MINNEAPOLIS – Matt Cassel was sharp from the start, giving Teddy Bridgewater a model touchdown drive to watch.
That’s the early snapshot of Minnesota’s starting quarterback competition.
Cassel led a couple of crisp scoring marches, 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.
Bridgewater relieved Cassel at quarterback after two 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.
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.
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.
Darren McFadden had a 23-yard run, the only highlight by a Raiders starter. Third-string quarterback Matt McGloin had a late 10-yard touchdown scramble.
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 the first time making the calls from the sideline for new Vikings head coach Mike 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, and Brett Favre’s last NFL play turned out to be his head banging against the frozen turf during a sack by then-Bears and current Vikings defensive end Corey Wootton.
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 incomplete passes once the second and third stringers took over for good.
Cassel finished 5 for 6 for 62 yards, connecting with Cordarrelle Patterson twice for first downs. With Adrian Peterson resting, Matt Asiata capped the opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Cassel took the Vikings another 10 plays on his next 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.