field goals in the first half as the Vikings scored on their first four drives with only Ponder kneeling down on the final play of the first half the only time they didn’t finish with points.
Banyard did most of the damage, ripping through the Titans’ backups over and over again. Banyard had 69 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter alone, and the second-year pro out of Texas-El Paso who has never carried in the regular season made his case with all 111 yards on 18 carries in the first half.
Christian Ponder, the 12th overall pick in 2011, took over in the second quarter for Bridgewater. Ponder was 12 of 15 for 121 yards in his most play this preseason.
Mettenberger, a sixth-round draft pick out of LSU, came in having thrown for more yards than anyone else this preseason. He was 12 of 17 for 154 yards but lost the ball when sacked by Corey Wootton. Dominique Davis took over for the Titans late in the third quarter, and the quarterback signed Tuesday threw deep on his first play and was intercepted by Julian Posey.
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