Matt Cassel was crisp from the start, giving Teddy Bridgewater a model touchdown drive to watch.
Bridgewater showed his age, aside from a few flashes of brilliance, and that’s the early snapshot of the starting quarterback competition.
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Cassel went 5 for 6 for 62 yards, and the Vikings broke in their temporary new home stadium for the next two years by beating the Oakland Raiders 10-6 in the exhibition opener on Friday night.
"Any time you can come down and score on your first drive, that’s what you’re trying to accomplish," Cassel said.
Bridgewater relieved Cassel at quarterback after one series, and the rookie’s first name was rhythmically chanted during his first two snaps by a crowd eager to see the first-round draft pick in action. Playing into the third quarter, Bridgewater’s debut was mixed at best: 6 for 13 for 49 yards, two sacks and one fumble the Vikings recovered.
He said he didn’t notice the fuss from the fans.
"I felt pretty good. There were some missed opportunities, but I’ll be able to come back next week and play more aggressive," Bridgewater said.
Coach Mike Zimmer agreed.
"There were a couple times in the game where he just didn’t act like a veteran," Zimmer said. "Things happened that he hadn’t seen before. So those are all great experiences for him. But he made some great throws."
Matt Schaub’s first time in silver and black wasn’t exactly smooth, either. The latest attempt by the Raiders to stop the quarterback carousel from spinning, Schaub finished 3 for 7 for 21 yards.
Schaub played three series, all three-and-outs.
"We were pretty sloppy," Schaub said.
Derek Carr, the second-round draft pick from Fresno State, took over in the second quarter and was only slightly more productive with and against the backups. Carr went 10 for 16 for 74 yards, but his high throw on the run to Jamize Olawale slipped through the fullback’s hands and was intercepted by Kurt Coleman.
"He’s a young QB, and he’ll learn to keep the ball low because if he drops it, it goes to the ground," Coleman said.
Third-string quarterback Matt McGloin had a late 10-yard touchdown scramble. Darren McFadden had a 23-yard run, the only real highlight by a Raiders starter, leaving coach Dennis Allen disappointed.
"I thought we’d come out sharper than that," Allen said.
The acquisition of Schaub from Houston was just one of many moves during a busy offseason for the Raiders, and he’s coming off a rough year. With three seasons of at least 4,000 passing yards for the Texans, though, Schaub has the potential to stabilize this long-unsettled position.
Since Rich Gannon won the NFL MVP award and guided the Raiders to the Super Bowl after that career year in 2002, the Raiders have had 17 different quarterbacks start at least one regular season game. Schaub will be the 18th in September, barring injury for the 33-year-old.
Both teams escaped without significant injuries, which is always the primary goal of these preseason contests. Raiders backup defensive tackle Justin Ellis walked slowly off the field with a head injury. The Vikings also announced backup safety Mistral Raymond was being evaluated for a head injury.
Not only was this game in purple for Zimmer, but it marked the start of a two-year stay at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota for the Vikings while their new fixed-roof facility is being built to replace the Metrodome downtown.
The Vikings played here once before, on Dec. 20, 2010, eight days after the Metrodome’s roof was ripped open and toppled by a snowstorm. That game against Chicago was moved into the winter weather. The cold could wait for another day, though, on this picturesque summer night with a kickoff temperature of 81 degrees and a hazy sunset distracting from the penalties, punts and dropped passes once the second and third stringers took over for good. The Raiders were penalized 13 times for 94 yards.
With Adrian Peterson resting, Matt Asiata capped the opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Bridgewater took the Vikings another 10 plays on his first turn, setting up a 30-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.
The Vikings were concerned enough about the safety spot next to Harrison Smith that they signed veteran Chris Crocker this week. With Jamarca Sanford, Robert Blanton and Andrew Sendejo all sitting out with injuries, Coleman got a chance for extended action at that position, another entry in that crowded field.