Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Vikings top Steelers 14-3 in Hall of Fame game

Teddy Bridgewater didn't want to talk about the completions. Last the Minnesota quarterback checked, getting the ball where it needs to go is the main part of his job.
It's that one miss, however, that will stick with the reigning Rookie of the Year.
Bridgewater's only series in a 14-3 victory over Pittsburgh in the Hall of Fame game Sunday ended up with the Vikings getting stuffed on fourth down after Bridgewater failed to complete a simple flip to Mike Wallace on third down that would have given Minnesota first-and-goal.
"It's one of those deals where it's good to stay within the system," Bridgewater said. "If I hit Mike, we avoid fourth down."
Maybe Bridgewater is being picky after going 5 of 6 for 44 yards during his cameo, but with an extra preseason game this summer, the Vikings and their emerging leader have plenty of time to work on it.
Backup quarterback Mike Kafka threw a touchdown pass and running back Joe Banyard ran for another score long after Bridgewater exited as the Vikings improved to 5-0 in exhibitions under second-year coach Mike Zimmer.
"Wish I was 5-0 in the regular season," he said, laughing.
Both teams have a month before things start to count for real, giving the annual exhibition opener an even more pedestrian feel.
Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis waved a "Terrible Towel" during pregame introductions, with the decidedly pro-Pittsburgh crowd roaring its approval, the only moment of true star power on a night the bold-faced names still in uniform didn't break a sweat if they even bothered to suit up at all.
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson's return from a lengthy suspension will have to wait at least one more week, if not decidedly longer. He hung out on the sideline while the backups did the heavy lifting.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stuck to attire more appropriate for the gym. All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell and All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown put together a full dress rehearsal, even going through warm-ups then spent four quarters as spectators, the only exercise the notoriously hard-working Brown enjoyed coming while he absentmindedly worked the exercise bike.
Bridgewater deftly guided the Vikings on a 10-play, 51-yard drive in the first quarter, hitting tight end Kyle Rudolph for a pair of 11-yard gains. Rather than attempt a short field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 10, Zimmer opted to go for it only to see Jerick McKinnon stopped for no gain by nose tackle Steve McLendon, one of the handful of Pittsburgh regulars to actually take the field.
With Roethlisberger given the night off and usual backup Bruce Gradkowski dealing with a sore arm, the Steelers gave third-stringer Jones an extensive look. The leading passer in Oklahoma history is trying to convince the team to keep three quarterbacks on the roster. While coach Mike Tomlin said early in camp Jones was on the "incline" he was going to reserve judgment until after seeing Jones face guys in different-color jerseys.
The early returns weren't exactly promising after the Steelers failed to produce a touchdown or generate much momentum with Jones under center.
Jones completed 15 of 32 passes for 128 yards and an interception while taking nearly every Pittsburgh snap.
"Some good things, some bad things," Jones said. "It will be interesting to see what it's like to go watch the film and learn from it. I missed a couple of passes. A lot of these guys have never played in the NFL before, either, so I'm sure they were nervous like me."
Jones led the Steelers on their only scoring drive of the half, finding Shakim Phillips for a 35-yard strike that set up a 36-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham, who later left with what Tomlin called a "potentially significant" injury.
"I just wanted to see a winning performance," Tomlin said. "We come into these situations to win. August or no, that's what we're looking for - not only in (Jones) but all of us collectively. He's got room for improvement. Obviously, some of the game-management things, delays of game, we can't have."
Minnesota didn't have nearly as much trouble finding the end zone after the early near miss. Kafka took advantage of a blown coverage to connect with MyCole Pruitt for an easy 34-yard TD strike 4:20 left in the first half.
The Vikings extended the lead midway through the third quarter following a 62-yard punt return by rookie Stefon Diggs. He was tripped up just short of the goal line. No matter, one play later, Banyard strolled into the end zone to make it 14-3.
NOTES: Vikings first-round pick, CB Trae Waynes, had three tackles and was called for a holding penalty that was declined. ... Pittsburgh's top pick, LB Bud Dupree, had two tackles. ... Pittsburgh visits Jacksonville on Friday. Minnesota hosts Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Steelers fall to Vikings, 14-3

STORYLINE
Had this been a regular season meeting, there would have been multiple storylines, with most of them interesting. Vikings wide receiver Mike Wallace getting a crack at his former team’s new-look defensive secondary; the return of Adrian Peterson and his matchup against the Steelers’ defensive line now playing an attacking style; and Minnesota’s second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater vs. first-year defensive coordinator Keith Butler, to list a few.

But this was the preseason opener, the first of five preseason games for both of these teams, and so the entire exercise was geared more toward evaluating your own personnel in game-type situations in the players’ first exposure of the year to outside-their-own-locker-room competition. This was going to be more about getting out of the huddle and snapping the ball before the play-clock expires, and having 11 on the field for every snap, and having all of those 11 playing the same defense at the same time, and not turning the ball over, etc. Sloppiness leads to slappyness, and slappyness gets guys cut.

In the first half, the Steelers committed two pre-snap penalties on offense and had one turnover, that coming on a fumble by C.J. Goodwin following a reception from Landry Jones that would have been good for a first down. In the second half, there was another turnover – on a fumble by Jesse James after a reception – and the defense committed a pre-snap penalty by being offside.

TURNING POINT
The Steelers trailed, 7-3, and had the ball with a first down at the Minnesota 2-yard line with 1:54 remaining in the first half. On first down, Cameron Stingily gained 1 yard, and things went downhill from there. The second down play was ruined by a quick snap from center Reese Dismukes when Landry Jones looked to be changing the protection and the resulting pass fell incomplete. On third down, Devin Gardner had a pass go through his hands. On fourth down Jesse James dropped a certain touchdown pass. Instead of a lead and some momentum going into the locker room at halftime, the Steelers still trailed, 7-3.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT I
The first half, while reflective of what could have been expected from the first of five preseason games, was not what Coach Mike Tomlin wanted to see from his team. The Steelers offense committed two pre-snap penalties, it turned to ball over on a lost fumble at the Vikings 34-yard line, and it was 0-for-2 in the red zone, including no points on four plays from a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.

GIVEN THE NIGHT OFF
During his news conference on Friday, Aug. 7, Coach Mike Tomlin said Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell,Heath MillerAntonio BrownMaurkice Pouncey, and James Harrison would not play at all vs. the Vikings. Others not in uniform for the Hall of Fame Game were Martavis BryantMarkus Wheaton,Jarvis JonesMike Mitchell, and Shamarko Thomas.