In the preseason opener for the Minnesota Vikings, the team appeared to pick up right where they left off in 2016. That’s very good news for the Vikings’ first-string defense. . .not so good for the first-string offense.
Mike Zimmer’s team won yet another preseason contest, as they held on late for a 17-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills at New Era Stadium.
The Vikings got the football first in this one, and rookie running back Dalvin Cook got some solid work in early. He got the first three touches of the game for the Vikings, carrying the ball twice and catching a pass from Sam Bradford to pick up the Vikings’ initial first down. In his time on the field, which included some time with the second-team offense, Cook had five carries for 13 yards and four receptions for 30 more yards.
Unfortunately, some of the same problems that plagued the Vikings last year found their way into this one, as Bradford was sacked twice in the first three series and the team failed to advance the football past midfield, punting it away three times. In three series, the Vikings managed to gain just 34 yards.
The Vikings’ first-team defense also picked up where they left off last season, at least for the first two series. Everson Griffen picked up a sack of Tyrod Taylor, and the Vikings forced the Bills into two consecutive punts.
That was it for the Vikings’ first-string defense on the evening, as the backups took to the field on Buffalo’s next series. The Bills kept their #1 offense on the field, and they put the game’s first points on the board on a 42-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka to take a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The Vikings tied things up with just over three minutes left in the first half, as Kai Forbath connected on a 36-yard field goal to make the score 3-3. That’s how they went into the locker room, after what was not a barnburner of a first half at New Era Stadium.
After the defense forced a three-and-out to start the second half, Case Keenum led the Vikings’ offense down the field. A very nice throw to rookie Stacy Coley on a third down play gave the Vikings a first-and-goal from the Bills’ 2-yard line, and the Vikings. . .get this. . .actually scored a short-yardage running touchdown! C.J. Ham, who stepped in at the running back spot following an injury to Bishop Sankey, took the ball over from two yards out, and the extra point from Marshall Koehn gave the purple a 10-3 lead with just over ten minutes left in the third quarter.
After switching to Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, the Vikings got on the board again. On a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Heinicke found rookie Rodney Adams for a touchdown, and the extra point from Kai Forbath increased the Minnesota lead to 17-3 with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter.
The Bills got their first touchdown of the evening in the early stages of the fourth quarter, as third-string Buffalo quarterback Nathan Peterman found Dez Lewis on a 1-yard scoring pass to make it 17-10 with ten minutes remaining in the contest. Rookie defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson committed a personal foul that negated what would have been a third down stop, allowing the Bills’ scoring drive to continue.
Heinicke threw the Vikings’ first interception of the preseason on the next drive, and the Bills had an opportunity to put more points on the board. New Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott went for it on 4th-and-10 from the Minnesota 17, and failed to convert, turning it back over to the Vikings on downs.
On Buffalo’s next drive, McDermott chose to attempt to convert another 4th-and-10, this one from around midfield, but Peterman threw another incomplete pass and the Vikings took over on downs once again. The Vikings took very little time off the clock on their next possession, and the Bills got one more opportunity starting from their own 10-yard line.
Looking at the stat sheet for the Vikings, the first-team offense was a little ugly on the evening. Sam Bradford completed 5-of-7 passes for 35 yards, and absorbed two sacks in the three series he was on the field for. Case Keenum clearly widened the gap between him and Taylor Heinicke in the backup quarterback derby. Keenum went 11-of-16 for 121 yards, while Heinicke went 3-of-8 for 20 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Rushing-wise for the Vikings, it still wasn’t particularly pretty. We talked about Dalvin Cook above, and the leading rusher on the night wound up being rookie Terrell Newby. Newby wound up with 26 yards. . .on 12 carries. C.J. Ham had three carries for five yards and a one-yard touchdown plunge. Rodney Adams had a carry for 13 yards
On the receiving side, the Vikings were led by Stacy Coley, who had a very good evening. Coley caught three passes for 68 yards on the night, including a nice 24-yard reception that set up the team’s first touchdown of the evening. Cook wound up with 30 yards on four catches, and Bishop Sankey also had four receptions (for 15 yards) before suffering a nasty knee injury at the start of the third quarter. C.J. Ham had one catch for 11 yards, and Jarius Wright had one grab for nine yards. Terrell Newby had one catch for seven yards, and Stefon Diggs had five yards on his only catch of the evening in limited action.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Eric Wilson led the team in tackles on the evening with six. The purple collected three sacks on the evening, with Everson Griffen, Jaleel Johnson, and Tashawn Bower racking up one each.
Minnesota moves to 1-0 on the preseason, and will next take the field a week from Friday when they travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. The Bills fall to 0-1, and their next preseason contest will be next Thursday in Philadelphia against the Eagles.
The Vikings emerge victorious in their preseason opener in Buffalo by a final score of 17-10 over the Bills. Thanks for joining us for this one right here at The Daily Norseman!