The second preseason game is already long over in many of your minds, and I have a busy week ahead, so I'm going to dump this out quickly now and hope it's helpful and/or interesting to some of you.
I had the rare chance to attend the Bills' preseason game against the Vikings' this past Friday in the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Rare because I live in the middle of nowhere and have never been to an NFL game, much less a Bills' game, even though I have been a Bills' fan for close to 40 years. I have been to a few dozen major college games (UVA, PSU, ASU, including some Bowl games), but never an NFL game.
I had endzone seats, and that could have led to some exciting viewing, except for the fact that every single touchdown that was scored occurred in the opposite endzone. So it's difficult for me to say much about the quality of play that you all couldn't see much better by watching the TV and/or Game Rewind.
My random thoughts:
About the game and players
I enjoyed watching the kickers warm up, but didn't really notice anything memorable, good or bad.
First team defense was really hot and cold (more cold than hot, unfortunately). The DTs looked fantastic, everyone else looked weak.
The DBs looked terrible. I don't ever recall Gilmore being burned, but, as I said, it was hard to see a lot of the action from a distance, and I wasn't specifically looking for Gilmore. But A. Williams was routinely burned, and even when he had good position, he couldn't make a play on the ball.
Morrison actually had a couple of noticeable plays.
First team offense at least got a rhythm going...eventually. There were two plays where I saw Nelson lined up against a LB, and I couldn't believe Fitz didn't go to him, but I guess/hope they were looking to work on other specific things. If that had been a regular season game and Fitz hadn't found a way to get the ball to Nelson on those plays, I would have been very disappointed.
Second team offense led by Young actually looked pretty good. I especially liked what Young was able to do under duress (a near completion when he was "in the grasp").
Some of the individual backups on the defense had some hot streaks. Ron Brooks appeared to have been getting good position on his man and edging his man so close to the sideline that it would have taken a perfect throw to beat him. I'm not sure how much of that was skill on Brooks' part or laziness on the WR's part. Robert Eddins looked fantastic, but he was going against the 3rd-teamers. Eddins looked noticeably small.
If Vikings' LB Audie Cole makes the team, he needs to send a thank-you card and champagne to Thigpen, Smith, Modkins, and Gailey.
About the stadium
The Metrodome was easy to get to on the light rail system...about a 30 min. ride from the Mall of America. There was some activity outside the stadium, but nothing like the tailgating I've heard about at RWS (almost called it Rich Stadium).
The concessions and restrooms were very easy to get to and very quick. The stadium was a decent place to watch a game, IMO.
About the fans
This was my biggest gripe. OK, granted this was a preseason game, but the game was pretty well attended. With that preface, I have to say I thought the Vikings' fans were, collectively speaking, pretty clueless. The game was still a one-score game until late in the 4th quarter, and their team was leading, but the fans had completely checked out not long after halftime. They spent literally more than a quarter (from near the beginning of the 3rd Q to a few minutes into the 4th Q) doing an incessant wave and throwing shredded programs all over the stands and fans. They were so oblivious to the game, barely any of them even noticed that they were robbed of what looked like a pretty clear PI penalty in the endzone that wasn't called against the Bills' DB.
Late in the 3rd Q and into the 4th, fans began sailing paper airplanes onto the field. When the stadium announcer finally announced that anyone caught doing that would be ejected and/or arrested, everybody started booing, and then 75% of the fans remaining started streaming out of the stadium. The game was still 19-14.
There were obviously some fans who were watching the game and the players, but overall I was massively unimpressed.
One mitigating factor though - we Bills' fans in the crowd did not experience much abuse. At least the Vikings' fans were polite.
After the game
Because the Bills' played so poorly, the most fun for me occurred just after the game. We were about to leave, but I noticed that I was not all that far from where the Bills' would exit the field. I decided to go down and see if I could say hi to any of the players.
There were several kids and teens down in that area, so I hung around a few rows back in the stands and spent a little while watching. Several of the younger Bills' players tossed gloves, etc., to the kids in the stands. But the few players that really stood out to me were:
- David Nelson, who spent quite a while signing all kinds of things and handing them to specific kids in the stands.
- Brian Moorman, who did the same, but for not quite as long. Additionally, I was absolutely floored by just how athletic Moorman looks, even on the field with all the other players. You can see that guy is an athlete.
- This last event made my whole weekend. When most of the players had exited, a young man (probably in his 20s) next to me shouted to Eric Wood as Wood was about to head into the tunnel. Wood looked up at us with a big grin, and tossed his ball cap toward us. I caught it. Perfect souvenir. I couldn't have asked for a better souvenir from that trip. When I looked inside the cap later, I saw that it actually had the #14 on the underside of the bill. Not sure how/why Wood had Fitz' cap, but I have it now.
That's all I can think of. I wish I could have seen more of the action. And the game environment could have been a bit better, but it was well worth the trip.