The Minnesota Vikings first preseason game is in the books: a 42-28 victory over the Denver Broncos in which they took a 24-7 lead, lost that lead, but finished strong behind third-string quarterback Kyle Sloter to capture a fairly-convincing victory once it was complete.
Here were some elements that stood out — for better or worse.
-Considering the lack of continuity of the first-team offensive line, the Vikings looked amazingly competent with their patchwork unit — really the only negative being a Cornelius Edison holding call. The group opened up 20 and 21-yard runs for Latavius Murray on consecutive snaps, Kirk Cousins went 5 for 5 through the air on his lone drive, and Stefon Diggs made three catches including a tight window grab along the sideline and a slant for the Vikings’ first touchdown. The chemistry between Cousins and Diggs isn’t all that shocking, but the offensive line’s work on that drive was.
-Daniel Carlson got all the field goal and extra point reps, perhaps an unorthodox decision in the heat of a kicking competition. But it might tip the Vikings’ hand that Carlson is their man. The rookie kicker made all six of his kicks: four extra points and two field goals, one of which comfortably sailed through from 57 yards. If the Vikings were looking for validation on their drafting of Carlson, they got it Saturday.
-Laquon Treadwell was mostly a non-factor and didn’t receive the so-called starter’s treatment by getting removed from the game early. Treadwell played most of the first half, made one catch for three yards and earned a flag for illegal formation. He’s had a strong camp, but should be able to perform better against defensive backups.
-The most meaningful members of the Vikings defense dominated the game and helped stake the Vikings to a 24-14 halftime lead. Denver’s first touchdown (and first down) of the game came past the midway point of the second quarter following a Trevor Siemian interception that set the Broncos up at the 30-yard line. Their second score came on a punt return touchdown before the end of the half. Otherwise, starter Case Keenum and backup Paxton Lynch were overmatched by the two groups one might expect: Minnesota’s deep defensive line and secondary. Backup linemen Tashawn Bower, Stephen Weatherly and Jaleel Johnson all had an impact in the pass rush (and Weatherly in pass coverage as well), while Anthony Harris had an interception and Mike Hughes played quite well in his debut.
-The Vikings got a good look at their trio of candidates for the third running back spot. Mack Brown, Mike Boone and Roc Thomas all had fairly pedestrian rushing totals, but it was Thomas who popped in the passing game with two touchdown catches from Siemian, one on a wheel route to give the Vikings a 14-0 lead, the second on a well-blocked screen for 78 yards to push Minnesota’s lead to 24-7. The touchdowns by Thomas will make highlight reels, but ultimately the battle will come down to consistency in the run game and pass protection ability. Boone had some trouble with blitz pickup and, at no fault of his own, got blown up beyond the line of scrimmage several times. Brown didn’t splash and wound up leaving the game with an injury. Round 1 goes to Thomas.
-Kyle Sloter is Mr. Preseason, right? No shocker that he delivered once again in his grudge match against the team that let him go last year. Sloter went 9 for 11 for 69 yards, a go-ahead passing touchdown to Chad Beebe and a game-icing rushing touchdown on a bootleg. One of his incompletions was nearly intercepted, but Sloter’s performance was largely impressive. His training camp hasn’t been the best, but Sloter’s first game action in a Vikings uniform didn’t disappoint.
The Vikings return to practice Monday afternoon at TCO Performance Center.