MINNEAPOLIS -- Much of his work came against the Arizona Cardinals' second-team defense Saturday night, so it's wise to use some measure of restraint when talking about Matt Cassel's performance in the Minnesota Vikings' second preseason game. But it's getting harder and harder to see anyone but Cassel beginning the season as the team's starting quarterback.
Cassel connected on 12 of his 16 throws, throwing for 153 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings' 30-28 win over the Cardinals. Cassel also scrambled three times for 30 yards and threw a strike to Kyle Rudolph over the middle for 51 yards.
It was the kind of commanding, decisive performance Cassel had hoped to deliver in two quarters of work, and while Teddy Bridgewater had an impressive night of his own, it seems like a matter of time before coach Mike Zimmer declares Cassel the starter.
Here are some other thoughts on the Vikings' second preseason game of the year:
It seems unlikely Zimmer will be happy with the Vikings' performance on a couple of long Cardinals drives, particularly on Arizona's first of the game. The Vikings allowed the Cardinals to march 93 yards in nine plays to start the game, giving up a 51-yard pass when Xavier Rhodes missed a tackle on Jaron Brown, and conceded a touchdown on a 19-play, 80-yard drive to begin the second half. That march took 10:06 off the clock, and featured two third-down and two fourth-down conversions.
Bridgewater, who admitted he'd been overthinking things this week, has to be feeling much better after an impressive second half that included a last-minute touchdown drive. He went 16-of-20 for 177 yards and two touchdown, directing an 11-play scoring drive that put the Vikings ahead in the fourth quarter and throwing a perfect fade route to Rodney Smith for the game-winning touchdown. On that drive, Bridgewater evaded a sack and found Allen Reisner while rolling to his right. He also threw a corner route that Adam Thielen should have caught for a touchdown.
Zimmer wasn't happy with the pass rush after the team's first game, and while the Vikings only had one sack (from Anthony Barr on the final play of the first half), they got more consistent pressure than they did against the Oakland Raiders. Defensive end Everson Griffen was particularly active, lining up at both left and right end as the Vikings tried a new nickel rush package that put Barr at right end and moved Brian Robison inside.
After allowing six sacks last week, the Vikings' offensive line surrendered only one Saturday. Bridgewater, who fumbled last week after holding the ball too long, did a better job of getting the ball out and moving in the pocket this week, and Cassel also evaded pressure on several occasions, particularly when the Cardinals' first-team defense was in the game. But it was definitely a step in the right direction for the Vikings' offensive line.
Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who was hit in the left calf by a stray bullet at a Minneapolis nightclub last Saturday morning, was on the field before the game, wishing teammates good luck as he wore a sleeve on his calf. Joseph hadn't been seen with the Vikings in practice all week.
The Cardinals' long opening drive in the third quarter meant the Vikings had limited time to work on offense in the second half, and it also meant third-string quarterback Christian Ponder didn't see a snap. Though stranger things have certainly happened, Ponder -- who was the Vikings' unquestioned starting quarterback at this time last year -- might have seen his final action in a Vikings home game; he'd be the third-string quarterback if he's on the roster this season, and he'll be a free agent after the season.