NFL preseason: Vikings QB Cassel sets example for rookie Bridgewater
MINNEAPOLIS — 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.
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.
JAGUARS 16, BUCCANEERS 10
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Blake Bortles was solid in his preseason debut, throwing for 117 yards and leading a second-half drive for a field goal to help the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-10 on Friday night.
The third overall pick in this year’s draft completed 7 of 11 passes, including a 31-yarder down the middle of the field to Mike Brown to set up a 26-yard field goal that gave the Jaguars a 10-3 lead late in the third quarter.
Denard Robinson’s 23-yard TD run snapped a 10-10 tie with 6:27 remaining in the game. Jacksonville also scored on Winston Guy Jr.’s 68-yard interception return in the first quarter.
Tampa Bay’s first-team offense sputtered in its debut under coach Lovie Smith.
In addition to throwing the interception that was returned for a score, Josh McCown was sacked twice and lost a fumble.
BILLS 20, PANTHERS 18
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Anthony Dixon ran for a touchdown, Dan Carpenter had a pair of field goals and Buffalo defeated Carolina in a preseason game.
EJ Manuel completed 9 of 13 passes for 96 yards but the Bills struggled to cash in on scoring opportunities for the second straight game. Buffalo’s first-team offense reached Carolina territory on its first three possessions but managed just three points.
Rookie Kelvin Benjamin had no such problem finding the end zone.
Carolina’s first-round draft pick turned in the play of the game, thrilling fans with a stumbling, diving 32-yard touchdown reception in his NFL debut.
Racing down the left sideline, Benjamin stumbled after contact with cornerback Stephon Gilmore but maintained his balance long enough to haul in a diving catch in the end zone from Derek Anderson.
Anderson started for Cam Newton, who rested his recovering left ankle.
FALCONS 16, DOLPHINS 10
ATLANTA — Miami’s Ryan Tannehill and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan produced touchdowns on their only possessions, Sean Renfree led two field-goal drives in the second half and the Falcons held off the Dolphins in the preseason opener for both teams.
Rookie quarterback Seth Lobato led Miami to the Atlanta 5-yard line with less than 3 minutes remaining before fumbling a shotgun snap. Defensive end Nosa Eguae recovered for Atlanta.
The only touchdowns of the game came on each team’s first drive as the starting quarterbacks looked sharp.
Tannehill was 6 for 6 for 62 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson, to open the game.
Ryan was just as strong, completing each of his seven attempts for 53 yards on Atlanta’s opening drive. Jacquizz Rodgers capped the drive with a 2-yard scoring run.
BEARS 34, EAGLES 28
CHICAGO — Jay Cutler, Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen threw touchdown passes and Chicago beat Philadelphia in its preseason opener.
The Bears rattled Nick Foles in the early going, intercepting two passes, even though they were missing Jared Allen. The five-time Pro Bowl defensive end and prized free-agent acquisition missed practices this week with his wife giving birth to a girl.
Tight end Martellus Bennett remained suspended by the team for his role in an altercation with cornerback Kyle Fuller at practice Monday. The Bears also were missing right guard Kyle Long (ankle) and right tackle Jordan Mills (foot), but even with several starters out, they had no trouble moving the ball.
SAINTS 26, RAMS 24
ST. LOUIS — Mark Ingram had eight carries for 83 yards and a 22-yard touchdown in the first half and New Orleans won its preseason opener without Drew Brees, beating St. Louis.
Sam Bradford didn’t play either, held out by the Rams as a precaution coming off knee surgery.
Greg Zuerlein was barely wide left on a 59-yard field goal attempt on the final play after missing a 46-yard attempt with just under six minutes remaining.
Rookie Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL, made a solid debut as a reserve defensive end for St. Louis.
Luke McCown started in place of Brees, limited by a left oblique injury the past week. First-round pick Brandin Cooks caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from third-stringer Ryan Griffin in the third quarter.
Shaun Hill got the start for St. Louis and threw two touchdown passes in the first half.
By wire sources